The BBC presenter Jeremy Vine has joked that he had to get “special permission” from the Director General to play a Christian hymn on his show.
During Mr Vine’s midday show, he played the hymn ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’ before inviting listeners to contact him with their best-loved church music.
Before the broadcast he told his 44,000 Twitter followers: “On air: Yes it really is Radio 2. Special permission from the DG to play a hymn. Number 167 in your red hymnbook. Collection after this.”
Former MP Ann Widdecombe thought the comment was serious. She said: “This is a Christian country. I don’t see why he would need to seek special permission to play a hymn on the radio.
“Jeremy Vine is an experienced presenter and if he thought it was appropriate to play a hymn on the radio, then it was almost certainly appropriate.”
But a BBC spokeswoman cleared up the issue and said the presenter had been joking on Twitter.
She said: “Jeremy tweeted a light-hearted remark to highlight the fact that he doesn’t normally play hymns in the show. Of course he did not need approval to play the hymn.”
Mike Judge from The Christian Institute said: “Of course Jeremy Vine was only joking, but there’s always a grain of truth behind every ‘just kidding’.”
In 2009 Mr Vine said that while he believes Christ is who he says he is, he does not think he could say so on his show.
The presenter told Reform Magazine that it has become “almost socially unacceptable to say you believe in God”.
Mr Vine is a practising Anglican, but he says he is unable to discuss his faith on air.
“One of the things that I think, which may sound bizarre, is that Christ is who he said he was,” he said.
“I don’t think I’d put that out on my show; I suppose there’s a bit of a firewall between thinking that and doing the job I do.”