A Church poster has been banned from a public library because townhall officials claim it could ‘offend’ other faiths, but local Muslims and Sikhs have blasted the move.
Kayll Road Library staff in Sunderland stopped a member from St Gabriel’s Church putting up a poster advertising the Women’s World Day of Prayer, claiming council policy prohibited them from displaying it.
But after leaders from the city’s other religions spoke out against the ban Sunderland Council has reversed the decision and says it is now reviewing its guidelines.
Adbur Rouf, of Sunderland Mosque, said it was hard to understand how anyone could find the poster offensive.
Founder and chairman of Sunderland Sikh Association, Manjit Chema, said: “This is not the way. This sort of thing creates divides and ghettos of different communities. I would not have found that poster offensive.”
Reverend Peter Robson, of St Gabriel’s Church, said: “I really find it hard to understand. It’s just a notice, we’re not trying to force people to go along.”
Canon Stephen Taylor, said: “It’s a shame an incident like this has arisen.”
Ron Odunaiya, Executive Director of City Services said: “We regret that on this occasion a decision was taken not to display the poster and we fully accept that the poster would not have caused any concern to other individuals.
“We will be reviewing our guidelines to ensure this situation is not repeated. Sunderland Public Libraries would be happy to display the poster at any of its service points as space permits. We apologise for any upset that this decision may have caused the customer.”
Last September a Roman Catholic group was told it could not advertise an event on religion and climate change in local libraries unless it removed words like ‘Christian’ and ‘God’ from the text.
Camden Council said that while it was happy to promote events supporting green issues, it would not allow any posters promoting religion, despite providing inquirers with details of mosques, Muslim study groups, and Islamic social groups.
The Christian Institute’s Mike Judge said at the time that the situation was “serious because it reveals a problem deep at the heart of too many public bodies”, that they “think it’s OK to trample on Christianity in a way that they would never do with any other religious group”.
Last July a Sunday school teacher was told she could not put up a poster at her local library to advertise a church children’s event because it ‘promotes religion’.
Jacalyn Oghan’s poster invited children of any faith to “come along and have fun” at the craft, singing and drama day at her church.
But staff at Jubilee Library in Brighton banned the poster because of its religious content, despite the library selling sweets that were “clearly poking fun at Christianity”.
The Messiah Mints have a picture of Jesus on the tin and the slogan: “Here’s that Jesus fella again – and this time he’s spreading minty freshness into the mouths of the masses.”
Mrs Oghan commented: “They said they couldn’t put up my poster because it was not in their guidelines.
“How they can get away selling the mints in the shop when I’m not allowed to give out inoffensive leaflets I do not know.”