Silver Rings and Dishonesty

I do not want to comment on the case of Lydia Playfoot, who lost her court case claiming the right to wear a Christian chastity ring at school. See here, here and here for some Christian reaction; see also Lydia’s own blog.

I do want to comment on the entirely disgraceful campaign which has been waged against Lydia and her family in the aftermath of this case. They have been accused of dishonesty and of being in this for the money. Even the supposedly respectable think tank Ekklesia implies that important facts were not revealed.

UPDATE: Doug has withdrawn his accusation of dishonesty, in response to my comment on his post.

Let’s see some of the truth behind this.

The Ekklesia claim “It was later revealed” is untrue if taken to mean that something has been revealed which was not known at the time of the court case, or that there was any dishonesty involved, for it was publicly known before the case came to court that “the girl’s parents had been directly involved in the UK branch of Silver Ring Thing.” It was clearly stated in a BBC article from 22nd June that:

Mr Playfoot and his wife Heather are part of the volunteer team which runs the UK branch of the Silver Ring Thing from their church in Horsham.

So where is the dishonesty except in the Ekklesia report, or in Doug’s interpretation of it?

The directors are listed by name on the SRT website. I know I can’t prove that this page is not new, but this information was known to the so-called Ministry of Truth on already on 25th June.

This SRT page also says:

Silver Ring Thing (UK) is a not-for-profit company. All profits from the company are put right back to deliver more programmes and reach more teenagers in as many ways as possible.

Also here:

We are all volunteers so no one receives a salary from the Silver Ring Thing.

This agrees with what the BBC wrote on 22nd June, that Mr & Mrs Playfoot “are part of the volunteer team”. There is nothing to support the allegations of a financial interest.

The only dishonesty here is from those who continue to spread libellous allegations about the Playfoot family.

I have no links with SRT and know nothing more about this issue than I have seen in the media and on the Internet.

0 thoughts on “Silver Rings and Dishonesty

  1. 1. If you look you’ll find nothing in anything I’ve personally written that is not either factually correct or fair comment.

    2. I’ve certainly not levelled the allegation that the Playfoots et al are in this for personal financial gain… not least because any such determination could not reasonably be made until 18 months to 2 years time, when the filing of accounts for both the company and the church that employs Phil Playfoot and Andy Robinson will make it possible to unpick the full financial relationships in operation in this matter.

    3. Dishonesty takes many forms.

    For example I personally consider the argument that this was a matter of ‘religious liberty’ to be specious to the point of being intellectually dishonest and, equally, I consider the motives and arguments of many of those involved can be reasonably considered to be suspect on a number of grounds that do not rely on anything as crude as mere profit and financial gain.

    You might wish to note, for example, that the ASA has ruled in the last week or so, that the publicity campaign mounted by the ‘Lawyer’s Christian Fellowship’ (amongst others) against the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation Regulations) – the same organisation that advised the Playfoot family in this case, BTW, – was inaccurate, misleading and made claims that could not be substantiated.

    4. The BBC did note that the parent’s were involved in the UK ‘franchise’ – many other newspapers covering the story did not – and none of the press coverage, which was uniformly uncritical, picked up on matters such as the timing of formation of the company and its proximity to the coverage the case received in the Daily Mail, nor did they pick up on and note the rather dubious background to Denise Pfeiffer.

    On that last point I suspect that I’ve rather done them a favour in the long run, if only by providing an object lesson in the importance of choosing one’s associates with rather more care in future.

    5. It may well prove, in the long run, that the Playfoot family have been rather naive throughout this whole episode in permitting their daughter to become embroiled in this altogether futile litigation and are only now coming to appreciate that public martyrdom is a far from attractive proposition even today, where the worst one has to contend with are the slings and arrows of media opinion.

    If so, then by now they’re going to be that bit less naive and, one would expect, all the better for it in future.

  2. [As with Peter’s disclaimer, I have no goose to cook on this issue nor links to anyone involved.]

    I think for me there are two areas I feel are dishonest.

    1. The impression given was that Lydia was at the school she took to the High Court. This was not the case.

    2. The impression given was that the school was infringing the rights of religious expression. However, as I understand it, the school had said the ring could be seen in school just not worn on the finger, due to health and safety regulations about jewellery. I am not a lawyer, but as I understand the judgement, it was decided that Lydia’s rights to religious expression did not overrule the health and safety contraints.

    It is not good enough for religious communities to claim some kind of exemption from general rules of society. The difference between sikh headwear and christian jewellery is that the former does not affect the health and safety of the wearer but the latter does. It is not difficult to see how wearing a ring in school might cause these difficulties.

    Rather than seeing everyone else as a source of persecution, Christians need to be wiser and work within the rules. Wear a chastity hearcut and nobody will be able to argue with it.

  3. Peter,
    Thanks for your changes, which I note. I do object to being called part of a campaign, however. I am simply expressing my annoyance with the way this has been presented (by, as far as I can see, the Playfoots as well as others) as a case of the state “persecution” of Christians and the application of double standards in treating religious belief. I think the school has been badly treated, and common sense has gone on vacation in much of the comment. That really annoys me, and may have made my initial statements stronger than they should have been (if the Ekklesia report is as misleading as you say). I do think your characterising some individual comments as “a disgraceful campaign” is, to say the least, as misleading and inaccurate as some of the comments made about the Playfoots.

  4. Unity, thank you for your reply. I see in your post an implicit allegation of financial gain in your report, especially in your repeated use of the word “franchise” – not to mention in the clever satire of this follow-up. This allegation is made explicit by some of those linking to it, such as Robert in a comment here, and other stronger comments which I have seen but cannot now find.

    You may be right to criticise media coverage, other than that of the BBC. You should also have made an exception of the Daily Mail which also clarifies the parents’ links with company as volunteers, naming Mrs Playfoot as company secretary, and notes that Lydia has already left school. But I see nothing wrong in what the Playfoot family have done here. There is no evidence that they have kept anything secret. Their motives are very clear: they want to promote the teachings of SRT that teenagers should avoid sex before marriage. Whether their tactics are good I will not presume to judge.

    Joe wrote: “The impression given was that Lydia was at the school she took to the High Court.” Who gave this impression? The 22nd June BBC and Daily Mail articles both made it clear that Lydia had left the school just days earlier.

    Doug, I did not mean to suggest any collusion between you and any others criticising the Playfoot family. But this does seem to be a case of people jumping on a bandwagon (and in your case quickly jumping off again) of criticising others based on unchecked facts and part truths. Perhaps we can expect people like the Playfoot family who stand up for Christian moral standards to be criticised by non-Christians (at least, Unity is not claiming to be a Christian). Christians should be very careful before taking up such allegations and using them against their brothers and sisters.

  5. Kindly do not tell me what Christians should or should not do, as I am able to think for myself. Christians should be very careful about breaking the law for spurious religious reasons.

  6. Use of the term ‘franchise’ in this case is, I consider, fair comment and a reasonable description of the likely relationship between SRT (UK) and its US parent.

    As I pointed out, the point at which it will become possible to unpick the financial aspects of this relationship, and any relationship between SRT (UK) and the King’s Church (Horsham) – and I suspect it may become clear in the fullness of time that SRT (UK) is operating as a trading subsidiary of the Church – is the point at which accounts have been filed for both entities with their respective regulators.

    It’s also at that point the verisimilitude of the claims of various parties to be operating as ‘volunteers’ can be properly assessed as such as designation is likely to be, to say the least, arguable should it transpire that profits from SRT (UK) are being funnelled into the Church, which, of course, employs both Phil Playfoot and Andy Robinson.

    If anything the suspicions voiced about the commercial aspects of SRT (UK) are no more than a reflection of widespread unease at the recent growth of a militant brand of US-inspired ‘Consumer Christianity’ which many perceive to be as exploitative in its own way as was the Catholic practice of granting indulgences – or ‘bilking the faithful’ as one commenter put it at MoT. One might observe that in many quarters this particular brand of Christianity has an ‘image problem’, not least amongst Christians who take an altogether more modest view of the correct approach to expressing their beliefs.

    In fact one of the more amusing ironies in this case is that, in all likelihood, the particular doctrinal version of Christianity in which SRT is rooted is one very likely to have at least part of its origins in one or both of Lutheranism or Calvinism, neither of which would, in their traditional forms, would have much truck with efforts to invest mere trinkets with overblown and ostentatious claims of religious significance.

  7. Joe wrote: Christians should be very careful about breaking the law for spurious religious reasons.

    Indeed, although breaking school rules is hardly “breaking the law”. But two wrongs don’t make a right, so this is no excuse for throwing around careless allegations of dishonesty or seeking to discredit a genuine Christian ministry.

  8. Unity wrote: I suspect it may become clear in the fullness of time that SRT (UK) is operating as a trading subsidiary of the Church

    This is a serious and libellous allegation of wrongdoing, breach of charity law, against SRT(UK) and the church in question. Unity, unless you have evidence to support this (and, as you say, evidence cannot yet be available), please withdraw it with apologies. If you do not I will be forced to delete your comment to avoid being at legal risk for publishing a libel.

    should it transpire that profits from SRT (UK) are being funnelled into the Church

    It would be perfectly legal and proper for SRT(UK) to make donations to the church, if the rules for this are observed. There is a clear legal distinction between this and “operating as a trading subsidiary”. However, I doubt if SRT is in fact even covering its running costs. We shall see when its accounts are published.

    But thanks for giving some kind of explanation for why many Christians are so opposed to this SRT. However, even if your complaints were valid, that would not justify Christians in publicly reviling the Playfoot family.

  9. I think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick, here Peter.

    It is entirely within the legal powers of any registered charity, including one registered under religious objects, to operate a trading subsidiary and to derive an income from that subsidiary company by way of transfer of profits via deed of covenant or gift aid.

    I can personally vouch for this from the POV of having spent more than ten years dealing in charity law and having set up several such structures in the past, including at least half a dozen where the parent charity was a place of worship – one of which was an Anglican Church which converted an unused portion of its Church building into commercial office space to generate revenue to sustain the rest of the material fabric of the Church.

    So long as the Church is the sole or primary shareholder in such a venture and a reasonable separation is maintained between commercial and charitable activities then there are no legal difficulties from such arrangements – in fact, you try raising monies for the major Church Hall refurb or rebuild without using either a trading subsidiary or a controlled limited by guarantee company with strictly secular objects and see how far you get…

    …not very far at all.

    The question of whether the claim to be purely ‘volunteers’ when one comes to examine the accounts of both entities and how monies have been applied is, unless those involved do something particularly stupid, more likely to be a matter of ethical rather than legal verisimilitude so far as the UK operation is concerned.

    Whether or not the same can be said for any fiscal relationship between the UK operation and its US parent is a little more open to question as such relationships have proven problematic in past, largely because those at the US end of such arrangements can exhibit an unfortunate tendency not to acquaint themselves properly as to the marked differences between the regulations governing charities in the UK and US.

  10. Unity, thanks for your reply. I thought you were surmising that when the accounts are viewed something illegal or unethical would emerge. I am glad that you have clarified that you expect nothing illegal, and I don’t think either of us have any reason to expect anything unethical. Sorry for any misunderstanding.

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