The BBC is receiving some criticism from the Christian community in Britain for giving what they call considerable air time to Pagan events around the country during the Samhain and Halloween holiday. A spokes person for the Christian Institute, Head of Communications Mike Judge, was quoted in the Daily Mail article “BBC accused of neglecting Christianity as it devotes air time to pagan festival” as saying “They down-play Christianity and up-play paganism which is unreflective of British society. It does create an atmosphere where it’s OK to marginalise Christians.” The issue seemed to be mostly tied with what some considered an extensive amount of coverage on BBC News 24 given to a group in Dorset who were holding their annual Samhain gathering.
A search of the BBC News site turned up a few different pieces with update or post dates of Oct 30th to Nov 1st including these:
However the specific piece that seems to be getting the attention from Mike Judge and the Christian Institute is one by BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott entitled “Pagans celebrate Halloween as part of the country’s newest religion” which has a short video clip, only slightly more than a minute and a half in length, and a full article attached to it.
There is also this piece from BBC editor Kevin Bakhurst titled “BBC reports on pagans at Halloween” which also talks about the accusations pointed at the BBC for reporting on the Pagan activities at Samhain and Halloween and how the BBC seems to be making an attempt to push Paganism into the mainstream while downgrading Christianity.
With the recent changes of the legal status of the Druid religion in the UK at the early part of October, it’s not much of a surprise to see local Druids and Pagan groups finding their way into the news media. It’s also not uncommon given that it is Halloween and Samhain, a time that is rooted in ancient Pagan practices which, even when veiled by pop culture and modern society, are still going on today when every child goes trick or treating and when each of us dresses up in a costume. So why the sudden surprise about the attention to Pagans in the media in the UK? It seems that some feel this even which they feel received “extensive coverage” was such a minority even that there must be some sort of underlying agenda to represent Paganism at length.
The BBC has both given the “no comment” statements about the coverage and then, in contrast, had Kevin Bakhurst’s op-ed piece explaining that the BBC is using opportunities like this one to explore the varied beliefs of the people of the UK. This still seems to concern a handful of Christians and Christian groups. Andrea Williams, the director of the Christian Legal Centre, was quoted in an article in the Telegraph as saying “It’s not always healthy to represent such beliefs as paganism as mainstream…” and “It’s vital that our national broadcaster remembers our great Christian heritage and all the precepts that come from it that are good for the nation.”
So are the Christian majority feeling as though the are being somehow pushed aside for the “new religion” of the UK? In a brief article on Gather written by Doug York titled “BBC Criticized for Halloween Pagan Coverage” he makes it clear that he feels the change of the Druids legal status is creating an environment that could lead the way for the minority to become the majority, something he seems to feel is already beginning to happen. “…but when the majority is pushed out, and the minority gains majority coverage, people get annoyed. That’s what is happening in the United Kingdom.” He also makes the estimation that this is what’s happening here in the US with the Christian community clashing with not only Pagans but the Muslim community saying “It is happening in the United States as well, and Christians are waking up to the one-sided reporting, not just of pagans but of Muslims as well.“
It will be interesting to see if anything more comes of this and if the BBC makes any official comments or statements as the week carries on. It’s probably more likely that, with Halloween now falling into the rear view the controversy will die down and the Druids and other Pagans will fall back into obscurity until Winter Solstice events at Stonehenge become planned.
I think it’s a bit odd that there has been so much surprise Pagan groups, Pagan events, and Pagan related articles in general should dominate the news during the time of a Pagan rooted holiday. And while the Druids got their legal status in the UK and Paganism and Wicca are fast growing in the UK and around the world, I hardly think that the Christians in the UK need to worry about being overrun by Pagans and being made to be the minority any time soon. Maybe instead it’s time for the Christians to realize they aren’t the only ones there and that there’s plenty of room for the Pagans to life side by side with them.