Posted on July 15, 2004

Secular Christmas Stamps Attacked

Jonathan Petre, Telegraph (UK), Jul. 13, 2004

The Royal Mail was accused by the Church of England yesterday of taking Christianity out of Christmas by using secular themes on the stamps it issues for the festival.

Nativity scenes will be replaced by non-religious designs this year for the third year running, though there will be Christian symbolism on Christmas stamps in 2005.

The Royal Mail said it had to be sensitive to Britain’s multi-faith society, but members of the Church’s General Synod in York demanded that its Christmas stamps should invariably incorporate a Christian theme.

Introducing a motion carried unanimously, Dr Christina Baxter, a member of the Archbishops’ Council, said 71 per cent of the population had described themselves as Christian in the 2001 census.

“I hope the Synod will agree that our Christmas festival, which is so important to us, must be marked on Christmas stamps and that we ought to ask the Royal Mail to make it a Christian theme every year,” she said.

Timothy Royle , from Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, said: “We live in an increasingly secular society in which people don’t like Christianity to be recognised.

“Other faiths should be able to celebrate their own festivals. Christmas is fundamentally in our country a Christian festival.”

Canon Brian McHenry, of Southwark, said that other faiths should be involved in the decision about what to put on seasonal stamps, but Christmas should be recognised as a Christian festival.

The Bishop of Dover, the Rt Rev Stephen Venner, said that political correctness was “in vogue” in many large organisations and the Christian faith was increasingly being “deliberately ignored”.

But he believed that there would be a “great public groundswell of support” for the Synod’s proposal.

A number of town councils have enraged Christians by eradicating religious references from their municipal celebrations.

In 1998, Birmingham council called its festive celebrations “Winterval” and in 2001 Luton council described its Christmas lights as “Luminos”, taken from the Harry Potter books.

Last year, Tessa Jowell, the culture minister, was criticised for sending official Christmas cards with a secular theme.

“Although Christmas is a Christian festival, we live in a multi-faith society and there is no set pattern in the choice of religious or secular themes,” a Royal Mail spokesman said. “The choice of subject matter is part of the design process during which we consult a wide number of people.”