Bible Story-telling Becoming a Crime?

Maybe not just yet, but could we really be that far from it?

BY KATHERINE WEBER

The Bible Society has been banned from placing a 50-foot, inflatable whale in a park near England’s Tower Bridge to represent the biblical story of Jonah and the whale.

The Potters Fields Park Management Trust recently denied the U.K.-based Bible Society’s request to erect the inflatable whale at London’s Potters Fields Park. The whale was going to serve as a place where children could see actors re-enact the Old Testament story of a whale swallowing the prophet Jonah, and the attraction was to stay in the park during the summer months while children were out of school.

As the Bible Society states on its website, the giant inflatable whale was used at Potters Fields Park before as part of an unrelated pirate exhibit. The Christian group, which seeks to spread Bible education in schools, media, and politics, was hoping to erect the giant whale exhibit as part of its Pass It On campaign that encourages parents to teach their children stories from the Bible.

A spokesperson for the Potters Fields Park Management Trust recently told The Telegraph that the park cannot allow the giant whale installation because it is too religious. “I am afraid that under the terms of our lease we are not allowed to have any events of a religious nature.”

James Catford, group chief executive of the Bible Society, said in a statement that the purpose of the whale was to teach children about a classic Bible story. The Bible Society claims that research it funded as part of its Pass It On campaign found that 80 percent of parents think their children should be knowledgeable about Bible stories.

“We’re not here to tell children what to believe. We simply want to give them a really fun experience they will always remember,” Catford said.

“The research we recently commissioned as part of Bible Society’s Pass It On campaign showed that 80 per cent of all parents think their children should have the opportunity to engage with Bible stories. The challenge is knowing where to begin. We thought that giving children the chance to sit in a large inflatable whale and have the story of Jonah read to them was a good place to start.”

A brief opinion piece posted on The Telegraph View page agrees with the Bible Society, arguing that park authorities should not ban the religious-themed event from taking place. “Whether they swallow it whole or not, children have a right to know the story, so it is quite wrong of the authorities who control the space outside City Hall in London to deny permission, as we report today, for an inflatable whale to be set up there for a day as a visual aid to story-telling. Bible stories are not a crime – yet.”

The Christian group is now looking for a new venue to erect their whale. They hope to use the site for August.

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