Vicar stumps council by doing a ‘sermon on the mount’ – and paying double his fine for climate protest
Retired vicar Rev Bill White, 67 from Macclesfield, cites Jesus’ sermon on the mount as reasoning for paying double for the fine given to him by North Warwickshire Borough Council.
Rev White was fined by the council earlier this year, after he took part in a climate change demonstration with protest group Just Stop Oil. The former vicar helped block Kingsbury Oil Depot, despite the council putting out an injunction banning people from protesting at this site.
Although fined £250, Rev White paid double, as a subversive act of resistance inspired by Jesus’ instruction in his Sermon on the Mount on how to respond to oppression. Matthew 5:38-41 reads:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.”
After receiving his fine, the retired vicar sent a letter this week to Anne Ryan, the Principal Solicitor at North Warwickshire Borough Council. It reads:
“You expect me, as a member of the clergy, to stand up for truth and justice, and to act consistent with the values and principles of the Christian way.
Being faithful to that calling leads me to challenge your injunction as immoral. So I have been on remand in Birmingham prison and am commanded to pay your council £250.’
In considering a Christian response to an immoral demand I am reminded of the words of Jesus in the ‘Sermon on the Mount’:
You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. (Matthew 5:38-41)
So I enclose a cheque for £500. This is to settle what you consider to be an outstanding debt. The other £250 please hold on my account. At the very least it’ll save some administration time if you find yourselves making another similar claim.
If the injunction ceases to apply you may use any surplus on my account to reduce the claims you have on others from Just Stop Oil.”
Before his action at Kingsbury Oil Depot, Rev White said: “Our world is addicted to oil, and like any addict we enrich the dealers, harm those around us, and ultimately destroy ourselves. If unresolved, this addiction to oil today means our children and grandchildren will not be able to enjoy life as we know it. At the very least it is as a matter of justice for them that I support the Just Stop Oil coalition, drawing attention to this deadly addiction, admitting my part in it, and hoping and praying our government will come to its senses and seek help. Bringing an addict to the point of realisation often requires tough love. I see this non-violent civil resistance as the outworking of such costly love God is calling us to.”