Barmy council officials banned a vicar from flying a flag of Jesus Christ outside his church – because it advertised CHRISTIANITY.
Stunned Rev Mark Binney was threatened with a £1,000 fine and a criminal record if he continued to fly the flag without council permission.
Rev Binney, 52, hoisted the flag up a 30ft pole outside 700-year-old St Andrews Church in Hampton, Evesham, Worcs., to celebrate Easter’s Holy Week.
But the council ruled that as the flag was not placed on the church roof, it breached planning law and required ‘Advertising Consent’.
Rev Binney has branded the ban ”outrageous’.’
He stormed: ”I think the council’s behaviour is outrageous, totally appalling. This is a Christian church in a Christian country and all we were doing was flying a recognised flag.
”We’ve had dozens of really supportive comments from people who’ve seen the flag. We just can’t understand where the council are coming from, it’s ridiculous.
”What do you expect to see outside a church?
”You see blatant advertising everywhere, especially at election time where people are blatantly flouting the law.
”But we couldn’t even display the flag, not even during the most religious week of the year in a religious country.
”Christianity is being gradually eroded and it’s because of situations like this.”
The 6ft by 3ft white and purple flag was embroidered with Jesus on the cross above the words ‘This is Holy Week’.
Rev Binney flew the flag, which he had paid £30 for from a religious banner company, on March 22.
But four weeks later on April 19 planning officers from Wychavon District Council called the vicarage and told them to take it down.
Rev Binney’s wife, Charlie, 44, spoke to the council officer who warned her they could face criminal charges and a hefty fine.
Charlie, who plays the organ in the church every Sunday, said: ”I was upstairs sewing when the council rang.
”The man was very aggressive and strict. I was very annoyed because I thought they were having a pop at Christianity.
”I felt like we were being singled out for being Christians. The council officer said we were advertising Christianity and I argued with him that we’re a Christian country.
”But it was in vain. He was so rude and forceful that there was no way that I was going to get through to him.
”He warned us that we would be in trouble if we didn’t get the proper planning permission. I’ve never heard of anything so ludicrous – getting official permission for a flag.”
The couple, who have three children, must now apply in writing to the planning department of the council for advertising consent.
They face a £1,000 fine and a further £100 penalty every day the flag remains up if the council rejects their application.
Graeme Duerden, Development Control Manager at the council, said: ”We did receive a complaint from a member of the public regarding the flying of a flag advertisement at the church.
”Flags which are not national emblems, county flags or fly from the roof of a building need advertising consent.
”We merely advised Rev Binney on the regulations about this.
”We have contacted the complainant and the church to advise of this and provided some advice on the display of flags and when advertisement consent would be necessary in the future.”