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Religious leaders claim Carlisle club's name offensive

Religious leaders have accused a nightclub boss of insulting their faith after he named his newest venue The Church.

The Church club photo
The Church

Entrepreneur Ben Read, 29, has taken over the former Party Party nightspot in Botchergate, Carlisle, using a church theme, with a large cross mounted above the main entrance.

The club’s windows are adorned with the silhouetted image of a DJ, his arms outstretched in a pose reminiscent of Jesus being crucified.

Mr Read said he did not intend to offend churchgoers in the city but insisted he would not change the name or remove the cross above the door, which was put up without planning permission.

Captain Mark Sellers, who leads Carlisle’s branch of the Salvation Army, said the nightclub’s use of the cross belittled people’s faith. He said: “Perhaps we can’t stop them from doing this, but it does cause offence.

“We don’t see Jesus as something in our lives that is crude or shallow. He’s obviously a very significant figure in our lives and to see the symbol of the cross demeaned in this way is just wrong.

“People’s religious sensibilities should be protected, but for some reason the Christian faith seems easier for people to attack. We’re not as vocal. If somebody was doing this with a mosque [theme] I’d be the first to object. But people seem to think that it’s okay to have a go at us. Self-sacrifice and the symbol of the cross is central to all Christians. It’s something we are all united around. In the minds of all Christian people, it stands for the most significant moment in all history.

“But to have the cross used in this way, over a nightclub, belittles it in so many ways.”

Catholic priest Father Michael Docherty, who preaches at both St Margaret Mary’s in Upperby and Christ the King Church in Harraby, said he was saddened by the nightclub’s use of the cross.

“We need to be sensitive to religious symbolism, particularly in the age in which we now live,” he said.

“This image has lots of symbolic value, and real meaning for people. If you look at war graves, you see row upon row of crosses, each representing a human life.

“We can also talk about the sacrifice of the cross – a sacrifice bringing about the salvation of the world.

“Using the cross in this way corrupts that meaning. Something that should be a symbol of good and virtue is corrupted for material gain. But it doesn’t provoke anger in me, it provokes sadness.”

Fellow priest Father Jim Allen, of St Bede’s Church in Wigton Road, Carlisle, said: “Usually, the Evil One does things behind closed doors but it seems that he’s getting more daring and is no longer hiding.”

Castle ward Carlisle city councillor Willie Whalen, a lifelong practising Catholic, described both the club’s name and the use of the cross over its door as “an insult”.

He said: “If it was any faith other than a Christian one there’d be hell on.

“Society has obviously gone too far towards the extremes of secularism but enough is enough. I find what this club has done very offensive.

“It’s a nightclub, and we all know what reputation nightclubs have. A church is a place for worship and prayer.

“People talk about giving people rights and freedoms but the people who take up those rights should realise that they have to respect other people’s point of view and their religion. If they don’t then it becomes a false liberty.

“What’s happening here shows disrespect to Christian and Catholic views. I intend to pray that they see sense and remove the cross. I’ve spoken to pensioners locally who are very annoyed about it.”

Ben Read was unrepentant.

He told The Cumberland News: “If the name and cross have offended people I apologise but that was never my intention. I have to say that the cross has gone past being a piece of religious iconography. It’s fashionable and it’s a trendy thing to wear.

“Yes, business is about making a profit but the church is seen in many parts of the world as a place where people can congregate and have a good time. It doesn’t have to be associated with just religion.

“If we’d wanted to offend people we could have gone to serious extremes. We could have had all the bar staff in nuns’ outfits or vicar collars or we could have tried to have weddings done in the place but we respect people’s religious beliefs. I understand what these people are saying but there are many bars in the world called The Church. We’re not the first, but you can’t please everyone. We’ve been trading five weeks now and people absolutely love it here.”

Asked why he chose the name The Church, Mr Read, who also runs The Office nightspot in Botchergate, added: “Because it’s cool – it’s quirky. I don’t disrespect these people but we live in 2013.”

He offered an open invite to those who had criticised the bar’s new image, saying he would personally treat them to a night out at The Church, giving them VIP treatment.

A city council spokeswoman said: “Our planning section have advised the owners of The Church that consent is required for the illuminated cross on display outside the building. A retrospective application is expected to be submitted soon.”

Have your say

Noting that retrospective planning for the needlessly offensive use of a symbol held in respect by many I consider a calculated insult. After the debacle of Sainsbury & Tescos stores being badgered over the need not to appear as box like structures and in the past having plans returned as where we planned to put an ordinary household refuse bin had not been shown!!!!!. NOW can we please know when the relevant planning meeting is taking place????. Also where should written objections be posted to???.

Posted by liz on 17 May 2013 at 14:49

If this as caused so much concern for our Church people, there are alot more problems with the church and it`s leaders. Ask the kids that have abused by church leaders all over the world etc. Thats more of a concern!!!

Posted by Stephen on 14 May 2013 at 18:07

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