Angry fathers plan St Paul's protest


by Bill Bowder

9TH JULY 2004

FATHERS 4 JUSTICE, a group of fathers campaigning for equal access to children after a separation, plans to put 100 men on to the roof of St Paulıs  Cathedral, it emerged this week. It hopes to unfurl a banner protesting: "In  the Name of the Father".

The organisers admit that such an event would be "slightly controversial". Past protests have seen fathers dressed as Spiderman and other "superheroes" climbing on bridges and gantries and disrupting traffic.

The reason for the cathedral protest, the group says, is that the Church has not done enough to support fathers. Matt OıConnor, founder of the group, said  this week that clergy were ignoring the rights of fathers when it came
to the  baptism of children.

"The Church has not been supportive in case after case where a child has been christened without the fatherıs knowing about it or being invited to attend," he said.

"In the last few months I have had eight cases, seven Church of England and one Roman Catholic, where sometimes very young fathers were not asked to the
christening," he said. "The clergy had not made any attempt to make contact with them."

Mr OıConnor would not give further details of the proposed protest, except that it would take place during the summer, and might include more than one

"We are fairly adroit at scaling things. There is easy access to St Paul's. Between 100 to 200 people may be involved, either spread out or maybe focused.

"Lots of lads have written to the Archbishop of Canterbury and to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-OıConnor in very polite terms, but have got nowhere. These
great  institutions seem to be missing the integral and fundamental point about the  role of fathers and fatherhood in society."

St Paulıs Cathedral would not comment in detail about the campaign. Nevertheless, a spokesman said: "We do not believe that any group's interests  would be best served by abusing public buildings and mounting protests in a  place of worship such as St Paulıs. If such a protest were to
take place, we  would be most concerned to ensure health-and-safety requirements were not  breached."

Sue Burridge, a member of the Archbishopsı Councilıs Mission and Public Affairs Division, admitted that the protesters could have a point. "Clergy may  have tried to contact a father, but been told by the mother that she
did not  want any contact, and felt they could not push the matter," she said.





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