“Welcome to Zingcreed, the Christian/Atheist blog where there are no boundaries. As I muse aloud about religion and life, you are very welcome to eavesdrop – I hope you get something from it!”
“Civil disobedience is morally defensible when the laws being highlighted are morally indefensible.” – Rev Paul Nicolson (Taxpayers Against Poverty)
I met Paul through a radical community group we both support here in North London. Two years ago Tottenham attracted world headlines when rioting broke out after the police killed a local man, Mark Duggan. The fires burned for days and the unrest spread to many other areas around the country. Today rebuilding is going on and shops are reopening, but the poverty is worse than ever, largely because the government has changed the benefits system.
As Paul said on BBC Radio Four’s ‘Sunday’ programme “I’ve met people who’re literally trapped in despair about what’s happening to them. I’ve been working for 30 years with people who’ve been tangled in the benefits system and in debt because of it. Now the volume has been turned up so much because of the new bedroom tax, the overall benefit cap of £500 on top of the housing benefit cap which came in on October 2011.”
Paul has been a political activist ever since graduating in Theology from Cuddesdon College, Oxford, and entering the Anglican ministry. For example he refused to pay his Poll Tax as an earlier protest against poverty. He was in the news earlier in 2013 for organising the “Thousand Mothers’ March” in Tottenham.
Now Paul has refused to pay his taxes to the local council, in sympathy and solidarity with those benefit claimants who simply cannot afford it. He aims to publicise these peoples’ very severe and increasing financial hardship. Well over 7000 others haven’t paid, mainly because they simply cannot afford to pay it and buy food and pay the rent.
The publicity has been considerable, helped by the fact that Paul understands the benefits system as well as anyone, that he wears a dog-collar, and that he is a highly motivated and articulate speaker. His day in court was reported in the Daily Mirror, the Haringey Independent and the Church Times as well as the broadcast media. A large group of supporters from the Zacchaeus Trust and from Taxpayers Against Poverty attended the court where his case was heard. One supporter came all the way down from Derbyshire to be present.
On Radio Four, Paul told the interviewer what motivated him: “There are two Christian aspects: we put the poor first, we don’t put them last; and at the heart of the Christian faith is the belief that we should love our neighbours as our selves. Now that isn’t only something that we do personally, it’s something that we do as a community or that is done by our politicians.”
As a result of his protest, Paul may be sent to prison. As he says of the authorities “It’s up to them!”
Haringey Independent 2/8/13
Church Times 9/8/13
Update (June 2015) Practical Christianity #26: Rev Paul fights on for London’s poorest!