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Not Dead Yet and the Christian right’s pro-life movement

Just how close are they?

Not Dead Yet UK is a secular organisation. Its members are very keen to get that across. They are not ‘pro-lifers’. When they send out a press release it says clearly they are “not faith centred or allied to any organised religion”. But how close are they to organisations like Christian Concern who very much are?

Not Dead Yet
A Not Dead Yet demo during the Assisted Dying Bill. They say they are ‘not faith centred or allied to any organised religion’

It is hard to be sure how much crossover exists between the ‘many groups opposed to assisted suicide’ and how they collaborate. But what is clear is that some members of Not Dead Yet are using pro-life campaign tactics, with the support of Christian Concern, in their opposition to Noel Conway and that those tactics are crass and hurtful.

Not Dead Yet say they are not sure if the people doing this are their members or not (although they knew at least one was in 2015), but a recent and worrying series of events suggest they should find out:

  • In 2015 Nikki Kenward was a prominent member of Not Dead Yet, best known for opposing the DPP’s prosecution guidelines for the crime of assisting a suicide.
  • At the Assisted Dying Bill demonstration in September 2015, Not Dead Yet activists were campaigning alongside large puppets and props. The same props Not Dead Yet member, Liz Carr, posed in front of at Nikki Kenward’s case in November.
  • In July 2017 Not Dead Yet sent out an inaccurate press release about their opposition to Noel Conway’s legal case. Nikki Kenward and others were outside court demonstrating with fake coffins and the same puppets.
  • When Noel Conway’s case retuned to the Court of Appeal on 1 May 2018, Christian Concern sent a press release highlighting that Nikki Kenward and her theatre group ‘The Distance Voices’ would be there with a ‘giant graveyard’.
  • The giant graveyard appeared outside the Court of Appeal and featured Not Dead Yet’s logo. They deny involvement and say they have asked for their logo to be removed.

Not only are these tactics questionable, they were also very badly implemented. One headstone in the fake graveyard featured a story about the death of a young person due to neglect, without the consent of the relatives of those involved. This shocking lack of tact and disregard for the views and feelings of others is the hallmark of pro-life campaigners. Not Dead Yet’s response to this was denial of their involvement, but they have made no public effort to dissuade Nikki Kenward and her colleagues from using similar tactics in the future.

Why does this matter?

Christian Concern is an increasingly discredited organisation. It is known for a variety of outrageous behaviour, including claiming that ‘Tom Daley turned gay because his father died’, funding ‘gay cure’ therapy and most recently giving a potentially vulnerable family ‘fanatical and deluded’ legal advice via their legal arm, the Christian Legal Centre. Their tactics are splashed all over the news and Not Dead Yet’s logo was splashed all over a fake headstone that Christian Concern was promoting. This should worry people on both sides of the assisted dying debate.

It seems clear that current or past members of Not Dead Yet are working in coordination with the pro-life, anti-choice Christian right. This should concern ordinary secular members of Not Dead Yet and in particular Not Dead Yet’s founder, Baroness Jane Campbell, a crossbench life peer. Baroness Campbell has campaigned for equality with tenacity and credibility for many years. It is unthinkable that an organisation she founded could become interwoven with an evangelical Christian group which is so opposed to equality.

These risks seem clear, but to date Not Dead Yet’s response has been worryingly lacklustre. I hope Baroness Campbell can rectify this and support the volunteers who run Not Dead Yet to ensure their legitimate campaigning is not drawn into the world of pro-life campaign tactics that are so hurtful. Whether Not Dead Yet can do this and persuade all their members to campaign with respect remains to be seen. We’ll find out if and when Noel Conway’s case makes it to the Supreme Court.