news from ekklesia

By staff writers
March 21, 2004

Sabbath debate reignited by horse race

-21/3/04

The first Sunday horse race meeting in Northern Ireland has reignited the debate about ìkeeping Sunday Specialî.

About 50 protesters, mostly members of Ian Paisley's Free Presbyterian church, held placards and sang hymns outside the gates of Downpatrick course, where about 3,000 people braved rain and hail to attend the seven-race meet.

In the not-too-distant past swings in children's playgrounds would be chained up on Sunday's and "Keep Sunday special" campaigners, backed by organisations such as the Jubilee Centre in Cambridge and some para church organisations have fought determined but ultimately unsuccessful battles against Sunday shop opening and sporting events.

More recently however, campaigners, at least in the rest of the UK, have been more quiet, apparently resigned to changes in Sunday behaviour.

At the forefront of campaigns against recent moves in Northern Ireland however has been Paisley, who in four decades in the public eye has also called for a ban on "lustful" line dancing and opposed the relaxation of laws on homosexuality under the memorable slogan "Save Ulster from Sodomy".

The 78-year-old preacher-politician stayed away from the County Down race meeting, however, leaving it to local ministers from the Free Presbyterian church he founded in the 1950s to lead the protests against Sunday gambling.

"This is the Lord's day and we've no right to touch it," said minister Trevor Baxter, from nearby Ballynahinch.

"They have got six other days for horse racing and gambling, doing it on a Sunday is a breach of God's law."

There was no animosity between race-goers and the knot of protesters gathered outside the course but few among the crowds streaming in could see a problem with Sunday horse racing.

"I think in this day and age you should be able to come to see racing on a Sunday if you want to," said Robert Clarke, 43. "There's nothing to stop you from going to church first."

"On commercial grounds it makes sense," course registrar Iain Duff said, adding race organisers in Northern Ireland had been campaigning for 10 years until recent legislation brought the province into line with Britain by allowing Sunday betting.

"I respect anybody's views but as long as people have the option some people will opt not to come racing on Sunday because of their beliefs, others will opt to come because they see no objection to Sunday from any other day."

Sabbath debate reignited by horse race

-21/3/04

The first Sunday horse race meeting in Northern Ireland has reignited the debate about ìkeeping Sunday Specialî.

About 50 protesters, mostly members of Ian Paisley's Free Presbyterian church, held placards and sang hymns outside the gates of Downpatrick course, where about 3,000 people braved rain and hail to attend the seven-race meet.

In the not-too-distant past swings in children's playgrounds would be chained up on Sunday's and "Keep Sunday special" campaigners, backed by organisations such as the Jubilee Centre in Cambridge and some para church organisations have fought determined but ultimately unsuccessful battles against Sunday shop opening and sporting events.

More recently however, campaigners, at least in the rest of the UK, have been more quiet, apparently resigned to changes in Sunday behaviour.

At the forefront of campaigns against recent moves in Northern Ireland however has been Paisley, who in four decades in the public eye has also called for a ban on "lustful" line dancing and opposed the relaxation of laws on homosexuality under the memorable slogan "Save Ulster from Sodomy".

The 78-year-old preacher-politician stayed away from the County Down race meeting, however, leaving it to local ministers from the Free Presbyterian church he founded in the 1950s to lead the protests against Sunday gambling.

"This is the Lord's day and we've no right to touch it," said minister Trevor Baxter, from nearby Ballynahinch.

"They have got six other days for horse racing and gambling, doing it on a Sunday is a breach of God's law."

There was no animosity between race-goers and the knot of protesters gathered outside the course but few among the crowds streaming in could see a problem with Sunday horse racing.

"I think in this day and age you should be able to come to see racing on a Sunday if you want to," said Robert Clarke, 43. "There's nothing to stop you from going to church first."

"On commercial grounds it makes sense," course registrar Iain Duff said, adding race organisers in Northern Ireland had been campaigning for 10 years until recent legislation brought the province into line with Britain by allowing Sunday betting.

"I respect anybody's views but as long as people have the option some people will opt not to come racing on Sunday because of their beliefs, others will opt to come because they see no objection to Sunday from any other day."

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