Christian campaigners have backed nonviolent direct action against Atos, a company accused of wrongly declaring thousands of disabled people to be fit for work to meet government goals of slashing the welfare bill.
Atos is facing a string of protests this week, triggered in part by the company's sponsorship of the Paralympic Games. The sponsorship has been slammed as cynical and hypocritical by Atos' critics.
Supporters of Christianity Uncut are backing the protests against Atos, including an attempt to close the company's London offices tomorrow (Friday 31 August). The action has been organised by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and UK Uncut, who have dubbed it “the Closing Atos Ceremony”.
“Jesus said he had come to bring good news to the poor. Atos bring bad news to the poor.” declared Christianity Uncut today (30 August).
The company has £3.1 billion of government contracts. Over 40 per cent of appeals against Atos decisions are upheld, suggesting the company is either incompetent or deliberately conducting biased assessments. However, legal aid for most appeals will be scrapped from April.
At least 43 doctors and nurses working for Atos have been reported to professional regulators for misconduct, according to evidence published by the Independent newspaper yesterday (29 August). There are countless stories of people being forced to miss meals or turn off heating after having their benefits cut.
Sian, a disabled Catholic who was assessed by Atos, said that the cross over her bed was noticed by the Atos doctor who asked if she went to church.
“She said she was asking this because I should have freedom of religion and be able to go to church,” explained Sian. “She lied. She wrote 'claims cannot leave house even to church'. She was checking to see if I was'really' disabled. I had my Disability Living Allowance stopped.”
Christianity Uncut urged churches to take sides with the poorest members of society “who are losing out most from cuts while the very rich remain largely unaffected”. They accused David Cameron of snatching away the livelihood of thousands of disabled people at the same time as welcoming the Paralympics to London.
Symon Hill, a Christian writer and associate director of the Ekklesia thinktank, said he would be at the protest at the Atos offices in London tomorrow.
He added, “Ministers could save billions by cracking down on corporate tax-dodging and ditching Trident, instead of attacking the poorest members of society. Many Christians recognise that there can be no neutrality in the face of injustice. Now is the time to act on that conviction.”
Christianity Uncut is an informal network of Christians campaigning against the UK government's cuts agenda and what they regard as the injustices of capitalism. They say they are inspired by Jesus and his nonviolent direct action in the Jerusalem Temple in solidarity with people who are poor, exploited and marginalised.
Earlier this year, members of Christianity Uncut were dragged from the steps of St Paul's Cathedral as they knelt in prayer during the eviction of Occupy London Stock Exchange.