Abuse of reverend who condemned ‘cult of Captain Tom’ was ‘aided’ by Church of England, says cleric

Patrick Kelleher
·2-min read

The abuse faced by reverend Jarel Robinson-Brown after he spoke out about the “cult of Captain Tom Moore” was “aided” by the Church of England, a cleric has said.

Robinson-Brown became the target for reams of abuse on social media when he said “the cult of Captain Tom Moore is a cult of white British nationalism” following the veteran’s death on 2 February.

In the since-deleted tweet, Robinson-Brown wrote: “I will offer prayers for the repose of his kind and generous soul, but will not be joining the ‘national clap’.” He was subsequently forced to delete his Twitter account following sustained racist abuse.

Andrew Foreshew-Cain, a chaplain at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, hit out at the Church of England for its weak response to the controversy, and said senior officials within the institution had directly contributed to the backlash faced by Robinson-Brown.

“What Jarel [Robinson-Brown] tweeted was actually very respectful of Captain Tom, but he raised questions about some of those lionising him,” Foreshew-Cain told The Observer.

“There has been a pile-on in response, and the church has aided that.”

Foreshew-Cain went on to organise a letter, signed by 400 clergy and lay members of the Church of England, expressing “profound unhappiness” with a statement issued by the Diocese of London in the aftermath of Robinson-Brown’s tweet.

In that statement, the Diocese of London said Robinson-Brown’s comments about the national clap for Captain Tom were “unacceptable, insensitive and ill judged”.

“The fact that he immediately removed his tweet and subsequently apologised does not undo the hurt he has caused, not least to Captain Tom’s family,” the statement said.

“Nor do Jarel’s actions justify the racist abuse he is now receiving,” the diocese of London added.

In his letter, Foreshew-Cain said: “Your statement raised questions about the freedom of thought and speech of individual clergy, and fails to fully acknowledge the deliberate and hateful way that Jarel’s tweet has been misconstrued and used to attack him in ways that are both racist and homophobic… This is a serious safeguarding issue.”

Robinson-Brown deleted his tweet about Captain Tom shortly after posting it and issued an “unreserved apology for the insensitive timing and content” of his remarks.

The London-based reverend was not alone in criticising the idea of a “national clap” for Captain Tom, with several commentators suggesting the centenarian’s generosity had been co-opted by the government to mask its many failings.

But his blunder was notable for the visceral hatred it attracted online, much of which came from voices who are ordinarily known for extolling freedom of speech.

Some of the fiercest criticism Robinson-Brown faced was from “free speech champion” Laurence Fox. More hypocritical backlash came from Nigel Farage, former Sun editor Kelvin McKenzie and Guido Fawkes reporter Tom Harwood, all of whom have vocally opposed political correctness in favour of free speech.