THIS month sees the publication of a book by ex-Church of Scotland Minister Helen Percy, in which she tells of having been raped in 1995 by a church elder in a Perthshire parish.
Scandalous, Immoral And Improper: The Trial of Helen Percy has been receiving a good deal of positive pre-publication publicity in Scotland – but not in Life and Work, the Church’s in-house rag which has been accused of censorship for refusing to carry an ad for the book.
Derek Rodger, who owns Argyll Publishing, says he tried to place an ad for the book in L&W but was told it was not “entirely suitable for a church magazine” and was “giving cause for concern”, apparently because of its “racy” title.
Rodger is unconvinced that this is the real reason for the refusal:
Life And Work have taken our adverts without question for all manner of books in the past. It is difficult to think there is not some other agenda here with Helen Percy.
Percy, 42 – who remains an ordained minister, although outwith the Church of Scotland – agrees. She says senior figures within the Kirk reacted unsympathetically to her allegations and treated her not as the victim of a sexual attack but as a willing participant in an affair.
Ironically, the words used in her book’s title are not hers but the Kirk’s. It accused her of “scandalous, immoral and improper behaviour” and forced her to abandon the ministry. Percy went with the Quakers to South Africa where, in 2002, she set up a support network for child and adult survivors of rape and sexual abuse. She now works as a farm labourer and shepherd.
She told the Sunday Herald:
You cannot tell me that a cabal of Church leaders has not recognised in the â€˜racy’ title of this book their own words, applied to a young woman who had been raped.
They lied. They bullied. They doctored evidence and fed the press. They know very well the true nature of the â€˜scandal’ this book contains. It does not carry the Church’s imprimatur, and that is the reason why every churchgoer should read it before making their own judgment.
Among those who have provided endorsements of Scandalous, Immoral And Improper is Richard Holloway, former Bishop of Edinburgh. He said:
Since the biblical story of Susanna and the Elders, the matter of an attractive woman being bullied by a cabal of male religious leaders is one of the most persistent themes throughout history. Helen Percy’s book is a modern version of an old song. Read it and weep.
A spokesman for the Church of Scotland said:
Concern was raised with Argyll Publishing about the content of the advertisement, and a review copy was sought. The publisher was asked if they would like to promote another [title] but they refused. Given the provocative nature of the title of the book, it was appropriate for the magazine of the Church of Scotland to exercise editorial discretion and make further enquiries.
Proceeds from the book will go to benefit children and young people in Africa.
Hat tip: Jack Hastie