The United Kingdom's lead immigration agency argued that Christianity isn't a peaceful religion — and even quoted Bible passages to bolster the claim — during the course of refusing asylum to an Iranian convert from Islam, the Independent reported.
The letter from the UK Home Office said the Book of Revelation is "filled with imagery of revenge, destruction, death and violence" and cited six passages, the paper said.
"These examples are inconsistent with your claim that you converted to Christianity after discovering it is a 'peaceful' religion, as opposed to Islam which contains violence, rage, and revenge," the letter added.
Nathan Stevens, the asylum-seeker's caseworker, argued back on Twitter: "I've seen a lot over the years, but even I was genuinely shocked to read this unbelievably offensive diatribe being used to justify a refusal of asylum."
Excerpt from a home office reasons for refusal letter for a convert to Christianity. I’ve seen a lot over the years… https://t.co/GRqPp1apYI— Nathan Stevens (@Nathan Stevens)1553019726.0
He added, "Whatever your views on faith, how can a government official arbitrarily pick bits out of a holy book and then use them to trash someone's heartfelt reason for coming to a personal decision to follow another faith?"
The Iranian national claimed asylum in 2016, Stevens added on Twitter, and he is appealing the decision.
What did the immigration office have to say?
The Home Office told the Independent the denial letter was "not in accordance" with its policy about claims based on religious persecution and said it's working to improve training for decision-makers on religious conversion.
What did others have to say?
Legal expert Conor James McKinney told the paper the letter is an example of the Home Office's tendency to "come up with any reason they can to refuse asylum."
"You can see from the text of the letter that the writer is trying to pick holes in the asylum seeker's account of their conversion to Christianity and using the Bible verses as a tool to do that," McKinney told the Independent. "The Home Office is notorious for coming up with any reason they can to refuse asylum, and this looks like a particularly creative example, but not necessarily a systemic outbreak of anti-Christian sentiment in the department."
Sarah Teather, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in the UK, told the paper the letter is a "particularly outrageous example of the reckless and facetious approach of the Home Office to determining life and death asylum cases."
"Some of these cases require more legal knowledge to recognize than this bizarre misquoting of the Bible, but as this instance gains public attention, we need to remember it reflects a systematic problem and a deeper mindset of disbelief and is not just an anomaly that can be explained away," Teather added to the Independent.
Stephen Evans, chief executive of the National Secular Society, told the paper it's "wholly inappropriate" for the Home Office to use "theological justifications for refusing asylum applications."
"Decisions on the merits of an asylum appeal should be based on an assessment of the facts at hand — and not on the state's interpretation of any given religion," Evans also noted to the Independent. "It's not the role of the Home Office to play theologian."