Several church leaders have shared their thoughts on social media about the ongoing dispute between former England footballer and Match Of The Day (MOTD) presenter Gary Lineker and the BBC.
The broadcaster decided to suspend Lineker from presenting the programme following a tweet he made criticising the government’s new immigration policy – he compared the language used by the conservative government to that of Hitler in the 1930s.
According to the BBC, Lineker had broken the broadcaster's impartiality rules and therefore had to be suspended. But, in solidarity, other presenters, pundits and journalists who take part in other various BBC sports programmes have pulled out from Saturday’s shows, arguing the decision against Lineker is unjust.
The controversy has prompted many people to share their thoughts on social media, including several church leaders.
Gavin Calver, the chief executive of the Evangelical Alliance in the UK, said the decision to remove Lineker from MOTD was a “dangerous move away from the UK being a land of free speech”.
He tweeted: "As far as I understand @GaryLineker is a freelance journalist who works regularly for the BBC, amongst others. Whether people agree with what he said or not, him being no platformed from @BBCMOTD feels like another dangerous move away from the UK being a land of free speech”.
Founder of the 247 Prayer Network, Pete Greig also took to Twitter to share his support for Gary Lineker. He wrote: “3 reasons I support #GaryLineker - 1. I believe in free speech 2. I believe in a free #BBC unencumbered by politics & cultural bias 3. I believe in welcoming - not victimising - anyone desperate enough to cross the sea in a small boat in this weather.”
Mike Royal, General Secretary Churches Together in England applauded the decision of presenters Alan Shearer and Ian Wright to also pull out from Saturday’s show.
“Thank goodness for our brilliant Parliamentary Opposition. Gary Lineker, Ian Wright and Alan Shearer!! 👏 #RefugeesWelcome,” he tweeted.
But not everyone is siding with the footballer. Peter Lynas, UK director at the Evangelical Alliance, agreed with the BBC’s decision.
He said: “Perhaps a controversial opinion - it’s not about the content or correctness of the Lineker tweet but whether it broke BBC guidelines. He has been warned before. I suspect the BBC will come off worse - but you either have and follow guidelines or you don’t.
“I should add that I’m a strong supporter of free speech. Gary is absolutely entitled to his views & to share them. But when he takes a paid role, he agrees to the terms and conditions. He can step down from the BBC and speak freely or keep his platform and abide by their rules.”