A priest in northern England is apparently a fan of 9 of the 10 commandments -- it's "Thou Shalt Not Steal" he has a problem. The Rev. Tim Jones is under fire for telling his congregation that stealing is sometimes all right.
Jones told his followers that it is sometimes okay for poor, desperate people to steal. He said people should not take more than they need. He would also prefer that people do their shoplifting at large chain stores rather than small, family-owned businesses.
Needless to say, Jones' pro-larceny comments are not sitting well with church officials. "The Church of England does not advise anyone to shoplift, or break the law in any way," said Archdeacon Richard Seed. His statement continued:
"Father Tim Jones is raising important issues about the difficulties people face when benefits are not forthcoming, but shoplifting is not the way to overcome these difficulties. There are many organizations and charities working with people in need."
Jones told the Associated Press that he stands by his comments. He said the media is only focusing on his view on shoplifting rather than the underlying problem he wanted to address.
"The point I'm making is that when we shut down every socially acceptable avenue for people in need, then the only avenue left is the socially unacceptable one," he said, adding that people are often released from prison without any means of support, leading them back into crime.
"What I'm against is the way society has become ever more comfortable with the people at the very bottom, and blinded to their needs," he said.
He said shoplifting could help people who are legally entitled to government welfare benefits but have the benefits delayed for bureaucratic reasons.
This rationale was rejected out-of-hand by the British Retail Consortium, a prominent trade organization trying to reduce theft.
"It's the job of our welfare system, which retailers support with the billions they pay each year in tax, to help vulnerable people," said spokesman Richard Dodd. "There are no excuses for stealing."
Jones will soon have a meeting with the Archdeacon to discuss his controversial views.