Of course the aim of the scheme is a good one, and if it helps struggling families to avoid taking on more debt, we could welcome it. But the police, local higher education bodies, the health board, etc. are all involved in collecting toys, which will then be delivered to Towy Community Church, Myrtle House (aka Elim Pentecostal Church), Ammanford Evangelical Church and Communities First Pantyffynnon for distribution to needy families.
In other words, apart from Communities First in Pantyffynnon, the council is outsourcing the last links in the chain to three fundamentalist churches, and it is they, presumably, who will decide who gets the toys. Perhaps parents wishing to pick up a toy may even be given a spot of evangelising and a few leaflets while they are at it. Who knows?
A quick glance at the websites of these churches will give you an insight into what they are all about. Here's Elim Pentecostal Church on its core values:
"We believe in the universal sinfulness of all men since the Fall, rendering man subject to God's wrath and condemnation."
And that's it - their core values in their entirety. Short and to the point. Not much about love and forgiveness there.
What about Ammanford Evangelical Church? Here's what it has to say about the Bible:
"The Bible is God’s completely true Story about who He is, what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will do. It was given by God to human writers and so reflects their backgrounds, styles, and use of language. The Bible is the final authority on all matters of which it speaks.
In His own time and in His own way, God will bring the world as we know it to an end. According to his promise, Christ will return personally and visibly to judge the living and the dead. Those who have received God’s grace will spend eternity in Heaven, whilst those who have not will receive their just punishment in Hell."
Spot the difference between this view of the world, and that of Islamist fundamentalists.
Which brings us back to our old friends at Towy Community Church, the council's own favourite Christian grouping, which told Wales on Sunday yesterday that it was a partner church in Mercy Ministries, the Tennessee-based organisation which believes, the paper tells us, that homosexuality and bulimia are caused by demonic possession.
Like its friends in Llanelli and Ammanford, they too believe that the Bible is literally true and the "final authority in all matters of faith and conduct". Anyone who does not share their faith will suffer a similar fate to the sinners of Llanelli and Ammanford:
"We believe in the second coming of Christ as the blessed hope set before believers, in the resurrection of the dead and in the final judgment of the world, the eternal conscious bliss of the believer and the eternal conscious punishment of those who reject Christ."
In recent years there has been a growing crescendo of attacks by religious groups on what they see as the secularisation of society, with the fiercest condemnation coming from the religious right and the Catholic hierarchy, which still thinks it has a right to tell us all how to live and behave despite the multiple scandals involving the abuse of children and young women over decades. Let's imagine how things might have looked if they had had their say in the last 50 years.
- Divorce would be illegal, or we would be stuck with the old divorce laws which caused so much suffering to so many people.
- Suicide would be a criminal offence still.
- Gays would be subject to persecution by the police and state and live in constant fear of being denounced and arrested.
- Women with unwanted pregnancies would be visiting back-street abortionists kitted out with knitting needles.
- Children would be taught creationism and "intelligent design" at school.
Are these really the sort of organisations local government should be collaborating with? There is something deeply worrying about the path Pam Palmer, Meryl Gravell, Mark James et al are taking us down.
Caebrwyn, triumphant winner of a year's subscription to Private Eye, has spotted an interesting report in the current issue here.
I wonder when readers of the local press will finally get to hear about what their council is up to? After all, it's now been in Wales on Sunday as well. Let's hope there have not been any suggestions from County Hall that it might review its advertising spend with the Northcliffe Press.
Under the circumstances, it was also a little unfortunate that the local papers should have thrown their weight behind the toy box campaign without getting their hacks to check out the story first.