Church in row with charity over use of offensive word in crossword

28 June 2021, 08:58 | Updated: 28 June 2021, 09:02

The so-called 'L-word' was used in a crossword
The so-called 'L-word' was used in a crossword. Picture: PA

By Daisy Stephens

The Church of Scotland has been criticised by a charity for using a word that fuelled “archaic, derogatory and harmful” attitudes.

The crossword in the church’s official magazine Life and Work used the clue “outcast” to indicate the word “leper”, inviting criticism from a charity that raises awareness of leprosy and challenges the stigma around it, it was reported in The Times.

“As part of our efforts to advocate for people affected by leprosy to be treated with dignity and respect we are determined to challenge the use of the ‘L word’,” said chief executive of the Leprosy Mission Scotland Linda Todd in a letter to the magazine.

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She wrote she was “dismayed” to see the word used, and said that the “stigma, isolation and discrimination” was one of the most damaging parts of leprosy, a long-term infection that reduces an individual’s ability to feel pain.

She added that people affected by leprosy have asked for the word ‘leper’ not to be used, and that to use it was “denying them their dignity and their rights”.

In response, a spokeswoman for Life and Work magazine said: “We were grateful to the leprosy society for bringing the issue to us and we were happy to publish their letter to the editor raising awareness about the impact of language and the leprosy society’s campaign.”

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Leprosy, a mildly contagious disease which mainly affects the skin, peripheral nerves, throat and eyes, is endemic in more than 100 countries.

It can be cured by a combination of drugs, but more than four million people worldwide are living with an impairment related to leprosy.

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There is a historical stigma around people affected, with some seeing it as a sign of impurity or as a punishment from God and stories being told of Jesus healing a man with leprosy and therefore making him “clean”.

Ms Todd said in her letter to the magazine that the use of the word ‘leper’ in the crossword made it “harder for our colleagues around the world to persuade governments and others to take the problems of leprosy seriously, to overturn discriminatory legislation and provide comprehensive care and support.”

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