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After an overnight flight from Denver, Christian singer Don Francisco arrived at London's Heathrow Airport intending to perform in an Easter music program in the English port town of Poole.

Instead, the 63-year-old American said, he was photographed, fingerprinted, and taken to a small detention room with a seatless toilet bolted to the wall.

Hours later, Francisco said, armed guards led him to a van parked on the tarmac, where he was ordered inside a cage and driven to a British Airways jet.

"They escorted me on board, where they handed the stewardess an envelope containing my passport, boarding passes, and other paperwork," he said.

Just like that, Francisco was sent back home. His crime: listing his occupation as "gospel singer" and failing to obtain a religious worker visa—something he had never needed on previous visits to the country.

Over the last year, the United Kingdom has phased in a points-based immigration system designed to regulate the labor market and help prevent terrorism.

However, the new system has thrown Christian workers and organizations into confusion because the U.K. Border Agency has not taken into account the complexity of religious activities, the Evangelical Alliance said.

The London-based advocacy group for the nation's estimated two million evangelicals cites a number of cases in which groups or individuals were refused entry after traveling to the U.K. to speak or volunteer.

Alliance leaders have drawn up guidelines to help Christians navigate the system and posted them online (eauk.org).

"Some of the problems we have seen are due to churches not being fully aware of their new responsibilities, while on other occasions, immigration officials have wrongly banned people from the country because ...

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hide thisJune June

In the Magazine

June 2009

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