Saturday, 11 February 2012

Christians Are Not Above The Law

Lord Carey
Former Archbishop of Canterbury
One thing I found interesting and very revealing in today's BBC Radio 4 Today interview with former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey was not the expected winging about 'persecution' of Christians, by which he meant that Christians were unfairly being made to obey the law of the land and were being deprived of their 'right' to impose their superstition on the non-Christian majority.

What I thought was particularly revealing was his response to the point about how Christianity is still flourishing in the USA where there is a clear separation of church and state and how separation of church and state seems to work in favour of religions. His response, rather than to accept that position and even advocate it as showing that an established church actually reduces church-going and the level of following, he sought to dismiss it and wave it aside (about 4.3 minutes into the interview which can be heard here).

I have previously blogged about the decline in religion and Christian influence in the UK to the point where they are in a minority with non-believers forming 50% or more of the population.

Clearly, to Carey, and I suspect a large number of senior Anglican clerics, power is the important thing. The inconvenience of an established church leading to reduced congregations and a growing rejection of his religion is a secondary consideration. Keep the established church and bugger the results, so long as I get power, a seat in the House of Lords, a job for life and an income independent of performance.

Carey also showed his 'democratic' principles by stating that Britain was not a secular country but a Christian one. This might be the legal position but anyone with a commitment to democracy would find that intolerable when only 44% of the population even identify themselves as Christian and less than 33% of those are actually practising Christians.

For those outside the UK, this interview came at the end of a disastrous week for the Christian church in the UK with two major successes for secularists. Firstly, the High Court has ruled that it is illegal for Bideford Town Council to require councillor to say Christian prayers before each council session. This action was brought by an atheist councillor with the backing of the National Secular Society. The Court ruled that Bideford Council was acting outside the powers given it under the 1972 Local Government Act. Given the way English Law works, this case effectively makes it illegal for ANY council established under that Act, and maybe any other elected assembly in England and Wales, to have this requirement unless specifically empowered to do so.

Secondly, a Christian couple who had refused a room in their guesthouse in Marazion, Cornwall, to a gay couple and had been convicted of having acted unlawfully, lost their appeal in the Court Of Appeal and were ordered to pay damages. The gay couple had had the backing of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. This case establishes that religious belief cannot be used as an excuse for denying goods and services to others or for discriminating against them. It also established the general point that Christians, or followers of any other religion, are subject to the law of the land and are not free to disregard it as they wish.


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