Current Magazine

Bideford Council Prayer Ruling Draws Backlash Amid Claims Christianity is ‘marginalised’ in ‘militantly Secularised’ UK

Posted on the 14 February 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Bideford Council prayer ruling draws backlash amid claims Christianity is ‘marginalised’ in ‘militantly secularised’ UK

Christianity under threat? Photo credit: Friar's Balsam,

According to conventional wisdom, politics and religion are the top topics to avoid in everyday conversation. But the two collided recently after Tory MP Nadine Dorries and Conservative Party Chairman Baroness Warsi claimed Christianity is under attack in the UK.

Baroness Warsi spoke out in a Telegraph piece against “militant secularisation,” which she described as “intolerant” and likened to totalitarian regimes. “My concern is when secularisation is pushed to an extreme, when it requires the complete removal of faith from the public sphere. So I am calling for a more open confidence in faith,” wrote Warsi, ahead of a ministerial visit to the Vatican.

Lady Warsi’s criticism of secularisation is considered to be a response to a court ruling that Bideford council in Devon does not have the statutory right to hold prayers during meetings. The case came about after a complaint by a local councillor, supported by the National Secular Society. Dorries made her feelings known on a Conservative Home blog: “If the National Secular Society had its way, all vestige of religion would be removed from the state and society.”

Prayer should be voluntary. In the aftermath of the Bideford ruling, councils should consider holding prayers on a voluntary basis before meetings, suggested Jonathan Chaplin on The Guardian’s Comment is Free. “It’s hard to see how this would amount to any kind of defeat for authentic Christianity: aren’t the sincere but unofficial prayers of genuine believers of greater worth than the official ones of the religiously indifferent or reluctant?,” wrote Chaplin. According to Chaplin, councillors’ time would be better spent working for local justice than engaging in “expressions of public piety.”

“Secularism is not intrinsically damaging. My concern is when secularisation is pushed to an extreme, when it requires the complete removal of faith from the public sphere,” wrote Baroness Warsi in The Telegraph.

Religion has no place in politics. “By leaving religion outside of political life, we ensure free expression for all. Its inclusion is a minor tyranny, putting atheists on a secondary platform,” argued Ian Dunt on a blog. Dunt was astonished that Baroness Warsi could call for tolerance and at the same time question why God was not included in the European constitution: “To include God in a document which covers all the citizens of a country or continent would be deeply intolerant. It would be an attack on those of us who do not believe in God.”

Claiming victim status. Writing for Liberal Conspiracy, Lee Durbin criticised the tendency of those such as Dorries towards “wounded hysteria” and claiming victim status in reaction to cases such as Bideford. What is needed, said Durbin, is “a sensible dialog between the faithful and the non-religious in Britain,” rather than ill-informed Daily Mail headlines.

Hurray for Baroness Warsi. The fact that Baroness Warsi, the first female Asian minister, has spoken out for Christianity is a cause for celebration, wrote Cristina Odone in The Telegraph: “Let a white Tory male minister claim that ignorance breeds prejudice, and the liberals would condemn him as elitist… But coming from an Asian Muslim woman, these words strike a chord.” According to Odone, Baroness Warsi may succeed in “embarrassing liberals into taking religion seriously”.

“Many people who describe themselves as Christian have low levels of belief and little or no practice, according to new research,” reported The Times (£). The poll, carried out for the Richard Dawkins Foundation by Ipsos/Mori, found that “when asked why they think of themselves as Christian, fewer than three in ten said one of the reasons is that they believe in the teachings of Christianity.”

Christianity under attack. Writing in The Daily Mail, former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey called on the UK government to “protect the Christian traditions on which the country is founded,” in the wake of the Bideford ruling. According to Carey, Christianity is increasingly “marginalised” in Britain, which is shocking given that the country has been shaped by Christian principles. “We’ve become enslaved to multiculturalism, political correctness and so-called equal rights, so obsessed with the idea of minimising any possible offense to any minority group that we don’t seem to have realised that one of the great British human qualities — tolerance — has now been replaced by intolerance,” said Carey.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog