In the 3rd part of his review of this Parliamentary report, Gillan Scott looks at turning the tide against the myth of secular neutrality.
His sterling summation may assist Church leadership in understanding how legal issues may or may not be changing, and what can be done in the meantime. Just a few snippets, to whet your appetite and I’d like to emphasise elements of his concluding paragraph:
Re. the courts
Given the levels of religious illiteracy in government and other public bodies highlighted earlier in the report, reservations were made about the capacity of the courts to take an active role in deciding what is or is not reasonable in relation to the accommodation or manifestation of belief. In particular concern was raised in relation to the courts lack of acknowledgment of the orthodox Christian belief that marriage should be between on man and one woman….
Attention was then turned to the problems relating to relationships between local authorities and churches or Christian organisations…Following recent high profile court cases regarding the religious beliefs of those wishing to foster or adopt, there is now some confusion about the place of religious people as prospective foster parents and adopters. Local authorities lack guidance as to how they should work with people with religious beliefs.
The report believes that the bar has been set too low as to what constitutes ‘insulting behaviour’. As it stands, judgment is based on the subjective feelings of the person who has been offended. This application of the law has in several cases led to an undue restriction of the freedom of expression.
The final part of this section considers the ignorance and deep-seated lack of understanding about the nature and outworking of religious belief in government, the courts, local authorities and the media. The report finds that there is an urgent need for better coordination of government policy in relation to religious belief. Currently the way that the human rights, legal, and community aspects of religion and belief are handled is too complicated.
The final recommendation of the need to bring religious awareness and education into government presents a challenge to faith groups. This is extremely unlikely to happen without the proactive support and work of faith groups. If the Church and Christian organisations wake up to this need and begin to coordinate and develop a strategy to deal with it, then the benefits to society could be considerable. It is a big challenge, but one that needs to be seriously addressed with a good deal of urgency.
At present I’m seeking the Lord’s perspective on all this but realise it may relate to the word given through Bill Johnson about 1st Sept 2011 being “the day things changed in the UK” (the Inquiry started in August 2011).
Also today, I picked up on the word given in Clifford Hill’s Feb 2012 Newsletter.
Let us mull over these matters…