Friday 30 November 2012

In defence of secularism

Congratulations to Liberal Democrat peer Kishwer Falkner for making the case for secularism in an otherwise largely deferential debate on the role of religion in public life (House of Lords, 22 November).

A video recording of the speech is here and the Hansard verbatim report is here.

Kishwer made the key point about secularism, that religion should be neither persecuted nor privileged, and “separating religion and state enables those of all religions and none to participate as equal citizens.” It was good to hear a mention of the Liberal MP Charles Bradlaugh, whose principled stand in the 1880s enabled non-religious MPs to sit in the House of Commons.

Religious interests frequently complain of persecution and victimisation in this country. They remind me of the graffiti seen in Paris in 1968: “The church complains of persecution when it is not allowed to persecute”.

In case anyone wonders who is actually doing the persecuting, this report makes sobering reading.

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