This is a ‘Christian nation’, the government ‘does God’, the Pope’s visit was ‘so important for our county’ and there should be more religious providers of public services. These are the messages set out by Cabinet Member and chairman of the Conservative Party Baroness Warsi in an article for The Telegraph.
These statements come from a Minister who in the past has attacked secularism as ‘intolerant and illiberal’, has said that religious people contribute more to society than the non-religious, has championed religious groups as being at the heart of the ‘Big Society’, and even tried to amend the Equality Bill in a way which would leave humanists unprotected against discrimination and unequal treatment in the provision of, and access to, public services, employment, education, funding, and elsewhere.
BHA Head of Public Affairs Naomi Phillips commented, ‘Although the Minister’s comments are not surprising, they remain misguided. The government hopes to hand control of many public services to religious groups, while at the same time allowing them to discriminate on religious grounds against staff and service users. Without urgent changes to law and policy to prevent this, there is a real risk that vital services will become segregated along religious lines, just as our state-funded schools already are. As for the Pope’s visit, that prompted the biggest ever protest against the Pope and the policies of the Holy See, the “state” of which he is head, and a poll commissioned by the Roman Catholic Church last month found that more people disagreed than agreed that the Pope’s visit was “good for Britain”.
‘Promoting dialogue and understanding between people of different backgrounds and beliefs is something we could all support, if it is truly inclusive. But it is difficult to understand how saying the government has a special focus on religious believers and describing our diverse and increasingly non-religious society as “Christian”would help to bring people together rather than divide.’
For further comment, contact Naomi Phillips or 020 7079 3585
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.