Our old friend Advocatus Diaboli has been in touch with me again. And, as usual, I submit his ideas to you for comments. Is he talking through his hat, or does he have some worthwhile points? Here he goes.
I see that Baroness Warsi is visiting the Pope. And her pathetic message is that “aggressive secularism” is well on the way to pushing religion into the side lane of private behaviour, and out of the public domain. How do you guys feel about being represented by a Muslim? These are the very people you have brutally slaughtered in the past, and – even today – you secretly hate and fear.
But she has got the wrong end of the stick. The fact is that religion in public life is a source of great damage. It creates prejudice, bigotry and intolerance. Here are some examples.
Catholic adoption societies didn’t do a bad job of work but, quite extraordinarily, they refused to consider homosexual couples as potential adopting parents. The, democratically supported, law is quite clear that civil partnerships are legal – and there is no evidence to suggest that they cannot make perfectly good parents. How dare you deny young children the possibility of being adopted by such people on the basis of an alleged moral rule written down by superstitious people thousands of years ago? Or, deny the rights of those who wish to adopt?
What about that boarding house which turned away a respectable same-sex couple on the grounds of their unlawful prejudice? How would you feel if you turned up at a bed and breakfast with your wife and the owner refused to accept you because he disapproved of heterosexual couples? Absurd! you think. Yes indeed – just as absurd as the other way round.
I know that Catholics are taxpayers too. But a Catholic parent has the whole range of state education to choose from while the non-believer is either excluded from, or severely disadvantaged, because 30% of schools are in the faith sector. I see no reason why Catholic doctrine should not be taught outside the school, or in schools which are completely church funded. And now you’re whining because some councils in these straitened times are cutting back their subsidised expenditure on travel to Catholic schools. The parents choose Catholic schools so why should their neighbours subsidise their choice? Perhaps you would prefer the councils to save money by reducing their services to the old and poor.
Now everyone is moaning about Bideford town council because they can’t have prayers on their formal agenda. The judge said there was no problem about having prayers before the formal agenda. So what’s the difficulty? Imagine that you have been elected to your town council, and you discover that you are supposed to take part in prayers interceding for the introduction of Sharia law, or perhaps a satanic celebration, or perhaps a bit of “new age” tree worship. Would you be being intolerant or aggressive if you went to the law to protect you from such superstitions being celebrated at a public meeting?
It seems to me that you are very active in defending your, frankly imaginary, beliefs and weird religious practices, but aggressively intolerant to those who believe that our public life should be free of such overt, and often offensive, nonsense.