Monday, 8 May 2017

The Same Old Appeal For Special Priviledges

Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, and Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby
Co-signatories of the letter
Church of England Election Letter

In an astonishing letter to "The Parishes and Chaplaincies of the Church of England", the Archbishops of Canterbury and York came as close as they dared to urging Christians to vote Conservative.

This is not because Conservatives under Theresa May or any other leader have shown any compassion for the poor and sick or subscribe to any notions of the essential equality of Man, quite the opposite in fact, but because they see this as the best way to maintain and extend their 'entitled' special privileges and assumed right to discriminate against the minorities of their choice.

Theresa May, the daughter of an Anglican village parson, is on record as expressing anger that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Christians, like other people, do not have the right to deny basic human rights to others and must comply with anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services. It was then that prompted her when Home Secretary to make speeches about abolishing the Human Rights Act and replacing it with a Bill of Rights. This would, of course, restore to Christians the right to discriminate against homosexuals or to deny others basic rights on the grounds that to treat them equally would go against their religious beliefs. Bigotry and prejudice would have the sanction and protection of the law of the land.

In their letter the Archbishops promulgate the lie that:

Religious belief is the well-spring for the virtues and practices that make for good individuals, strong relationships and flourishing communities. In Britain, these embedded virtues are not unique to Christians, but they have their roots in the Christian history of our four nations.

Earlier in the letter they asserted that:

The Christian virtues of love, trust and hope should guide and judge our actions, as well as the actions and policies of all those who are seeking election to the House of Commons and to lead our country.

As though these are unique to Christians. In effect, this is a barely disguised demand that elected politicians and government policies should be 'Christian' and implies a belief that the church should still have the right to say who should be elected and what their policies should be.

In an astonishingly hypocritical paragraph, the Archbishops argued that:

Cohesion is what holds us together. The United Kingdom, when at its best, has been represented by a sense not only of living for ourselves, but by a deeper concern for the weak, poor and marginalised, and for the common good. At home that includes education for all...

This, whilst arguing for special privileges for a small minority and policies which discriminate and alienate large sections of society and spread division, dissent and discontent. And this whilst the church is arguing for the right to discriminate in favour of practising Christians in its selection of pupils for the schools it runs, funded by public money.

Poll after poll shows the Anglican Church in particular and Christianity in general is becoming very much a minority in an increasing secular Britain. Andrew Copson, of the British Humanist Association, said:

This is a letter to a country that no longer exists. The public today overwhelmingly recognise that sound virtues and ethics are not the preserve of the religious nor “spring” from Christianity. That is just a self-aggrandising lie, and an insult to the majority of the British people who have non-religious beliefs and values and contribute enormously to British life as they have for generations.

The Archbishops are right that our country stands at a crossroads but they are wrong to say that greater religious privilege is the path that will lead to a happier future. The cause of social cohesion and a peaceful society will not be advanced by the special pleading of already powerful elites whose beliefs have no popular support, but by the creation of a shared national life that treats everyone equally, regardless of religion or belief.

Polls show that British people also believe that religion is already too privileged. The Church of England in particular often uses that privilege today to harm others. The most glaring example is the way in which many of its fully state-funded schools continue to turn away those of other religions and beliefs in their admissions – a practice that may shortly be extended – and shut out poorer children. If the Archbishops want to do their bit for a better Britain they should put their own house in order before lecturing others.

Fortunately, the influence of the Church of England is now so low in the UK that few people will read or take note of this arrogant letter or listen to the demands of its authors. It will be read, if at all, only by those who already endorse its contents and subscribe to its claim for special privileges and the right to discriminate, victimise and demonise anyone with whose lifestyle they disagree, using 'faith' as their excuse.

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