Are we doing enough to protect our freedom?

<Posted on behalf of Jonathan Leadbeater>

I notice today that our courts have decided it is unlawful for a Devon council to start their meetings with a prayer. I suppose a strict interpretation of the law in our adversarial system might give that result, but I vote for freedom and variety in my life.
 
Sadly, yesterday another 95 people were killed in Homs and hundreds were killed in the last week.
 
25 were killed today in Alleppo.
 
In Sudan the Russians and Chinese stand accused of providing arms which have been used to oppress the population of Darfur.
 
Breakaway South Sudan is searching for a pipeline route so it can export its oil without crossing the Northern territory, at the same time the UN declares it is protecting civilians from attack on the North South border between the newly formed “Christian” South and the “Muslim” North.
 
Somalian pirates, who are linked to Al Shabab have just announced they are formally linking to Al Qaeda.
 
In Tibet China is suppressing the population and nuns and monks are responding with self-immolation.
 
All this conflict is representative of a fight for freedom in many guises, and we quietly sit down and accept the lawyers views on the right to pray?
 
We need to jealously guard our freedoms, the internet not being one of them, or is it?
 
Please feel free to discuss!

10 thoughts on “Are we doing enough to protect our freedom?

  1. I suppose this underlines the separation that has arisen between the origins of English Law in the Christian Faith and the modern law, which is now subject to many other influences.I couldn’t be accused of being anti-law since I am today briefing Leading Counsel on a case.The worry would be what would be the result if one were to live in a society, subject to the rule of law, but where that law had lost any dialectic with faith and Christian belief and became purely mankind’s current opinion?Seen in this way, perhaps the decision in Devon heralds the final alienation of the Christian belief from this Society? Law is no longer on our side!There’s no sign of the judgment yet on legal databases – I suspect it was given in person by the judge and won’t be published for a few days. I did find this quotation:Mr Justice Ouseley ruled in a landmark judgment that Bideford council in Devon had no statutory powers to hold prayers during council meetings.Ouseley said: “A local authority has no powers under section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972 to hold prayers as part of a formal local authority meeting or to summon councillors to such a meeting at which prayers are on the agenda.”The saying of prayers in a local authority chamber before a formal meeting of such a body is lawful provided councillors are not formally summoned to attend.”As it was reported the decision was to assert that prayers are no part of the Council’s business and that they had no place in the Council meetings.A way round the problem was suggested as to remove the item from the written agenda, but since the ruling was to say the Council had no power to compel attendance for prayers it has two effects:1) Prayers, or duty before God, are not part of the mind of the Council when it meets2) The saying of prayers is not proper use of the Council’s time and surely would be the subject of a further case if said within the time allocated for debate or in the presence of those who do not believe.The argument used that the saying of prayers was an enfringement of human rights was not upheld, but the applicants are seeking to press this further in a higher courtI am sure more will be said about this but we ought to recognise that this is not the only example of the erosion of the link between the Christian Faith and the law or education.I happen to believe that keeping duty before God in the forefront of the minds of those blessed with Civic duty is a key link in the fabric of our ancient society.We need to be vigilant.

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  2. This is a difficult discussion to have in modern day multicultural Britain. Christianity preaches tolerance, and it is one of the most important values of our modern society. How can we moderate the tolerance we must show to other value systems, while protecting our own?

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  3. It occurs to me that this topic looks daunting, but it is so vital that we need to apply our minds to the meanings of this situation. I attach this link to a web site that might be very helpful to those who are keen to understand the way Christian principles have shaped law and society around the world. If I could grossly over summarise the position:Since the earliest days of Christianity, pre-roman invasion even earlier than 300AD possibly just 30 to 40 years after Christ walked the Earth, Christianity reached these shores. Laws pre-existed these times and we see how for generations Christain principles shaped our way of thinking and living. The English Common Law is very ancient and flexible and avoids domination by Tyrants by its dependence upon individual freedoms and putting all under the law, even Kings, since the law is derived from God’s natural Law as written in the Bible.To my way of thinking and simplifying for the sake of brevity, to remove the essential principle that those who rule us are themselves subject to a higher law would fundamentally undermine those principles that have protected us all for centuries.We can cite the Magna Carta, the principle of being examined in person and the idea that every human is embued with knowledge of right and wrong by laws written on the hearts of Man by God.So to remove the symbolism of the legislature (Local Authority)being subject to the will of God with a duty to seek the happiness and benefit of the people governed undermines a deep and ancient principle of law making.I draw attention to this quote which can be found on the attached web link:”All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”http://www.alor.org/NewTimes%20Survey/The%20Christian%20Roots%20of%20Common%20Law.htm

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  4. Sorry, one last point:If I were seeking a way to resist this decision I might be tempted to look further into William Blackstone’s view:”In the middle of the 18th Century the famous William Blackstone (1723-1780) stated that no human law could be valid if it contradicted God’s higher laws, laws which maintain and regulate God’s natural human rights to life, liberty, and property. Freedom of speech is one of the most important ingredients of human liberty.”

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  5. There’s certainly lots of food for thought here, but I am not sure that I see it at the moment as a matter of freedom of expression and freedom to practise one’s Christian beliefs. If the challenge were going down the route of saying that Council premises should not be used for Christian prayers, then it would be, but at the moment the freedom argument seems stronger on the side of the atheist councillor who wanted the freedom not to be compelled to take part in prayers that he presumably felt uncomfortable with.I see it more as a matter of establishment – and the extent to which the Church of England has a difficult role to play both of being the established Church that gives it a unique role of being there for all people when they feel they need to turn to it, and at the same time needing to relinquish some of that privileged position to recognize that we (the CofE) do not have a unique access to truth and can no longer play the establishment card to force people to accept our message. Our message has to convince by its merits, in the way that Jesus gave people a choice as to whether or not to follow him.Coming back to the Council, I would like to see those Councillors who wish to start with prayer to be allowed to do so using their own time, and for their decisions and deliberations to be so informed and transformed by that prayer that our atheist friend might wonder if there is not something in this god stuff after all…..

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  6. Thanks for responding to my blog topic and I do agree with your view, I am reluctant to post a comment in reply since it might seem a two way debate and I think we ought to allow others to feel free to say what they wish to say.However, I will say that the recent news broadcast today, of Baroness Warsi speaking out at the Vatican about “agressive secularism”, is seen as a continuation of this debate. She has the view that Christians should be more confident of their historic and future value. There is a reason for us to be more clear in our views and to express them more publicly.We should be proud of the way our faith has formed the Law and this embodies those freedoms to which you refer, even to the extent of the identification of the rights of an individual. If we remove the roots of Christain faith from future law making, what do we get?I think there is an ongoing dialogue here to re-understand the influence of our Faith and to stand up for its principles.I heard also an interesting debate the other day, about the removal of the Bishops from the House of Lords, except by election.We have a clear signal that our Faith is being rejected from a Secular society. Our Constitution is being changed to marginalise Faith and the Christian religion.We have choices:-to be bold and to re-state our beliefs-to resist the diminution of God in the politics of the dayI do not think that the point is so narrow as to refer to prayers alone, I am more interested to look at the wider struggle between pure secularism and the idea that man’s decisions made on his own are not all that bright, frankly, and he needs to refer to another spiritual dimension.We are failing to get that message across. How do we communicate this?One clear route would be for the Church to come down firmly against the disproportionate accumulation of wealth in the hands of some money merchants, has something similar not happened before somewhere?As for the diminution of freedom, perhaps not yet. but how much time is there?

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  7. I have finally managed to get myself signed up ready to join this debate, which I’ve been very interested in! :)This news story does seem to be riding the zeitgeist, especially as Baroness Warsi has entered the debate (as Jonathan already pointed out) with a very clear message that we shouldn’t shrink away from our religion in the mistaken belief that practicing faith somehow diminishes the freedoms of others, be they atheists or from other faiths, or anything in between.I feel like this is a very relevant topic: there’s definitely a feeling out in the world today that being ‘too visibly’ Christian is perceived as suppressing or diminishing the beliefs of others.It feels to me that, for the majority of young people (lets say 40 and under) I know, this is the biggest factor preventing them from attending church. Certainly I am one of the ONLY people in my circle of friends who is happy to say they believe in the Christian God. That’s a remarkable state of affairs.To be fair to the others in that group, I know LOTS of people who’ve told me in the past that they ‘definitely believe in something’ and that they’d love to come to church but that they feel uncomfortable rejecting other beliefs out of hand, which is their perception of what being a Christian is: “If I choose to believe in ‘x’ then I am dismissing ‘y’ and ‘z’ and that’s not fair!”I think the way out of this situation is via education: letting people know that when you are saying the Creed or taking Communion, it doesn’t mean that you’re rejecting the beliefs of non-Christians out of hand.On the subject of the CofE’s mission to preach inclusiveness, it was interesting to see the Queen enter this debate yesterday, highlighting the Church of England’s role in welcoming other faiths.This is all so interesting. I think the best thing the church could do is continue its mission of inclusivness and openness and continue working to educate others that it doesn’t just listen to those who ‘are in the fold’.Wow, that was a long post. Back to work!Hope to hear more from others on this topic. 🙂

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  8. Hi everyone,Thought I would alert you to a couple of issues related to the chain of discussion:First, is the debate ongoing in parliament whereby a cross party group of MP’s are seeking to recover Religious Education as part of the English Baccalaureate. Apparently, it has been dropped out of the curricculum. I expect those with young kids thinking about schools might be interested to examine what this might mean and where else their children might be taught of any faith and we would think of our own, of course.Second is the criticism from Trevor Phillips termed the “Human Rights Chief” by the BBC. Trevor is reported to have said that religious rules are to be left at the Temple door and that any faith group is not above the Law. Christians in Trevor’s view are as bad as Muslims who seek Sharia Law to be applied in the UK.I think this attitiude needs to be watched and considered. My own view would be that the statement, if accurately recorded and not taken out of context, seems to be ignorant of the hugely significant influence the Christain Faith has had in bringing about the evolved Law that permits Trevor to hold this view and to speak about it. I tried to explain this in my earlier commentary and the link to the Law report web site.Nevertheless, we have a difficult task to explain our views and to find ways of educating both other adults and our children.I look forward to others taking a look at this debate and the feelings rising against our Faith.I too noticed the Queen’s comments and hoped someone would mention that.I think we need to continue with this dialogue as the debate unfolds.As for education it seems that a more structured learning package is required to expand upon the basis of Christianity, its teachings and the historic way that has been fed into the Law and Democratic rights. Sunday School might need a severe review!It does arrive at a point of faith and statement of belief, how much more valuable now are the words stating what we believe in simple plain truth on a Sunday?

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  9. I read today of the extraordinarily brave decision by Abdo Hussameddin in Syria and started to think about what it means to have God’s laws “written on your heart”.Abdo Hussameddin has rejected the tryannical regime and made all aware that he knows he may be killed, his house burned down and his family persecuted. Yet he has spoken out against the oppression he has perceived. Whatever the final verdict on his own complicity or motives we have to acknowledge this is a significant act of dissention.We have all at some time walked along a shingle shoreline and had the experience of suddenly noticing a single beautiful pebble amongst the millions of others. Just there at that instant brought up by a wave, just as you passed and looked down at your feet. Millions of years have shaped and polished that stone and it is just there when you looked amongst all those others.The Criminal cruciifed next to Christ acknowledged him as the Son of God and Jesus called to him saying “today you will be with me in paradise”. One man amongst milions of others at one instant in an otherwise difficult life.Is our faith a cosy life in a nominally Christian country or are we called to be that jewel in the crowd, are we ready to be that sparkling pebble just ready in the sunlight to make a difference to someone or many others?I find myself asking if I am that attuned to be ready to perform my part in life?When does one find the strength and wisdom to make that difference? Are we not called to be the salt or yeast that makes the whole loaf rise or the taste of a meal? The majority of the time since Christ walked here on Earth the Christian faith has been pitted against opposing views, it has not been at rest in a caring world and has had to make its relevance understood, to win hearts and minds. Even when Britain was supposedly Christian under Roman rule the original deeply held christian faith of the Celtic church was suppressed in favour of a state sponsored version. When the Romans left it was the Celtic Church from areas that were never romanised, that re-introduced Christianity. There is something in the individual that carries the faith forward. Are we fit and ready to serve? to be that shining pebble just ready when we are sought for?

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