Our college recently enjoyed a visit from one of our alumni who has been serving for the last decade in working-class UK. In his address to us, he mentioned that the current nanny-state conditions in the UK have seen subtle attacks on religious freedom. Presumably in the name of protecting the freedom of others, it is forbidden (at least in some parts) to make any sort of public show of one’s faith, such as the wearing of a cross. His one anecdote claimed that a person had had their employment terminated because they offered to pray for a colleague who was having a hard time.
I remember hearing some years ago that Christian organisations in the UK were being forbidden to ‘discriminate’ against an applicant for a leadership position on the grounds of their faith. In other words, faith-based organisations were not allowed to insist that prospective leaders belong to the faith on which the organisation is based! That is of course ridiculous, because one man’s discrimination is another man’s employment criteria. No one ever accused the England cricket team of being discriminatory because they restrict themselves to cricketers. No one is insisting that the England bowling attack be made more representative, and include tight-head props and octogenarians and such. It’s daft that some organisations can specify key qualification standards but not others.
The state seems so intent on regulating the heaven and hell out of everything so as to avoid danger or upset or conflict that they are in constant danger of causing serious upset. It’s a wonder that they allow elections anymore, given that it is necessary for people to make a public show of allegiance, and to discuss political matters that might ruffle feathers. One should never talk religion or politics in polite company, it is said. They’ve managed to legislate away the religion so far…
Returning to religious freedom, the BBC reports that a clergyman called O’Brien has argued that the offer to supply about 500m Pounds worth of aid to Pakistan cannot be made with no strings attached, but on condition that there are guarantees of human-rights protection for all citizens. This comes on the back of the recent assassination of Pakistan’s only Christian cabinet member (a campaigner for protection of minorities such as Christians in Pakistan), and disturbing figures concerning abuses against Christians.
Of course the cardinal is absolutely right, but I can’t help but feel that freedom of religion needs to be attended to in his own back yard as well.