It is out of profound respect for Lord Carey that a senior judge yesterday went to such obvious trouble of dignifying the former Archbishop of Canterbury's question with an answer.
The Anglican prelate's self-serving proposition that there should be a law that imposes a special duty on the judiciary to be sympathetic to the teachings of the Church of England, or indeed any other religion, is risible.
Yet Lord Justice Laws devoted more than 1,000 words of his judgment to dissecting Lord Carey's argument, before concluding that he found it "deeply unprincipled". The judge also said that it was irrational, divisive, capricious and arbitrary.
1. Pageantmaster [KJS to Coventry] wrote:
I have been thinking about this, in a broad sort of way. What does this tell us about Christians in the UK? Perhaps that is the wrong question. Perhaps it should be what does this tell us about the state of the UK for Christians?
I think the answer is wider than issues of gay rights, and anti-discrimination legislation. The country has reversed from a position 40 years ago where the assumption was that Christian principles underlie our laws:
- the individual matters because he/she has a capacity for a relationship with God and salvation, is beloved by God and therefore it is wrong to kill, abort and euthanase people
- the individual has a capacity to reform and should only be held accountable for his/her her intentional actions and therefore conviction for a crime requires intention to harm or knowing recklessness as to the harmful results. The bringing in of strict liability offences and penalties for everything from parking in the wrong place to getting returns into official bodies on time militates against this.
- the individual has a capacity to repent and therefore even if convicted of crime should have this taken into account in sentencing and credit for subsequent behaviour. Having served a sentence, rehabilitation back into society is a priority.
- the individual has free will and so conscious and moral conviction on everything from worship to holding to religious standards in public life and conscientious objection to war should be respected and an individual should not be asked to go against his/her religious and moral beliefs or discriminated against because of them, whether as a marriage registrar, nurse, doctor, teacher or relationship adviser.
- personal responsibility is beneficial to society, whether religious conviction, moral behaviour, and display of this is to be encouraged whether in tokens of faith worn, opportunities to benefit and encourage others to develop in this way or freedom to live with liberty. The opposite of this is to assume that the state should provide for all of this by coersion rather than encouragement and dependence rather than enterprise.
It is pretty sad when the official class, including legislators and judges not only do not support the value of religion and Christianity in particular, but actively suppress its expression and react with outrage and anger as Lord Justice Laws has.
This has got very much worse under 13 years of Labour government, who have shovelled through a raft of legislation this year restrictive of religious liberty and expression. It hasn’t quite got as bad as the States, and we haven’t got to the stage of taking down large crosses, but it is pretty bad.
Next Thursday we will have the opportunity here in our General Election to give our verdict.
April 30, 9:29 am | [comment link]
2. Choir Stall wrote:
“...irrational, divisive, capricious and arbitrary.” ?
April 30, 9:36 am | [comment link]
Many a sitting court have been such. Lord Carey is indeed a bit “old fashioned”, but the law IS old fashioned, isn’t it? Any judge that believe him or herself to be “new and improved” law unto themselves, absolutely free of old hindrances and standards is a politician and not a judge. Judicial activism is at work in the Lord Justice’s critique of Lord Carey. I hope that more “divisive” people come forth to reclaim the laws that made England the hope of the uncivilized nations of the world.
3. Br. Michael wrote:
Basically it ends freedom of religion in the UK.
April 30, 10:37 am | [comment link]
4. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) wrote:
“It hasn’t quite got as bad as the States, and we haven’t got to the stage of taking down large crosses, but it is pretty bad”.
Other Americans can write in and correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the states are so big that there are pockets of “bad”, but it’s not all bad. That is not to say that it is “good” either.
I’d have to research whether or not I’ve ever seen/heard a judge do a smackdown like this on freedom of religion, but I don’t think so.
What I note in the states(in places, some places are VERY religion-friendly and Christian-friendly) is more a pervasive secular ethos instead of judicial or legislative rants…when those attitudes reach the bench, especially in any place that prides itself on “freedom of religion” or has freedom of religion as an alleged part of its creed, then yes, I agree that that is very much “bad” and not good.
April 30, 11:09 am | [comment link]
5. Paula Loughlin wrote:
Pageantmaster, Thanks for your excellent commentary.
April 30, 11:18 am | [comment link]
6. off2 wrote:
1. Pageantmaster, Are there a significant number of candidates running who would undertake to work to return the Kingdom to a Christian basis?
April 30, 11:40 am | [comment link]
7. Pageantmaster [KJS to Coventry] wrote:
#4 Bottom Feeder
An anecdote - I was speaking to some young American missionaries over here on a trip recently. They thought that it was amazing that they had been permitted and moreover encouraged to go into state schools and youth groups to tell children about their faith through plays and witness, something they could not do at home I gather, although whether that was just a restriction in their particular State or across the US I do not know.
Not everything is bad here for Christians although it is no thanks to the current government and some of our judges. Not so long ago, Lord Hailsham, a committed Christian was head of the judiciary, in government as a member of the ‘Cabinet’, and chaired the House of Lords as Lord Chancellor. He was not completely unusual, and here and there there are committed churchmen in government and among the judges, but this is becoming more of a rarity. There is an increasing gulf of comprehension, of which Laws’ judgment is a transparent example.
#5 Paula Loughlin - thank you for your encouraging comment.
April 30, 12:02 pm | [comment link]
8. Pageantmaster [KJS to Coventry] wrote:
Interestingly there have been a number of developments this election:
1. Westminster 2010 containing [a.] an inter-denominational declaration with a related petition currently at 46,000 in 4 weeks, which makes it one of the larger petitions ever presented to Downing Street and [b.] a database of candidates and how Christian-friendly they are from their record of voting and response to the Declaration, which comes close to the question you are asking:
2. Faithworks, in which evangelical Steve Chalke is active, has a declaration as well and seeks to encourage churches and faith groups to take a more active role in local and national political life:
3. The Christian Institute has issued a briefing on the main parties’ policies and how Christian-friendly they are:
4. There have been quite a lot of political hustings for candidates held in churches.
5. There may well be other activity of which I am unaware, and particularly in Catholic organisations, but many Catholics are supporting #1 above.
Christians, although reputedly quite a significant group in the UK, have not traditionally been very organised, but as the above shows, this does appear to be changing. Certainly all the party leaders have been making attempts, somewhat late and of uncertain sincerity, to woo the Christian vote.
In the UK Christians tend to have a variety of political views and I would not say that there is a religious lobby as perhaps it exists in the US. I read recently that Christians here are more likely to take an interest and vote than non-Christians.
I really can’t say that any of the political parties are particularly Christian friendly in their policies and pronouncements, although the governing labour party has been notably anti-Christian in its law-making and policies. There are signs that Christians here are getting more organised, but we are far from being a homogenous group. Candidates, probably for the first time are now aware that they are under the spotlight, which may be a good thing.
April 30, 12:38 pm | [comment link]
9. Pageantmaster [KJS to Coventry] wrote:
There is a video of Steve Chalke interviewing the three main party leaders on the role of the Church as far a they are concerned here
April 30, 12:59 pm | [comment link]
10. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) wrote:
“They thought that it was amazing that they had been permitted and moreover encouraged to go into state schools and youth groups to tell children about their faith through plays and witness, something they could not do at home I gather, although whether that was just a restriction in their particular State or across the US I do not know”.
Possibly it was; that would not be a problem where I live but you already know I live in one of the most unashamedly Christian states in the union, for which I’m grateful. Although it’s interesting—previously I lived in what could probably be considered the most secular state in the union—the unfortunate part is that the “lay people” or “civilians” THERE were largely HUNGRY for mission work and/or Christian values to be taught/emulated in schools, but were prevented from doing so by the state or powers-that-be who were slaves to the state politics…one then has no choice but to obtain the teaching somewhere else, or move.
It’s a lot like the situation TECers now find themselves in…the majority of the laity are hungry for something like Biblical preaching and witness, but a lot of the bishops and priests have sold out to the “theology” of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the latter also exhibiting the arrogant posture of, “If all of you morons in the pews were as intellectually-developed as us, you’d be paying homage to Emerson, too”...
Hah—tell that one to people like NT Wright…what the masses truly want and what they’re getting are two different things; someday it’s my hope that that sleeping giant awakes, but by then it may be too late.
April 30, 1:01 pm | [comment link]
11. tired wrote:
Bp Nazir-Ali is correct - faithful Christians are now officially banned from various public positions in the UK.
April 30, 1:36 pm | [comment link]
12. rugbyplayingpriest wrote:
it is worse than the states because, unlike there, the UK has few who care a fig about faith. At least the average American respects faith even if in a strange way
April 30, 1:41 pm | [comment link]
13. New Reformation Advocate wrote:
Pageantmaster and rugbyplayingpriest,
I’m glad some Brits have chimed in here. I hope it won’t cause offense if I repeat now what I’ve said so often, more or less, on many similar T19 threads. And that is that I see this kind of ruling or public statement by a British official as simply symptomatic of the primary reality that all Christians in the global north must face, and that is the stark reality that we are now living in a clearly post-Constantinian or post-Christendom social world (even in America, which lags a couple decades or generations behind most of Europe that way). Once we were socially and politically favored. Now we are increasingly DISfavored.
That social reality is indisputable, it seems to me. What is far more debatable is how to interpret that fact. And there, as regular T19 readers know, I tend to regard it as a blessing in disguise. Or in the memorable phrase of C. S. Lewis, “a severe mercy.”
The CoE may still be technically and legally established (de jure), but it constantly becomes ever more obvious that it has been and is daily becoming more and more culturally disestablished (de facto). Here in the USA, we have our famous innovative principle of the “separation” of Church and State that has been widely copied around the world. But culture is never static, and what began as mere separation of the state from supporting specific Christian denominations has gradually morphed into a DIVORCE between any form of Christianity and public life in general. Everywhere in the Western world, Christianity has been relegated to the periphery and marginalized as merely a matter of private concern, a matter of personal preference and individual values, that has nothing to do with objective, universal public truths (like 2+2=4). It was that magnificent British theologian and missionary, Lesslie Newbigin, who perhaps has done the most and taught us best how to come to terms with that huge challenge we now face everywhere in the industrialized, secularized, relativistic Global North.
But I for one tend to think that while we’re in for a very painful time of pruning in the West, the end result should be the bearing of much more fruit. We now can glimpse (at least I can) the glorious prospect of a golden opportunity that we haven’t had for roughly a millenium and a half in European civilization, i.e., the chance to recover a vibrant patristic style Christianity similar to the PRE-Constantinian Church of Justin, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Cyprian, and Origen, etc. Of course, you’ll note that most of those great leaders ended up as martyrs.
I sincerely believe that disestablishment was GOOD for Anglicanism in Virginia, even though the Episcopal Church almost died out completely in the first generation after the Revolution (only about 10% of the Anglican churches in 1770 were still open and operating in 1800). But two extraordinary, extremely effective and godly evangelical bishops in a row, Richard Channing Moore and the even greater William Meade, both of whom were fantastic evangelists, church planters, and visionaries, led a revival that totally transformed the Diocese of Virginia and made it (by God’s grace) into the mission-driven evangelical powerhouse that it was for over a century. My hope is that something similar might happen in England. That it might rise, like the Phoenix from the ashes, or better yet, like Christ from the tomb, and embark on a whole new splendid chapter in its long, distinguished history.
But before there can be a resurrection, there must first be a death. And I do weep to see the humiliation and distress being imposed increasingly on my brothers and sisters in the British Isles.
April 30, 3:00 pm | [comment link]
Passionate advocate of stoutly post-Christendom style Anglicanism for the 3rd Millenium
14. Truly Robert wrote:
Regrettably, I have learned to dismiss any opinion, from anyone on any subject, that labels the opposing view as “divisive.” If the opposition is also “irrational,” then I won’t even bother trying to discover why it’s so divisive.
I believe those are code-words, among others, used to signal a certain leftist mindset. There are other code-words for rightist mindset, too, but nowadays they seem not as dangerous as they did long ago.
Surely I am not alone in this.
April 30, 5:35 pm | [comment link]
15. Martial Artist wrote:
I think that it does tell us something about
the state of the UK for Christians
But I think that it also tells us something about the state of the judiciary in the UK, or wherever we find justices who think as Lord Justice Laws obviously does. The Austrian Nobel-prize winning economist and social critic, Friedrich A. von Hayek, who spent WWII in England, followed by a move to Chicago University addresses in two works with which I am familiar, the gulf between those he refers to as Gallic rationalists and Anglican rationalists (in his magnum opus The Constitution of Liberty). The former are, to use his terms constructivist rationalists by which he means that they are philosophical descendants of Descartes and believe that the law, among other areas of human activity, can be rationally designed by legislators to produce justice. The latter are those who believe, even if only unconsciously or implicitly, that the law can, at best strive to approach just ends. He believed, on the basis of historical study, that the constructive rationalists invariably end up supporting systems of law which can be correctly said to be prescriptive, i.e., dictating what must be done, whereas the Anglican rationalists, (which included men such as Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson, Tocqueville* and Edmund Burke) predominantly limited their support to systems of law that are proscriptive.
In ruminating about judicial and governmental laws and actions over the years, I have gradually come to see the utility of using Hayek’s framework as the basis to recognize the contradictory morality of the two approaches, over and above the fact that the very nature of God’s injunctions to us, namely the ten commandments, are also predominantly proscriptive. In fact, it seems to me that laws and regulations that are prescriptive almost inescapably result from the human author of such laws engaging in the reenactment of original sin, i.e., the author presumes that he (or she) has “become like God, knowing good from evil.” And, much as God, who His laws rightfully on his creatures, the (fallible) human author presumes to impose that author’s laws, the fruits of his (or her) “knowledge,” on all of his (or her) fellows.
This is a phenomenon which is regnant amongst progressives (many of whom relabeled themselves liberals in, and subsequent to, the early part of the last century), and neither wholly nor sufficiently absent, although directed at other areas of law and regulation, from many of those who label themselves conservatives. Which is why I, like Hayek, generally label myself neither liberal, (i.e., progressive), nor conservative, but rather an Old Whig, eschewing the term libertarian because much of the general public in the U.S. has, in their repugnance toward intellectual effort, reduced that label to a caricature. I find that using Hayek’s framework serves me well to analyze not only proposed laws and regulations, but it also aids me in understanding much of the anger I, and many of my fellow citizens, experience at the perversion of the law which both of our essentially democratic governments routinely foist upon their respective citizenry, unfortunately with great and increasing regularity, whilst all the while advertising them as solutions.
Pax et bonum,
*—Note that I am not ignoring the fact the Tocqueville was French, merely recognizing that his rationalism fits the mold of the English philosophers cited.
May 3, 3:27 pm | [comment link]