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Religious complaints are just so childish


It’s not a tantrum, it’s passive resistance. Haven’t you heard of Gandhi?

Now, I know what you’re thinking, but you’d be wrong. This isn’t about mocking religion, or portraying it as some sort of deficit of intelligence or maturity, and there will be no reference to a Sky Daddy (apart from that one, obviously). This isn’t about the beliefs, but how they get applied.

Something I noticed recently, while covering various arguments about social policy, employment legislation and the inevitable complaints of persecution, is that when you scratch a religious person of a certain stripe (and let’s be fair, there are plenty who don’t behave like this), it seems there’s a small, sulky child just under the skin. Here are a few examples to show what I mean: Read More…

Secularists need to tread carefully on female bishops

When the Church of England’s General Synod vote on permitting female clergy to become bishops fell short of the necessary majority (as discussed ad nauseam in previous posts), a number of people asked why an apparently sexist and discriminatory organisation should hold a privileged place at the heart of our society, even being granted a substantial presence in the House of Lords.


Who honestly expects people like this to believe in absolute equality?

That’s a fair question, and a useful way of highlighting the constitutional peculiarities of having an established church, but it would be very easy to take that line of argument too far. There is a campaign at the moment to drum up further support for a petition calling for the removal of the CofE’s presence in the Lords on the basis of the church’s (current) position, in a push towards 100,000 signatures, but I think this is a mistake. Read More…

Nadia Eweida’s ECHR victory is a hollow one

The long-awaited ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on four cases brought under articles 9 (freedom of religion) and 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights has finally been delivered. Bafflingly, although the court rejected the appeals from three of the four applicants, much of the coverage has concentrated on the one they upheld, from Nadia Eweida. The BBC’s headline “BA discriminated against Christian” is a typical example.

However, while the single overturned judgment may be the most interesting story, the details are a lot more complicated than you might expect from the headlines, and parts of the ruling seem positively perverse. Read More…

Why prohibiting a religious act will preserve religious freedom

Ever get the feeling you can’t win?

In the latest episode in the long-running saga of same-sex marriage, the government have published their proposed legislation, and a particular section has attracted a huge amount of attention. Religious bodies will be permitted to act as they wish, with two exceptions: the Church of England (CofE) and the Church in Wales (CinW) will be specifically banned from conducting same-sex marriages.

The immediate reaction to this peculiar clause has been interesting. Some have called it ridiculous, some have complained that it restricts religious freedoms, and some have even seen it as revenge for the CofE’s rejection of female bishops a few weeks ago. No conspiracy has been left unvoiced, but the reality is a little more complicated than it appears. Read More…

Beware simplistic narratives on the CofE’s Synod vote

It’s been a week since the Church of England voted on the draft legislation which would have created female bishops, and in that time, two dominant narratives have emerged. On the one hand, the church (or at least those who voted against the measure) stand accused of backwardness and sexism. On the other, the claim is that this wasn’t a vote against women being bishops so much as a vote against the details of how it was being implemented.

VoteHaving written about it at length, I’d intended to leave this subject well alone, at least for now. But then the details of how people voted were published, and I just had to write a bit more, because the picture painted is a long way from the way it’s being presented by the two sides of the argument. Read More…

Why are the laity so conservative?

This is the last I’m going to write about female bishops for a while, I promise.

I would have thought that the laity in the Church of England would be more liberal and progressive than the clergy and bishops, and I’ve previously posted about how it’s the church hierarchy that perpetuates the same old beliefs, but from Tuesday’s vote on consecrating women as bishops, the opposite seems to be the case. The further up the hierarchy of the church you go, the stronger the support for the draft legislation. That seems totally counterintuitive to me, but it seems the same thing happened over the ordination of women, so what’s going on? Read More…

A bluffer’s guide to the opponents of female bishops and a proposed solution

One of the peculiar aspects of the opposition within the Church of England (CofE) to women becoming bishops is that it comes from two distinct groups with almost nothing in common. In the red corner, there are the conservative evangelicals. They believe (more or less) that the Bible says women shouldn’t have authority over men. In the blue corner, there are the anglo-catholics. Their objection, by contrast, is that women can’t perform the functions of a bishop.

In terms of winning them over and ensuring that these groups won’t scupper any legislation making women bishops, the evangelicals are mostly quite easy to deal with. Give them some sort of alternative line of command that doesn’t include any women, and they’ll be pretty content. It’s an awkward compromise, but it would smooth the path until they came to terms with reality, or at least caught up with the 20th century, never mind the 21st. Read More…

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