Sunday, 19 February 2012

Religious Education in Schools

RE under threat in schools, MPs claim

Campaigners are to form an all new party parliamentary group (APPG) to focus on protecting the subject amid fears it is being sidelined after being omitted from the list of subjects recognised by the Government’s news English Baccalaureate.
The EBacc, introduced by Education Secretary Michael Gove, is awarded to teenagers who score at least a C at GCSE in English, maths, science, a foreign language and a humanities subject - limited to history or geography.
The exclusion of RE created a storm of protest, with campaigners arguing the move could see the subject marginalised in schools.

Taken from: 

Trevor Phillips on Religion and the Law

Christians must choose between religion and obeying law, says equalities chief Trevor Phillips

Religious rules should end “at the door of the temple” and give way to the “public law” laid down by Parliament, the chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said.

Read the Telegraph Article:

Christian Hoteliers Discrimination Against Gay Couple

Bull & Bull v Hall & Preddy [2012] EWCA Civ 83

On 10th February 2012, the Court of Appeal upheld a Judge’s ruling that a Christian couple, Peter and Hazelmary Bull, had discriminated against Martin Hall and Steven Preddy on grounds of sexual orientation when they refused them a double-bedded room at their hotel near Penzance.


Thursday, 9 February 2012

Oxford Union Religion in Politics Debate

Information on this evening's debate in the Oxford Union, taken from

"This House Believes That the Dividing Line Between Religion and Politics Should Shine Brightly"

Speakers in Proposition:
  • Keith Porteous Wood - Exec Dir of National Secular Society
  • Dr Peter Cave - Chair of Humanist Philosophers of Gt Britain
  • Rt Hon Lord Warner of Brockley - Since 2010, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group
  • Neil Dewar - Ex-Chair of the Union's Debates Selection Committee who has represented the Union all over the World
Speakers in Opposition:

  • Judge William H Pryor Jr - Federal Judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
  • Prof John O McGinnis - Professor at Northwestern University School of Law and author of over 90 academic articles and essays
  • Alan Craig - Leader of Christian Peoples Alliance
  • Nick Spencer - Author, and Director of Studies at theology think-tank Theos
This Debate is kindly sponsored by The Federalist Society

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Oxford University Free Speech Debate

Excellent Free Speech Debate:

"Seize this chance to debate global free expression!"

Free Speech Debate is a research project of the Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom at St Antony's College in the University of Oxford.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Religion in Court

Religion takes a back seat to rights in court, says theologian

The courts are endangering religious freedom because the judiciary are giving it a lower priority than equality, a leading philosopher has claimed.

Religion takes a back seat to rights in court, says theologian
The European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg Photo: EPA
After studying a series of judgments throughout Britain, Europe and North America, he concluded there was a “clear trend” of judges favouring equality and non-discrimination over religious freedom.
Prof Trigg, a member of the university’s faculties of theology and philosophy, argued this was proof of how religion was coming under threat from the judiciary as part of a “hierarchy of rights”.
Prof Trigg, the founding President of the British Society for the Philosophy of Religion, said that as a result the courts were “limiting human freedom itself”.
“Religious freedom and the right to manifest religious belief is a central part of every charter of human rights,” he said on the eve of the launch of his book on Wednesday.
“But in recent years there has been a clear trend for courts in Europe and North America to prioritise equality and non-discrimination above religion, placing the right to religious freedom in danger.
“There should not be a hierarchy of rights, but it should be possible to take account of all of them in some way.”
He added: "No State can be a functioning democracy unless it allows its citizens to manifest their beliefs about what is most important in life."
In a new book, titled Equality, Freedom and Religion, he warned of a “worrying” trend of the courts placing their own definitions of what is “core to a religion’s belief system”.
He called for the rights to be “balanced” and that “reasonable accommodation” should become a standard thought by judges.
Prof Trigg, a member of the university’s faculties of Theology and Philosophy, highlighted one case that had come before the European Court of Human Rights.
In that case a civil registrar from Islington had refused to conduct civil partnership ceremonies because of her religious beliefs.

He added: “It should have been easy to find a solution here … but the need to respect the right to equality trumped the freedom of religious convictions in this instance.
“The courts seem to have taken it upon themselves to decide what is and isn’t core to belief in a particular religion.”

Coverage of this issue in Christian Concern:
Published: January 26th, 2012

Leading philosopher Roger Trigg, a Professor at Kellogg College, Oxford, has warned of an increasing tendency in UK courts to prioritise equality above religion, thereby undermining religious freedom.

Professor Trigg, who is the founding President of the British Society for the Philosophy of Religion,stated that: “Religious freedom and the right to manifest religious belief is a central part of every charter of human rights.”
Yet he believes that the courts are now “limiting human freedom itself”.
Professor Trigg is launching a new book, “Equality, Freedom and Religion”, which cites numerous cases where religious freedom has been denied by the courts.
These include the cases of Lillian Ladele, who refused to conduct civil partnerships in her position as an Islington registrar due to a conscientious objection, and was subsequently sacked; and Nadia Eweida, who was disciplined for visibly wearing a crucifix pendant by her employer British Airways.

Balance of Rights
There have been many concerns that, within judicial interpretations of equality law, a hierarchy of rights has developed, with some rights now being seen as more important than others. Recent court decisions have suggested that the freedom to manifest sexual orientation now trumps the freedom to manifest one’s religious beliefs.
This has led to Christians losing their jobs after refusing to compromise their beliefs at work as well as Christians being stopped from being foster parents.
Yet Professor Trigg argues in his new book that the courts need to hold the different rights in balance, and that “reasonable accommodation” should be the aim of every judge.
Using the example of Lillian Ladele, he commented that: “It should have been easy to find a solution here, but the need to respect the right to equality trumped the freedom of religious convictions in this instance.”

European Court
Christian Concern has supported many individuals who have been penalised for their faith in the public sphere, including Shirley Chaplin, an NHS nurse who was told not to wear her cross at work; and Gary McFarlane, who was sacked because he mentioned that he may have a conscientious objection to providing sex therapy to homosexual men after the issue was discussed on a staff training day.
The cases of Lillian, Nadia, Gary and Shirley are all currently waiting to be heard by the European Court of Human Rights.Any decision by the European Court on these cases will have huge consequences for the freedom of Christians in the UK and Europe to live by their beliefs in public.

David Cameron
Prime Minister David Cameron recently gave a speech in Oxford,on the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, during which he proclaimed that Britain was a Christian nation and should continue to be informed by Christian moral values.
Yet, despite this, the Government has decided not to back the four Christians who have taken their cases to the European Court, but rather to argue that they were right to have been penalised.
And when asked about Eunice and Owen Johns, the Christian foster parents who were stopped from continuing to foster because of their Christian sexual ethics, the Prime Minister backed the decision of Derby Council and claimed that “Christians should be more tolerant”.

Lord Carey
The decision not to back the four cases has been heavily criticised by Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, who stated: “I am very disappointed for the individuals concerned who have simply followed their conscience. Such is the result of a liberal establishment that has become deeply illiberal.”
Tory MP Gary Streeter is now leading a cross-party group of parliamentarians who are conducting an inquiry into discrimination against Christians. Christian Concern, along with other organisations, has been giving extensive evidence to the enquiry.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, commented:
“I have witnessed a real restriction of religious freedom in this country in the last few years. Increasing numbers of Christians have been penalised for their faith in the public sphere. Some Christians have been threatened with disciplinary action, suspended, and even sacked for refusing to act against their consciences. This has to stop, and I believe that it will.”

Secular Schools in Morinville, Alberta

Human rights commission denies Morinville school case

Disgruntled parents directed to take complaint to school board

Donna Hunter, a former Morinville resident who is campaigning for secular education in the town, is disappointed that the Alberta Human Rights Commission has rejected a complaint she filed in December. Hunter and fellow parent Marjorie Kirsop filed complaints under Section 11.1 of the Alberta Human Rights Act because Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools wouldn�€™t exempt their children from religious education in Morinville.
Two parents say the Alberta Human Rights Commission has them going in circles in their quest to get secular schools in Morinville.
Former and current Morinville residents Donna Hunter and Marjorie Kirsop learned last week that the Alberta Human Rights Commission had refused to hear their complaints about the lack of secular schooling in Morinville.
Both filed complaints under Section 11.1 of the Alberta Human Rights Act in December after Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools said it would not allow their children to be exempt from religious education at schools in Morinville.
Sec. 11.1 of the act requires teachers to give parents notice before teaching students about sexuality, sexual orientation or religion, and requires them to let students avoid those teachings upon written request.
In a letter received by both women Thursday, Audrey Dean, acting director of the commission, said that while their complaints did seem to fall under the protections of Sec. 11.1, the commission could not rule on them as there were “concurrent forums” under which they could be addressed. She advised the women to take their complaints to that forum.

CHRIS COLBOURNE/St. Albert Gazette
Taken from:

Ethopian Christians arrested in Saudi

The following is from taken Human Rights Watch:

Saudis Arrest Praying Christians

Ethiopian Christians Abused in Prison and Set to be Deported

Thirty-five Ethiopian Christians had gathered to pray during the advent of Christmas, in the home of one of the Ethiopians, when police burst in and arrested them. The men and women remain in prison and have been told they will be deported, including those with valid residency papers. Of those arrested, 29 were women. When they were jailed, the women were forced to strip and were subjected to a body cavity search. Officers kicked and beat the men in prison, and insulted them as “unbelievers.”

The Ethiopians, speaking via telephone from prison, said that about 10 days after being arrested, some in the group were taken to court, where they were forced to affix their fingerprints to a document without being allowed to read it. Officials told the group that they were being charged with “illicit mingling” between unmarried people of the opposite sex. In October, Saudi Arabia, together with Austria and Spain, founded the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, located in Vienna.  The Saudi government should start interreligious dialogue by ensuring toleration of freedom of all religions at home.

Also covered by BBC: