I refer to the QUESTION TIME event held at Ludford village hall on March 14 featuring a panel of various parliamentary candidates for the Louth & Horncastle constituency.
The event was very well attended and an undoubted success and in particular thanks are due to Jan Baker for stepping in to chair the meeting at extremely short notice.
Two of the questions submitted by members of the audience, concerning education and freedom of speech, both touched
upon the subject of religious faith.
The Labour candidate, Matthew Brown, claimed that “faith” schools are dangerous, but when challenged to explain why, could only reiterate his belief that religion and education should be kept separate. However, whether one likes it or not, religion is part of human culture and must, therefore, be a legitimate subject for educational study.
The assumption that religious education is the same as religious indoctrination is false.
We should remember that historically, Christian schools were established in the 19th century to educate (not indoctrinate) poor children who would otherwise have received no schooling at all.
The Christian ethos
behind this initiative still informs how these schools operate today. It doesn’t ram religion down children’s throats but consists in strict but supportive discipline and the principle that education should be holistic – that is to say, it should be about character building and broadening the mind as well as the acquisition of technical skills and paper qualifications.
What does Mr Brown think is dangerous about that?
During the debate on freedom of speech, a questioner expressed the view that there should be a specific protection in law for atheists speaking out against religion.
I am afraid I had to suppress a chuckle at this point - I couldn’t recall Richard Dawkins having his collar felt following the publication of his anti-Christian polemic The God Delusion.
In fact, quite the reverse happened: Dawkins was feted by the BBC and the left-wing media and became an iconic cheerleader for atheists the world over.
The point also seemed a curious one to make at a time when many Christians are afraid to express their
faith openly – one wonders just who it is that needs protection.
It was noticeable (and disappointing) that both this questioner and Mr Brown seemed oblivious to the difference between peaceable manifestations of religious and spiritual belief and violent religious extremism.
They, perhaps, can be forgiven. But it is more difficult to forgive the Court of Appeal judges who, several years ago, following the showing of Jerry Springer: The Opera, ruled that the overriding test of whether material attacking or lampooning religion should be deemed offensive was its potential to incite violent disorder, thus creating a legal precedent which encourages mob rule and discriminates against peaceful religionists whose faith prohibits them from taking any retaliatory action.
It is time for us to abandon our mealy-mouthed stance of moral equivalence towards religion in general, and focus on the source of the truly dangerous beliefs which pose a threat to us all.