It seems that at the moment politics and religion are becoming intertwined. I used to think that an established church in the UK was no bad thing, or at least didn’t have any significantly negative effect on our society. In fact, it was rather quaint. The Church of England seemed pretty pointless and mildly pathetic, demoted from power centre to state ceremonial decoration.
However, organised religion now seems to be getting a fresh breath with a vocal and interfering Catholic Church, an increasingly fundamentalist Anglican church, and clerics from the main religions meeting with ministers to discuss government policy. The bishops in the House of Lords are now pushing their weight around, no longer willing to be just unelected cocks in frocks but fighting it out in debates to protect their own interests and interfere in ours.
Despite the UK being technically a religious state, in practice it’s been one of the most secular in the world. But religion is now sticking its nose into other people’s business, and in the last few weeks has stepped in and ramped up the pressure to influence both houses of parliament.
First it was in partnership with the Tories, backed by the Pope, to allow churches to continue discriminatory employment practices. Yesterday the next step in religion’s cancerous influence on civic society was drafted by the government after extensive church lobbying, to allow English state-backed religious schools to sneak dogma and bigotry into sex, health and relationship education. Yes, fundie schools must tell students that gays exist, but they can add that anyone into same sex love will burn in hell too, along with anyone else whose sexual or gender proclivities don’t fit in with whatever religion of love and peace they happen to follow.
We can arrogantly point to other countries and mock them for their attachments to bizarre religious rituals like torturing ‘child witches’, stoning rape victims or executing gays. Of course, they are not as civilised as we are. We know where to draw the line between religion and civilised society, don’t we? Now in the 21st Century UK, religion is getting by inches it’s own legal framework of opt-outs based on it’s own medieval values, not the ones of tolerance, fairness, respect and equality which we have come to expect from our mostly secular society. Remember the outrage over Sharia law being practised in the UK? Well this Labour government, with cross party support, has introduced a new wedge of religious law.
There’s a point of fairness in any state institution which used to be mostly respected by our governments, that is state funded institutions should operate according to a set of values shared by everyone. Religion is not shared by everyone so it makes sense to keep religion and political ideology out of the classroom.
The state shouldn’t be funding religious schools. If parents want their children indoctrinated they and their church should foot the bill. It’s unfair to expect taxpayers in a nation of people of many religions, and none, to pay towards promoting an exclusionary culture and ignorance.
Ed Ball’s religious exemption amendment makes a mockery of Labour’s claims for equality, and could be a launching pad for future fundamentalism and more erosion of our liberty by the interests of religion.