Foodbank Church Social Action
Civil Liberties

The £3.5 billion gift from the churches to our communities

 

This Friday will see Jake Berry MP’s private member’s Local Government (Religious etc. Observances) Bill go to Committee stage in the House of Lords. Assuming this goes through (and the indications are that it will), the High Court judgement two years ago, which found that the saying of prayers as a formal part of council meetings was unlawful, will have been overcome.

‘Hurrah!’ we say. Common sense has won. Let the councils decide how to start their meetings without unnecessary interference from above. If they wish to continue with their centuries-old traditions of placing meetings in the hands of God, then why should anyone with very little more than an axe to grind stand in their way? This has nothing to do with forcing religion upon anyone, as Penny Mordaunt, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, made clear:  “The Bill will not compel anyone to pray or any local authority to include prayers in their official business, nor does it define what constitutes prayer,” she said. Instead, it provides safeguards which will ensure that religion is not gagged and then dragged out of this particular arena simply because one or two people have chosen to get upset about having to listen to a few words directed at God rather than man.

The Bill may have strong cross-party support, but the National Secular Society is convinced that this is a terrible piece of legislation. They did, after all, bring the case against Bideford Town Council which led to this unholy mess in the first place, and their hard work is in the process of being unravelled. To forgive and forget is simply not on the agenda. In a recent article on politics.co.uk, their campaigns manager Stephen Evans states:

The effect of this bill is to give councils and a range of other authorities such as fire and rescue authorities, joint waste authorities, internal drainage boards and even Transport for London the power to ‘support religion’ and impose prayer. It reads like an evangelicals’ charter.

Quite why Evangelicals would want to hijack such a wide range of groups with the intention to make them say a simple prayer once in a while is not explained, possibly because – to quote a phrase used  several paragraphs earlier – “This is nonsense on stilts.”

As he draws together his conclusion, Mr Evans comes out with the hackneyed secularist mantra: “This is why religion belongs in the private, rather than the public, sphere.”

Let us just stop for a moment and consider some of the implications of this secularist fantasy, in which religion hides in a corner doing its best to pretend it doesn’t exist. All of a sudden we’d see around 1.4 million Christian volunteers suddenly withdraw from church-based community work which benefits millions of local people (not fellow churchgoers). The vast majority of foodbanks would cease to exist, as would huge numbers of parent-and-toddler groups, out-of-school children’s clubs, debt counselling services, parenting and marriage courses, and night street patrols. Thousands upon thousands, including young people, the elderly, addicts, ex-offenders, asylum seekers, sex workers, the homeless and those needing counselling for mental health problems would find support and care drying up. Around 114 million volunteer hours would need to be replaced to maintain all of the community work performed by churches. Where exactly would they come from?

Those figures are found in the third biennial National Church and Social Action Survey for the UK, which was published by Jubilee+ last week. It also finds that the financial value of volunteer and paid staff time provided by our churches for these projects and activities is estimated to be a massive £2.4 billion. If we then factor in the use of facilities and direct financial contributions, that total value of church-initiated social action rises above £3.5 billion per annum. And 72 per cent of churches receive no outside income. Instead, congregations last year raised £393 million to fund the work they do in their communities. To put this in context, it is almost four times the £100 million raised by Comic Relief in 2013.

Since 2010, government spending has dived and charities have increasingly felt the pressure of reduced incomes. But the picture for our churches, which we are repeatedly told are at death’s door, is markedly different. In just four years, church spending on social action has leapt an incredible 36.5 per cent. Volunteer hours have jumped by 59 per cent. Churches continue to plough resources and paid staffing into new ventures, with each church now running on average 8.9 initiatives compared to 4.9 in 2010. This trend is likely to continue, with well over half of churches expecting to do yet more in the next 12 months.

When you look at these raw figures they are quite staggering. Which other group of people in this country can claim to be doing so much for the benefit of others? And yet there is a small but vocal minority who would rather see this all removed from the public sphere, along with public expressions of faith – including a few council prayers – because in their eyes religion has no value and makes no sense.

When presented with these two worldviews, it is hard not to consider one as virtuously bankrupt and the other as an undeniable sign of hope. Life is more than an intellectual argument waiting to be won. You can make all the criticisms and accusations you like, but at the end of the day it’s our actions rather than our words that speak loudest about our intentions and priorities. If you want to judge others and their beliefs, look at the effect it has upon their lives. If anyone needs convincing that Christianity brings life and renewal along with salvation, then this recent revival in the Church’s desire to bless the nation is surely sufficient evidence.

To be able to say prayers at a council meeting is a minor quibble in the broad sweep of life. But to be given permission to do so shows that the value of faith is appreciated and welcomed. It recognises that belief in a God can make us a more compassionate people who remember the need to serve others before ourselves. It hardly needs saying that without the work of Christians driven by their life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ, our country would be a much less pleasant place to live.

Can the same be said of those who choose to be offended by the mere acknowledgement of God in public?

  • sarky

    Im sorry but this post is rubbish. I can’t think of one secularist who has a problem with the social action of the church (myself included). The issue of formal prayer at council meetings is totally seperate. I totally disagree with prayer being forced on people of no or different faith. Food banks, street pastors etc don’t seek to impose anything on anyone.
    By trying to link these two TOTALLY different things you are trying to create an issue that doesn’t exist.

    • CliveM

      Sarky

      Who will be forced to pray? These prayers are held before the meeting starts and no one has to attend.

      The link that you pretend doesn’t exist is a simple one. If religion was simply a private affair as the representative of the National Secular society wishes, these activities which aren’t private would cease to exist.

      Actually he probably didn’t mean he would like such activities closed down. He just didn’t think through the implications of what he said.

      Or maybe he just didn’t think.

      • sarky

        By private they mean where religion imposes itself. Religion in schools, bishops in the Lords, prayers in council meetings. They are talking about the privileged position religion still enjoys which is not representative of the actual amount of adherents. Like I said not one secularist has a problem with social action.
        There is a very clear distinction between the imposition of religion on public life and christians wanting to help their community.

        • RuariJM

          I can probably do no better than to repeat what CliveM said.

          If religion was simply a private affair as the representative of the National Secular society wishes, these activities which aren’t private would cease to exist.

          • sarky

            That is absolute rubbish and you know it.

          • RuariJM

            “Absolute rubbish?”

            Really?

            Which parts? Please be specific and describe how your assertion can embrace the example of the Catholic Adoption Agency.

          • sarky

            Thats something totally different again. They fell foul of discrimination laws which are applicable to everyone, not just the religious.

          • RuariJM

            You sought to claim that forcing religious belief to become completely private would have no effect. The Catholic Adoption Agency case shows that is not so. Other adoption agencies were (and are) available although none were (or are) as large or as successful.

            Be that as it may – I asked “which parts” are “absolute rubbish”. Do you not have an answer?

          • sarky

            Removing religion from public life WILL NOT stop christian social action. Linking the two is dishonest.

          • RuariJM

            Assertion – no matter how often and how firmly repeated – doesn’t answer the question.

            You claim it’s rubbish. I call on you, once again, to Substantiate that claim. Not that I believe you can.

          • sarky

            When council prayers were stopped, did social action grind to a halt? ?
            Didn’t think so – therfore the link is rubbish.

          • RuariJM

            Council prayers weren’t stopped (ok, technically they were but the freedom to say them was reinstated pdq) but that isn’t the point.

            I’m beginning to think that these red herrings indicate that you don’t have an answer. Or even – heaven forfend! – that you don’t actually understand the point being made.

        • CliveM

          “Where religion imposes itself”

          Voluntary prayer is not an imposition. Frankly Secularists have no right to pick and choose where people of faith wish to operate or live out their beliefs (provided it doesn’t involve beheadings etc!!).

          • sarky

            And people of faith have no right to impose their beliefs on others! (The natural conclusion of which is beheading, burning etc, just look to christian history)

          • CliveM

            Where is the imposition?

          • sarky

            If prayer is voluntary, why write it into law?

          • CliveM

            Because the National Secular Society used the Courts to get it banned prior to Council meetings.

          • sarky

            Because it was an imposition.

          • CliveM

            So we come full circle with you managing not to answer the question. Who was it being imposed upon, participation was voluntary?

            And that’s the issue. Secularists claim imposition, but actually what they are talking about is participation. There is only one group trying to impose a world view here.

          • sarky

            So we don’t have bishops in the lords? Re is not taught in schools? Assemblies don’t have to have a religious element?
            With regards to council meetings, even if you stay outside, the prayers are placing the meetings in the hands of god which is an imposition of belief however you choose to look at it.

          • CliveM

            1. Yes we have Bishops. Also secularists, Doctors, Lawyers, Philosophers etc. The Lords is a cross section of society.
            2. Yes religion is taught in school. But as a subject, not as a method of evangelism. As religion in one way or another is important to many peoples or communities identity, why is teaching an understanding of this an ‘imposition’ of religious faith or values. My son has just done Islam, he wasn’t asked to covert or pray to Mecca.
            3. If you don’t believe in God in what way are the meetings being placed in the hands of this non existant being? Is anyone being forced this view? Does a secularist councillor have to change the way they act, believe or engage on any of the subjects being discussed?

            Again I return to my main point. This isn’t about imposition (there is none), this is about participation.

          • sarky

            1. The amount of bishops is not representative of the electorate and therefore they have undue influence.
            2. With regards to re, why are so many christian organisations keen to get a foot in the door at schools of they don’t see it as a way to evangelise?
            3. With regards to your last point I take it that you don’t have a problem with the majority of the meat in the uk being halal? (Or is that an imposition too far)

          • CliveM

            1. Neither is the number of men. No one says it completely reflects society.
            2. Yes Christian organisation wish to get into schools ( as do others) but this is not RE.
            3. I have no problem with Halal, I just want it labelled as such (as for example imported lamb is labelled as impoted) so you can make an informed choice.

          • sarky

            1. It should reflect society and the number of bishops is unrepresentative.
            2. These groups are often invited in as part of re.
            3. So you are admitting you are uncomfortable with another religion being imposed on you?(otherwise why ask for the choice)

          • CliveM

            Sarky

            You have failed time and again to show any imposition. Even you Halal example fails to do that. You have not become a Muslim because of it. Typically you won’t be aware of it. Indeed choice of using Halal maybe to do with disquiet as to slaughter method.

            Show me imposition. Where are you forced to take part in a religious service? What part of your life requires it at the risk of sanction?

          • carl jacobs

            Clive

            Consider the implications of presuming a Christian understanding of personhood in law. Many things now allowed would be abolished – and abortion would be at the top of the list. It absolutely would amount to an imposition. That is what the Secularist fears.

          • CliveM

            Carl

            That is what they fear, but is not what is being allowed by this law.

            All I wish is the right to participate in civil society honestly and for civil society to accept that Christians (or whoever ) have the right to participate as Christians and have their views heard.

            None of which imposes on them anything more onerous then what they would expect to be allowed of themselves. So for example I am happy they don’t have to participate in public prayer.

          • Dominic Stockford

            It is not enforced prayer being written in, but the right to pray which is being protected. It may well not be used, and I imagine my local council probably won’t.

          • CliveM

            As I said, what Secularists are concerned of here is not imposition, but exclusion. They want to exclude views with which they cannot agree and as Carl has said, try and define the terms under which they will let us take part.

          • carl jacobs

            Irreligious Stalin killed more people in a good week that the Catholic Inquisition killed in 300 years. Don’t go suggesting that irreligion is the path to peace and tranquility. That is an historically illiterate statement.

          • sarky

            I’m not. I’m saying that imposition of belief (whatever belief) leads to bloodshed.

          • carl jacobs

            So when you impose the penalty of law against bigamy upon Muslims and Mormons, why are you not worried about the potential for bloodshed? You are clearly imposing on their beliefs. And you are doing so from a residual Christian perspective.

        • carl jacobs

          So whose beliefs will be imposed, then, Sarky? Because the nature of law is to impose, and law must be founded upon something. All you have said is “I don’t want to be subjected to laws based upon someone else’s worldview. I want law to be based my worldview.” And then you dress this self-interest up in pretty clothes and call it a sacred principle of Secularism.

          I’m not going to check my religion at the door just because you don’t want to deal with it. I will use the political process to advocate for laws I think best. If those positions happen to proceed from my religion, then too bad for you. I am not going to back down just because you think the Law should be safe reserve for non-religious Secularists. You don’t get to establish irreligion by default.

          • sarky

            And you don’t get to impose relgion from a minority position. Fortunately irreligion by default is exactly what is happening.

          • carl jacobs

            I can impose anything if I can convince the body politic to agree. You aren’t talking about the difference between minority and majority. You are suggesting that a religion held by a majority should still not be used as the basis of law. You are saying the irreligion – whether in the majority in not – should be the established worldview in Gov’t.

            Now why would an irreligious person say that? Hrmmmm.

      • Anton

        Clive,

        I consider that being forced to attend Christian assembly at school while an atheist was a significant barrier to my eventual conversion.

        The new covenant in Christ is with the individual, not with a nation. Non-Christians have as much right to be councillors as Christians and should not have to put up with our prayers in a council meeting. Any councillors who wish to pray can gather for 15 minutes before the start of their meeting in another room.

        Will be be as keen on this bill when we hear Tower Hamlets council incorporating Islamic prayer into their meetings?

        • Shadrach Fire

          Your assembly experiences are to be regretted. However there are bad preachers and good preacher. Just because your was bad does not suggest that all assemblies should stop. There is no need to allow Islamic prayers in governmental affairs, just as it should not be allowed at the Coronation.

          • Anton

            What happened to me at school happened to every boy or girl who did not happen to believe in Christ. It was nothing to do with good or bad preaching. I enjoyed singing the hymns even though I didn’t believe a word of them because they were good music (unlike modern worship), but we were all expected to join in the Lord’s prayer. Where in the New Testament is any license for forcing unbelievers to pray?

          • sarky

            Thanks Anton, I get the feeling my original point has been lost. I was only trying to say that stopping council prayers doesn’t mean that christians should be stopped from doing anything. That would be stupid.
            (I was kind of on your side before the wolves attacked)

          • magnolia

            Did it not do you good to pray the Lord’s prayer, even unknowingly/ You stood beside people praying “Deliver us from evil” for a start, some of whom meant it. Might you not thereby have had some kind of protection over you for the day, believer or not?

            It is unfortunate to go through schooldays with no spiritual protection and be easy meat in the spiritual warfare that we all encounter.

          • Anton

            From my perspective as a believer I am sure it didn’t do me any good to pray stuff I didn’t believe. Probably it did do me some good to be next to others praying it. But I repeat: where in the New Testament is any license for forcing unbelievers to pray?

          • magnolia

            I don’t think that the New Testament speaks to a situation in which atheism in its modern form even existed. People would have thought it inconceivable not to believe in God or a god, or gods, from what I understand.

          • Anton

            And require me to speak the words to a deity in which I did not believe.

            You are dangerously close to the view that the end justifies the means. You might not realise it but every dictator in history used that one.

        • “I consider that being forced to attend Christian assembly at school while an atheist was a significant barrier to my eventual conversion.”

          Hmm … but you don’t know that, do you? Are school children really atheists? It’s quite a sophisticated belief system.

          • Anton

            No it’s not Jack, at that age I was very naive.

            Telling people what they really believe is unwise, you know…

    • Uncle Brian

      Sarky, you have put your finger very neatly on the misunderstanding that lies at the heart of the secularist fallacy. You wish that the Christian’s social action could be split off from his belief, that the two could be made “totally separate”. In real life, however, there is no such separation. Faith and works act in synergy (James 2.22). Your over-emotional all-caps “TOTALLY different” is a clear symptom of what is going on. Psychologists call it wish-fulfilment.You are confusing what is with what you would like there to be.

      • sarky

        I wish no such thing and totally understand you cant have one without the other. Social action does not impose belief!!! When was the last time a foodbank only handed out food on condition of attendance at a sunday service? When did a street pastor only help someone if they could preach at them?
        You are the one who is misunderstanding.

        • Dominic Stockford

          A Christian Mission was founded in central London to reach out to prisoners as they were released from the jail next door. The agreement was that they would be fed, watered, and helped to get wherever they were going as long as they listened to the Gospel being preached. The ex-prisoners never argued, they were simply delighted someone cared enough about them to do something for them.

          As for what the ‘Street pastors’ do, that is not specifically Christian work, “even the pagans do as much”.

          • “even the pagans do as much” – ah but they don’t, at least not as much, because it is the Christian religion that teaches us to care for our “neighbours” rather than just look out for ourselves only. This is the whole premise of Gillan’s article.

          • magnolia

            But people do, in the natural course of things ask them, or ask others, why they do what they do. Also people ask them for pastoral help and sometimes prayer.

          • Dominic Stockford

            Dear Magnolia, please tell me where Jesus either tells us to (or does himself) simply sit around doing nothing specifically and overtly Christian and just waiting in case someone might ask him something about true godliness?

    • carl jacobs

      It’s nice and all that irreligionists like it when religious people engage in activities stamped with an official “Secularist approved” label. But who gave you the authority to determine the allowable limits of our public conduct? We can do anything we want within the confines of the Law. If you use power to shut us down, don’t pretend you are establishing some essential principle of democratic government. You are simply privileging yourself.

      • CliveM

        Carl

        Absolutely.

    • Little Black Censored

      At Bideford Town Council, with which I am familiar, where these brave secularizers raised their flag (or, more exactly, one secularizer who was no longer on the council), people who did not wish to hear the prayers simply used to come into the chamber when they had finished – a civilized and quiet way of accommodating non-conformers within a traditional procedure, somewhat like allowing people to make an affirmation in court rather than swear on the Bible. What on earth was wrong with that?

      • sarky

        Because they shouldn’t be put in the position of having to sit out. If councillors want to pray, fine, but get together on your own time and do it.

  • carl jacobs

    So what spiritual purpose is served by these prayers? Are they fixed prayers established by tradition? Is there any guarantee that the people saying them actually believe what they are saying?

    • Shadrach Fire

      No more than people reading prayers from the prayer book. But don’t stop. It’s up to the Holy Spirit to convict and convince.

      • carl jacobs

        Worship must be done in Spirit and Truth, Shadrach. I don’t see how preserving a tradition meets those criteria. Am I wrong here? I perceive this to be about tradition and not God.

        • Shadrach Fire

          I don’t like tradition either (fruitless repetition) but I see the opportunity arising out of tradition for God to work his miracles among us.

          • carl jacobs

            Well, sure. But Scripture might still be read in the most dead of liberal churches. That isn’t a reason to (say) continue supporting a liberal church. Better the church fold and stop preaching lies. God can use what He likes, but that isn’t a reason to keep doing something that is wrong.

            Now, I don’t know if these prayers are wrong or not. But the determination is based on what I said begone – Spirit and Truth. Do the people speaking them believe what they are saying?

          • Dominic Stockford

            And then sometimes God comes along and throws it all into confusion – as with the preacher converted from unbelief by his own sermon… William Haslam!

            http://www.revival-library.org/pensketches/revivalists/haslamw.html

          • Shadrach Fire

            We can not tell the motives of the heart and whether a prayer is sincerely spoken or just repeated. The council prayers are on the agenda but not compulsory for individuals to partake as I understand.

            As to corporate or individual, Our Lord Jesus was asked by his Disciples, “Teach us to pray”. If prayer is something that can be taught, can one only start from repetition or at best, experimentation.
            Does this sound like vain repetition or an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to work.

          • Part of what caused Jack’s reversion to Christianity was reading a text from Roman’s at a funeral. He read the passage out of politeness and because of ‘tradition’. Afterwards the priest commended Jack on the power of his reading. Jack just replied: “All credit is due the author, not the reader.”

            The Word of God and prayers to Him, can be used by the Holy Spirit to stir the heart of man and have an impact not immediately noticeable.

          • Jeremy Legg

            Carl, I see what you’re driving at (I think… and I might even have made the same points you’re making a decade or two ago), but sometimes we need to take a charitable view.

            People praying in this situation are walking in as much light as they have. We don’t know exactly how much light that might be, but surely it is better for them to be open to God in some way than closed to him altogether.

            We can always pray that they get a greater revelation of God, whether they are currently following tradition or indeed if their faith is deep and active.

          • Little Black Censored

            I am confused here. Liberal churches are usually the ones that put the least value on “tradition”. Or is that what you are saying?

        • Dominic Stockford

          I think the view should be taken the other way round.

          If I am elected to Council (in three years time) I would value the opportunity to be able to place my time in God’s hands when I begin work. The fact that for others it is meaningless ritual doesn’t remove the meaning for those few for whom Christ Jesus is indwelling. I don’t see why I should be specifically prevented from doing so (which is what the NSS want).

          I think the current sitting councillors from the Christian Party in Scotland and in Wales would agree with this perspective.

          • carl jacobs

            But that is an individual and not a corporate act. These prayers are supposed to be corporate. Again, am I wrong here? I thought they were part of the agenda of the meeting.

          • CliveM

            The issue for me isn’t about the quality of the prayer, it’s about the right to do so. It’s also about not allowing someone else define how I am allowed to express my faith in civil society.

            It shouldn’t require a law, but again the Courts decided to overreach themselves.

          • CliveM

            I have a relative on a Council and the prayer is prior to the meeting.

          • Dominic Stockford

            If there are ‘two of me’ (so to speak) then we are given the right to do this, instead of being denied the ability to do it.

          • Little Black Censored

            The prayers were certainly official in some sense; they were led by the Mayor’s officially appointed chaplain, (Cf. the Houses of Parliament – is there not an exact parallel here?)

          • Deborah

            It only has to be meaningful to one person

    • sarky

      Law of averages would say they don’t!! Therfore pointless.

    • Jeremy Legg

      When he was a local councillor, my father was invited by the mayor to pray at public functions. He certainly believes in what he prays, and in Whom he prays to. I am certain he prayed from his heart, not from a set liturgy, since we do not attend liturgy-heavy churches.

      As to spiritual purpose: invoking the blessing of God – which He promises when we call upon Him and submit to His ways – is no waste of time.

      • Old Nick

        It is perfectly possible (indeed many find it a good deal easier) to pray from the heart in the context of a set liturgy

        • Jeremy Legg

          A good point – I hadn’t thought of it like that.

  • Shadrach Fire

    I was sent a sarky tweet from the NSS when I joined in on a tweet with Gillan. Christianity has a history in this country going back to around the third century. Why do secularists believe that they can impose when and how prayers are said?
    If they say that religion has no place in the public space, then anti-religion has no place either. The secularist (anti-religionist) has no place to determine that religion has no place in public, otherwise they are laying claim to the control of free speech.

    • carl jacobs

      they are laying claim to the control of free speech.

      Exactly. Give that man a gold star.

      • sarky

        No one is attacking your right to free speach. Ever heard the expression ” right time, right place”?
        Or shall I pop into my local church on Sunday and give a rousing speach on the virtues of atheism?

        To me, what this boils down to is consideration of other peoples different or lack of belief.
        we do not live in a christian society any more. Why should christianity still enjoy the privileges it once had?
        You have more freedom in this country than Prehaps anywhere in the world to express your beliefs. You just have to understand that the majority dont want to hear them.
        All the law is seeking to do is balance things out a bit.

        • CliveM

          You have still to exhibit how voluntary prayer impinges on you in any way. Unless you think their might actually be something in it?

          • sarky

            Like I said above, it is an imposition on my time. Why should I have to sit around outside the chamber whilst a couple of people pray to their imaginary friend? Like someone else mentioned, do it on your own time.
            As for thinking they may be something in it? Of course I don’t.

          • CliveM

            That’s hardly an imposition. Your mistaking this for being inconvenienced.

          • Little Black Censored

            Congratulations on introducing the Imaginary Friend. I thought he would never come. Now we await the Sky Fairy.

          • sarky

            Think I might go with the flying spaghetti monster 🙂

        • Shadrach Fire

          we do not live in a christian society any more.

          Who says?
          You have more freedom in this country than Perhaps anywhere in the world to express your beliefs.

          Oh thanks. That’s very kind of you to grant such liberty. This must apply to you too. Try going to North Korea.
          BTW People don’t have to listen.

          • sarky

            Who says? I think it’s pretty self evident.

            I have not granted such liberty, but I feel privileged to live in country that does.

        • carl jacobs

          You just have to understand that the majority dont want to hear them.

          Which is the actual major point of contention. You think that “I don’t want to hear it” implies “I don’t have to hear it.” But you don’t have standing to say “We don’t want to hear your religion so take it back to your church because that is where it belongs.” It belongs where I am. If that be the public square, then it belongs in the public square.

        • Phil R

          “Or shall I pop into my local church on Sunday and give a rousing speach on the virtues of atheism”

          Will be a very short speech then…

      • Old Nick

        They are also aping America

  • Busy Mum

    No doubt the House of Lords will grant us permission to pray; people who only pray because the government says they may are conceding that a future government is entitled to withdraw that permission. Government usurping God, yet again.

    And a council that asks God’s blessing on its business in the full knowledge that 99% of this business will be about implementing the government’s will rather than God’s?

    Legalised hypocrisy.

    • CliveM

      No it’s not. It simply allows a right which maybe misused. But then the State can’t regulate for that.

      • Busy Mum

        But the right to pray is God-given, surely? …. and if a council group were unanimous in their desire to pray, they should do so whether or not the government says they may.

        • sarky

          If they are unanimous, I absolutely agree with you. However, I doubt that would happen and then other peoples views should then be taken into consideration.

          • CliveM

            Sarky

            I promise you, I won’t try and force you to pray.

          • sarky

            Im just saying I shouldnt be placed in a position where it becomes an issue.

          • CliveM

            Well you’re not.

          • sarky

            See Busy Mum above!!!!! Sums it up nicely.

          • CliveM

            No it doesn’t, it’s a completely different point. You were talking imposition, Busy Mum is talking about the practicality.

          • sarky

            But dealing with the practicality is an imposition on my time for something that holds absolutely no personal meaning to me.

          • CliveM

            Only if you choose to get involved. The fact that religion impinges in a minor manner in your life is just to bad. That’s what happens when you live in an open society. I am pleased to see that you agree that imposed upon you. Otherwise why are you changing your line of argument?

          • sarky

            ????

          • CliveM

            Amended !!

          • dannybhoy

            Up pops the man with the red flag and waves it officiously…
            So one might again ask the question, “Why post here then?”
            You have to admit that there’s a parasitical element to your continued presence here..
            Not that I object of course, but surely there’s some bunch of sad pathetic deluded atheists somewhere that might be waiting for a bright spark like yourself?

          • sarky

            But your so much more fun 😉

          • dannybhoy

            We love you too Sarky, and we’d be really sad if one day you decided to be true to your philosophical convictions and join your fellow atheists swapping personal homespun philosophies… 🙂

          • sarky

            Can I not do both?

          • dannybhoy

            You know very well you get much more respect and genuine affection here than you would with your fellow atheists.
            Even Linus knows that. Why do you think he keeps coming back?

          • sarky

            I just thought he liked a good barny!

          • dannybhoy

            I think he does too and he does make some good points.
            …..as do you,
            but not so often.. 😉

          • sarky

            Oh well, at least me and you have something in common.

          • dannybhoy

            That’s true..

          • Phil R

            Been there didn’t work very well.

            In my son’s Christian school an atheist teacher used to be able to not attend the Christian Assemblies and he went off every morning to sit in the staff room and have an extra cup of coffee. A new Head arrived and decided that he should have jobs to do in that time if he was not attending Assembly. One of them was supervising the 60 or so kids on who did not attend for whatever reason.

            After a few months he informed the Head that he could attend assemblies after all!

        • CliveM

          Maybe but if the right has an underpinning in law, it makes it straight forward and avoids unnecessary conflict.

          • Busy Mum

            I think it will increase conflict. We have gone from a default position of praying, to a default position of having to decide whether or not to pray. Nothing remotely God-honouring in that anyway…. and can you imagine all the councils up and down the land having to revisit this every time new councillors come on board? Instead of focusing and reaching a consensus on the business in hand – such as deciding which potholes to fill – councillors will be devoting time, energy and acrimony to the discussion of prayer…never reaching a consensus – and it will become agenda item number one on a regular basis whereas it was never even up for discussion in the past.

  • The Explorer

    I’m no accountant, but the actuarial principle is that you can determine the behaviour of the mass; although not of the individual within the mass.
    Thus, there are individually-generous secularists. No one denies that. However, research in the US revealed that Christians in the US are seven times more likely to give time and/or money to charity than the irreligious are. (I don’t know what the statistics are for other religions.)

    • Jeremy Legg

      Good comment. The research was published in very readable fashion by Prof. Arthur Brooks in “Who Really Cares”, and it’s worrying reading for people who think that a liberal view of welfare and wealth distribution actually translate to effective generosity.

  • Doctor Crackles

    As Busy Mum states about this bill; we are being granted permission to do something that we formerly did freely.

    It is as if we are moving from a state where we could do anything accept those things that are legally prohibited to a state where we can only do those things legally mandated.

    This feels like a stitch up.

    • Busy Mum

      I think you have described the stitch-up Napoleon had planned for us two hundred years ago! This is the essential difference between our law and that on the continent….and this is what made us gloriously free…..and this is what was worth fighting for. Some of us still think it is!

      • Doctor Crackles

        I do not know enough about English Common Law versus the Napoleonic Code, but this does feel like a stealthy transition of UK law into something matching EU ideology.

        We are giving away so match for so little in return. Hard won historic freedoms quietly removed by deceit. Is this the consequence of our rebellion; moving from being an essentially free people infused with the fear of God to a lawless people awaiting the tyrant?

    • Dominic Stockford

      Sounds like the regulative principle of worship – I knew there was a reason I wasn’t keen on it…

    • Phil R

      What were once absolute freedoms have become qualified rights.

      How else does the 1% hope to control us?

  • Gerhard

    “Life is more than an intellectual argument waiting to be won. You can make all the criticisms and accusations you like, but at the end of the day it’s our actions rather than our words that speak loudest about our intentions and priorities.”

    Thank you for a great quote Cranmer! Watch any YouTube debate of the Christian philosopher William Lane Craig and you will see that the Christian argument is not only strong, but he is picking his opponents apart with brutal logic and basically leaving them looking silly. Yet, use these arguments in a conversation with a non-believer and you will have very little impact.

    It seems strange and people are supposed to be reached by argument, but they are not. That is why your quote is so true.

  • Inspector General

    Hah! The secularists took on mighty Christianity and went away defeated and all the poorer for it!

    Absolutely topper, what!

    Onwards Christian soldiers. There’ll be no more biting at our heals from that crowd on this matter…

    Watching Sarky run around today, head in hands, in deranged anger and grief is a damn treat. Well done that man of Sark.

    • Inspector, did you receive the message from our mutual friend,
      Andre´ Kristian, that he asked HJ to pass on?

      ” …. please give my love to his lordship. All of it. ;)”

      • Inspector General

        Oh Yes, mad Jack. Thank the fellow when you’re next about that part of hell…

        • My good man, Andre posted on his message on Cranmer and not PN. Jack only visited there to keep a protective eye on you and have a good chuckle at your comments.

    • sarky

      You may have won the battle, but the war is already lost!

      • CliveM

        The war was won 2000 years ago on a cross.

    • DanJ0

      Onwards Muslim soldiers too, unfortunately, riding in on the back of this.

  • Inspector General

    A list of secular ‘great and good’ below. From the NSS site. Being a desperately unfunny so called comedian is apparently enough to get you onto this list. Can you spot the horror to which the Inspector refers. Also, a sprinkling of recognisable homosexuals who presumably see Christianity as a massive boulder in their way. Dawkins, but of course. And one has taken the liberty to add in Sarky, famous for his defeats on Cranmer. Oh look, a damned agony aunt too, her of ‘ the smothering pillow of compassion’ fame. A few muslim named individuals too, now that IS encouraging.

    Graham Allen MP

    Professor Peter Atkins

    Lord Avebury

    Baroness Blackstone

    Professor Colin Blakemore

    Edward Bond

    Nick Brown MP

    Prof. Ted Cantle

    Lord Cashman of Limehouse

    Nick Cohen

    Prof. Richard Dawkins

    Lord Desai

    Angela Eagle MP

    Baroness Falkner of Margravine

    James Fitzpatrick MP

    Baroness Flather

    Caroline Fourest

    Michael Frayn

    Ricky Gervais

    Lord Goodhart QC

    Prof. A. C. Grayling

    Nia Griffith MP

    Dr. Evan Harris

    Lord Harrison of Chester

    Patrick Harvie MSP

    Professor Ted Honderich

    Mary Honeyball MEP

    Kelvin Hopkins MP

    Julian Huppert MP

    Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP

    Virginia Ironside

    Dr Michael Irwin

    Asma Jahangir

    Professor Steve Jones

    Baroness Kinnock

    Prof Lawrence Krauss

    Stewart Lee

    Graham Linehan

    Baroness Massey of Darwen

    Kerry McCarthy MP

    Jonathan Meades

    Sir Jonathan Miller

    Baroness Murphy

    Maryam Namazie

    Taslima Nasrin

    Maajid Nawaz

    Lord O’Neill of Clackmannan

    Pragna Patel

    Lord Peston

    Sir Terry Pratchett

    Philip Pullman

    Geoffrey Robertson QC

    Martin Rowson

    Gita Sahgal

    Sarky

    Joan Smith

    Dan Snow

    Dr. David Starkey

    Peter Tatchell

    Lord Taverne QC

    Baroness Tonge

    Polly Toynbee

    Baroness Turner of Camden

    Lord Warner of Brockley

    BaronessYoung of Hornsey

    • Shadrach Fire

      I didn’t see Cameron, Milliband and Clegg on your list?

      • Dominic Stockford

        The NSS wouldn’t see them as belonging. Cameron because he claims to be Christian, Clegg because his wife claims to be Christian, and Miliband because he isn’t great or good…

    • Pubcrawler

      I see my MP’s name on the list. Another in the long list of reasons not to vote for him.

    • CliveM

      Hi Inspector

      Hope you’ve taken your units today?

      Couple of things about the list. They all seem to have had a sense of humour bypass and also of the left leaning variety.

      Socialism has been the death of this country.

      • Inspector General

        Ernest types, Clive. The bloody worst of blighter, if you are unlucky enough to find one in a pub who finds you…

        • CliveM

          300 years ago they would all have been Puritans and more then one would have been a professional Witch Finder.

          It is ungodly of me, but I’m glad they’re atheists!

    • sarky

      I feel honoured to be amongst such esteemed company 🙂

      • Inspector General

        You’re quite welcome to them Snarky.

      • Stephen Milroy

        Shame the feeling isn’t mutual with you on this site…

    • Terry Mushroom

      I heard Sir Jonathan Miller give an interestingly subtle graduation speech on the merits of atheism at the Royal College of Arts some years ago. I wondered why such a ceremony was the time and place for his opinions on God’s existence or not.

      I also wondered if there was anything ironic in him praising that year’s designers and their work while denying the existence of the person who designed the universe.

  • preacher

    LOL. I really can’t see what the problem is. Why are the secularists making such a fuss about something they claim not to believe in being posted verbally to a being they don’t believe exists.
    If the council does a good job & the results prove it, why on earth does it matter? If the council meets & chants or burns incense, so what? Why the fear?.
    It seems that the secular society should call itself the Church of Secular or some other title, because obviously they are a religious group, as they don’t want people to have the freedom to choose their beliefs & jealously defend their own beliefs in – well,- nothing.
    Their zeal & demands for all people to be like them & for this rule to be enshrined in law is typical of the persecution of non conformists & dissenters by religious bodies of bygone ages.
    Personally I don’t know or care if my local council is run by secular humanists, Sikhs or Charismatic Catholics. As long as they do a good job.
    Sure I’d like all people to believe in Jesus as the promised one who came to pay the price of mankind’s sin, as I do. Not for my sake but for their’s.

  • Old Blowers

    “All of a sudden we’d see around 1.4 million Christian volunteers suddenly withdraw from church-based community work which benefits millions of local people (not fellow churchgoers). The vast majority of foodbanks would cease to exist, as would huge numbers of parent-and-toddler groups, out-of-school children’s clubs, debt counselling services, parenting and marriage courses, and night street patrols. Thousands upon thousands, including young people, the elderly, addicts, ex-offenders, asylum seekers, sex workers, the homeless and those needing counselling for mental health problems would find support and care drying up. Around 114 million volunteer hours would need to be replaced to maintain all of the community work performed by churches. ” Yeah but apart from that WHAT HAVE CHRISTIANS EVER DONE FOR US ? *Humungous chortles*

    • sarky

      But that’s not going to happen is it – hysterical over reaction as usual.

      • Old Blowers

        Hysterical hyperbole from a pointed post by His Grace from you as per…

        • sarky

          Wasn’t by his grace!

  • Phil R

    The non Christians do not want to listen to Christian prayers because they know consciously or not that there is far far more going on in those few minutes, than just the words being spoken.

    • sarky

      Really?

    • DanJ0

      People wondering what to have for dinner later?

      • Phil R

        It is possible.

        However, I watched an Anglican Bishop from Africa having a debate with a homosexual a few months ago. At one point the Bishop offered to pray for the homosexual that he would be cured. He actually stated that God would cure him.

        The homosexual screamed at him don’t touch me, don’t pray for me and ran off the set.

        It was like watching the book of Acts.

        • DanJ0

          I’ve heard your twee little story before. That ridiculous bishop with his snake oil should be named and shamed. Gullible fools like you need saving, and I’m not talking religiously.

          • Phil R

            There is nothing false about demonic possession.

            Whether tge gay guy was possessed l will not say.

            It did appear so

          • DanJ0

            Lol. Nutter alert!

          • Phil R

            Back to attacking the person when all else fails I see

          • DanJ0

            What do you expect me to say when you’re talking about demonic possession, and to an a-theist too. Especially when you’re suggesting a demon is the cause of the bloke’s behaviour and possibly his homosexuality too. You’re barking mad.

          • Phil R

            Demons are certainly real. You seriously don’t believe they exist?

          • DanJ0

            I’m an a-theist so it’s pretty unlikely that I would. It seems to me that you’ve spent too long in Africa, or too much time with the box sets of Supernatural.

  • Manfarang

    Prayer mats anyone?

  • Inspector General

    Chaps, one has removed Sir Terry Pratchett from the list. He has ceased to be. Is no more. Was not saved. Gone. Flown. Extinct.

    The Inspector is now opening a book for who’s next…

  • DanJ0

    Article: “Let the councils decide how to start their meetings without unnecessary interference from above. If they wish to continue with their centuries-old traditions of placing meetings in the hands of God, then why should anyone with very little more than an axe to grind stand in their way?”

    Perhaps in parts of Yorkshire, they’ll start a new tradition of placing meetings in the hands of Allah. Who’s to argue with that? Non-Muslims can simply wait outside if they don’t like the idea, and perhaps Allah will even inspire the attendees.

    • Inspector General

      Allah’s had his day in Yorkshire. Have you ever heard of a place called Rotherham?

    • len

      Might come to that before too long the way things are going?.I think the ‘inspiration’ of the Islamic god is apparent for all to see?.

  • TreenonPoet

    ”Let the councils decide how to start their meetings without unnecessary interference from above.”

    Indeed, but retain necessary interference, such as that which is required to ensure that local government does what it is paid to do, and does not squander taxpayers’ money on other activities (such as introducing divisiveness into the workforce).

    ”If they wish to continue with their centuries-old traditions of placing meetings in the hands of God, then why should anyone with very little more than an axe to grind stand in their way?”

    The argument is that council prayers are a bad tradition. There is no point in continuing a tradition if it is a bad tradition. This point seems to have been missed by many contributors to the Bill’s successful passage through Parliament.

    It surprises me that you do not consider meetings to be inevitably in the hands of God, and that it requires a petition by councillors to ensure that it is.

    ”This has nothing to do with forcing religion upon anyone, as Penny Mordaunt, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, made clear: “The Bill will not compel anyone to pray or any local authority to include prayers in their official business, nor does it define what constitutes prayer,” she said.”

    It has everything to do with forcing religion on some, as some commenters have pointed out. In the Bideford case, the council refused to have prayers just before the meeting. Why do you think it was so essential to intimidate objectors by holding them aloud during meetings? Nobody in the Bill’s parliamentary debates has answered this. (Lord Avebury asked this question twice on March 13. No satisfactory answer was given. He also raised a number of other objections which the Commons scrutiny had bypassed, but then deferred to the Commons support of the Bill, even though the Commons scrutiny was a farce.)

    ”Instead, it provides safeguards which will ensure that religion is not gagged and then dragged out of this particular arena simply because one or two people have chosen to get upset about having to listen to a few words directed at God rather than man.”

    Interesting that you say they chose to get upset, rather than got upset. What evidence do you have that they were lying about their feelings? None. You are, just as many did in Parliament, trying to demonise your opponents. Likewise with the use of ”gagged and then dragged out”. You also make presumptions about what exactly the cause of upset was.

    ”To forgive and forget is simply not on the agenda.”

    I would remind you that the problem is not an isolated incident, but a repeated offence. More demonisation!

    ”Quite why Evangelicals would want to hijack such a wide range of groups with the intention to make them say a simple prayer once in a while is not explained, possibly because – to quote a phrase used several paragraphs earlier – “This is nonsense on stilts.””

    It is not explained because it is obvious to anyone who understands the techniques of perpetuating a religion. Those who are victims of this perpetuation either do not realise what is going on, or are on the path to loosing their religion.

    ”As he draws together his conclusion, Mr Evans comes out with the hackneyed secularist mantra: “This is why religion belongs in the private, rather than the public, sphere.””

    The repetition is necessary because religionists repeatedly defy it.

    ”All of a sudden we’d see around 1.4 million Christian volunteers suddenly withdraw from church-based community work which benefits millions of local people (not fellow churchgoers). The vast majority of foodbanks would cease to exist, as would huge numbers of parent-and-toddler groups, out-of-school children’s clubs, debt counselling services, parenting and marriage courses, and night street patrols. Thousands upon thousands, including young people, the elderly, addicts, ex-offenders, asylum seekers, sex workers, the homeless and those needing counselling for mental health problems would find support and care drying up. Around 114 million volunteer hours would need to be replaced to maintain all of the community work performed by churches. Where exactly would they come from?”

    All of these services can be performed in a non-sectarian manner. Packaging them with religion (rather than with decent values that may or may not be promoted by a particular religion) is what is being objected to. If you are saying that the vast majority of those who provide these services also insist on incorporating religion (and I don’t know how you would know this), then they are also performing a disservice.

    ”Which other group of people in this country can claim to be doing so much for the benefit of others?”

    Personally, I do not find it necessary to identify myself with a large group in order to make my contribution, which is for the good of all and is often opposed by religionists (to the extent that I do not know of another group of people in this country who could claim to be doing so much damage).

    ”And yet there is a small but vocal minority who would rather see this all removed from the public sphere, along with public expressions of faith – including a few council prayers – because in their eyes religion has no value and makes no sense.”

    You are saying that we can’t have those services without the mandatory inclusion of religion. You do not seem to understand compassion.

    ”You can make all the criticisms and accusations you like, but at the end of the day it’s our actions rather than our words that speak loudest about our intentions and priorities.”

    Agreed. None more so than the attempted religious indoctrination of innocent young children, but the lesser actions, such as the legalisation of sectarianism, also speak volumes.

    ”If you want to judge others and their beliefs, look at the effect it has upon their lives.”

    No; look at the effect it has upon the lives of their victims.

    ”To be able to say prayers at a council meeting is a minor quibble in the broad sweep of life. But to be given permission to do so shows that the value of faith is appreciated and welcomed.”

    Only appreciated and welcomed by those who wish to impose those prayers; not by those made to feel uncomfortable by them.

    ”It recognises that belief in a God can make us a more compassionate people who remember the need to serve others before ourselves.”

    It demonstrates the opposite.

    ”It hardly needs saying that without the work of Christians driven by their life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ, our country would be a much less pleasant place to live.”

    I hardly need say why that is baloney.

    ”Can the same be said of those who choose to be offended by the mere acknowledgement of God in public?”

    To offend is to cause to feel upset, annoyed, or resentful. The cause is out of the control of the victim, so it is not the victim’s choice. And the offence is not the acknowledgement of God. As with all but one of the MPs who debated the Bill in the Commons, you seem to have no interest in understanding how Mr Bone of the Bideford case felt, nor in providing any way for such people to be protected from the tyranny of the majority.

  • jon d

    Apologies for joining this discussion late.

    Recently read an interesting comment from Maralynne Robinson a Christian liberal (not a liberal Christian) that made me reconsider my standpoint on this issue. In response to “certain excitable people” who, not content with the profound yet unforced influence of Christianity on western culture, “want politicians to make statements of faith, and… merchants… to say something much more specific than ‘Happy Holidays’”, she notes in her American context that the Founders (who were generally religious themselves) really did mean to establish freedom from religion (not just of religion) where that religion is specifically ‘established’ or ’state sponsored’, because, in that context ‘freedom of was freedom from’:

    “…the country in its early period was largely populated by religious people escaping religious oppression at the hands of state churches, whether French Huguenots, Scots Presbyterians, English Congregationalists, or English Catholics. Freedom of was freedom from—the coercions that did and do arise when there is no wall of separation between church and state. Historically the freedoms of speech, press, and assembly were deeply implicated in religious freedom, all of them being violently curtailed on religious grounds through most of Western history. Since my own religious heroes tended to die gruesomely under these regimes, I have no nostalgia for the world before secularism, nor would many of these “Christian nation” exponents, if they looked a little way into the history of their own traditions.”

    Anyway – just thought I’d throw that out there. Of course atheism can just as easily become the state sanctioned religion too…