Freedom of Religion

The Church must challenge the State's fuzzy 'British Values'


Fundamental British values have been defined by the Government as: “the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.” According to Andrew Gilligan’s piece in the Telegraph on Home Office plans for the mandatory registration of all faith leaders, extremism is defined by the Government as: “the vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.”

So, in a nutshell, extremism includes vocal opposition to respecting Mohammed.

Yes, that’s the inflammatory nugget of ‘religious hatred’. It would be just as easy to say that Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, being a vocal supporter of IRA bombs and bullets, is, by this definition, an extremist, but slightly less interesting from a theological point of view. How does the Government propose to force secular-humanist-atheists to “respect” any religion, let alone a virulent strand of one which seeks to behead or bomb us all to jannah (or, being infidel, more likely jahannam)?

Is it ‘disrespectful’ to call Mohammed a terrorist? Read the Qur’an (in particular 8.17; 33.26; 8.67). If the pillaging, slaughter, murder and rape are redolent of the Islamic State, it is because ISIS derives its polity and notions of summary justice from their prophet’s example. Is it ‘disrespectful’ to use a lower-case ‘p’? Is it ‘disrespectful’ to quote the Qur’an, Sunnah and Hadith without expository caveats or examination of their Sitz im Leben? Is it ‘disrespectful’ to draw Mohammed?

Is it ‘disrespectful’ to deny the divinity of Jesus Christ? How, then, will Jews and Muslims ever be free to articulate their belief in the oneness of God? How will the Abrahamic faiths ever be free to highlight the biological impossibility, not to say absurdity, of the existence of Ganesh? How will anyone ever again be free to to proclaim the unequivocal scientific fact that carpenters from Nazareth don’t get resurrected?

What is this “respect” imposed by the state which coerces and compels “a positive feeling of admiration or deference for a person (/entity/religion)? How can the state constrain or suspend the freedoms of belief, speech and expression to the extent that all must manifest “a positive feeling of admiration or deference” for cultic sky fairies, idols, false prophets or spiritual fetishes?

Surely the most fundamental of all British values is liberty; and religious liberty, in particular. Isn’t that our historic, bothersome and hard-won birthright? Why does it not appear in the Government’s definition? How is freedom not fundamental to British values, culture and tradition? Forget “respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs”. We must focus instead on the freedom of religion, which cannot be reduced to the freedom of worship.

Freedom of religion includes the right not only to have a faith, but to manifest it and propagate it and witness to it in the public arena, if desired. It also includes the right to change beliefs and religious affiliation, if desired. This is what liberal democracies should proclaim and propagate throughout the world. Freedom of worship is practised in oppressive and tyrannical countries, and in particular those influenced by Islam and atheistic Communism. You may be free to be a Christian (Jew/Jehovah’s Witness, etc), but you are not free to manifest your faith in the public arena or share your beliefs with others. In Islamic countries, Muslims are free to be fully Muslim, including public displays and lawful proselytism. But there is no mercy for those who try to leave Islam.

Or criticise it.

There must be “tolerance” of its precepts and “respect” for its prophet.

We may (indeed must), out of our boundless love and common humanity, respect (indeed love) our neighbour. But nowhere is it written and by no social contract are we obliged to respect their gods or tolerate their beliefs. The Church must robustly remind the State of the true foundation of British values and the essential cornerstone of our liberty – before we are all obliged to profess positive feelings of admiration for the prince of the power of the air, and bow the knee to the father of lies.