Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Defending the privilege of religion

Sir, The attempts to defend the Archbishop of Canterbury’s views are doomed before they start (report, Feb 11).

The debate about whether religion should be privileged with special treatment under the law has been raging for decades. In the context of Islamic values in a British context, it has raged since the Ayatollah’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie in 1989, when we saw some British citizens parading in the streets demanding the death of another British citizen because he wrote a book they didn’t like. To suggest Dr Williams is now bravely kicking off the great debate of our times is fatuous in the extreme.

There is, sadly, no “wriggle room” for the Archbishop. We already know through his arguments for taxpayer-funded faith schools and for exemptions under equality laws that he wants belief in God (any one will do apparently) to be privileged. I have a duty to my fellow citizens as prescribed by British law as laid down by Parliament, while Dr Williams clearly argues that there must be times when he is allowed to vary his duty to me in accordance with his religious dogma, and he has 26 seats in the House of Lords at his disposal with which to achieve it.

That is no longer acceptable.

Alistair McBay
National Secular Society

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