The main body for interfaith interface, the Equality Commissionâ€™s Religion and Belief Consultative Group, has splintered after various groups began to fight amongst themselves. What happened isn’t entirely clear, as the report talked about conflict between “secular and religious” groups, even though the terms aren’t contradictory (one can be religious and a secularist). The National Secular Society (NSS) claimed that church representatives were more concerned about getting exemptions from the forthcoming equalities bill than “championing human rights”. The NSSâ€™ opponents accused it of arrogance. Some groups had already stopped attending the meetings. Its funding sources are also unclear: none of its members are paid by the taxpayer, but I don’t know who provides the venues.
Does the collapse of the group really matter? I am not so sure it does. It wasn’t a theological attempt to reconcile all opposing religious views, but rather a chance to air and debate concerns. It had some influence on the Equality Commission, but it is not apparent what the group actually achieved before it broke up. Do those representing viewpoints (which is ultimately what a belief or lack of belief in a deity boils down to) need such a group? What purpose, even if was functioning, would it serve? Does the state need an ‘advisory body’ on religion?
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Filed in: Religion