Religion and Belief Consultative Group collapses


by Rumbold
23rd March, 2010 at 8:50 pm    

The main body for interfaith interface, the Equality Commission’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 NSS’ 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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  1. Andy — on 23rd March, 2010 at 9:01 pm  

    Seems to be a bit of local trouble in Nottingham with the council removing funding from CEHRNN, doesn’t bode too well for human rights actions here

    http://ncclols.blogspot.com/search/label/Council%20for%20Equality%20and%20Human%20Rights%20Nottingham%20and%20Nottinghamshire

  2. douglas clark — on 23rd March, 2010 at 11:03 pm  

    Ré your previous thread that you had to close down. I find it ridiculous that the tail of religious observance is wagging the dog of agnosticism.

    Whilst folk can, obviously, believe anything they want to, religious observance is a minority pursuit these days. We should recognise that rather than pretend otherwise.

  3. KJB — on 24th March, 2010 at 12:16 am  

    I’m sorry, but I can’t help finding this ironic… I am firmly on the side of the NSS in the remarks they’ve made about church representatives, and it’s telling that the best those criticised could come back with was ‘arrogance.’ Isn’t that what atheists are constantly accused of, whether we all happen to be carbon-copies of Dawkins et al, or not?

    I mean, look at this, neatly proving the NSS right:

    The collapse of the Equality Commission’s Religion and Belief Consultative Group comes as traditionalist Christians today petitioned the Equalities Minister Harriet Harman to intervene in the Equality Bill which tonight completed its passage through the Lords and now returns to the Commons. The traditionalists want to prevent a change in the law that will allow civil partnership ceremonies to take place in religious buildings.

    I don’t think the state should have an advisory body on religion, because that implies a place (however small) for religion in the public sphere. Which is counter to the idea of secularism, and given what a crap job this country makes of being secular, there needs to be an improvement fast.

    I think that if people absolutely insist on religious symbols (such as turbans or headscarves), and it’s not causing harm to anyone, fine. However, I think that should really be the limit (and we all know it’s not)!

    Is that Times article expressly designed to infuriate me?

    The Pope recently intervened in the debate over equality legislation in Britain. Benedict XVI is expected to use his visit to Britain in September to preach moral virtue.

    Yes, that’s right – ‘moral virtue.’ The same moral virtue that leads to one directly engaging in, or attempting to cover up, sexual abuse of children.

    Leaders across the churches continue to defend the right of Christians and other religions to discriminate against women, gays and others according to their religious beliefs.

    Funny how the most important religious ‘rights’ claimed, so often tend to be the right to hate Others in manifold form (the capital ‘o’ is deliberate).

    Sorry, I realise I am in humourless atheist mode right now, but the way that religious believers keep attacking atheists as arrogant, whilst defending their own right to behave reprehensibly and inhumanly to the hilt, just really pisses me off.

  4. Sarah AB — on 24th March, 2010 at 8:14 am  

    I’m an atheist too and I’m sure I would agree with the NSS about every issue – except maybe this which is more of a metaissue (?) – that is, given that this body exists at all (and my own impulses are secular of course though I think I’m a bit softer than KJB), it seems reasonable that the religious people should be fighting their corner?

  5. KJB — on 24th March, 2010 at 3:40 pm  

    Sarah – I don’t generally have a problem (I’m usually what’s referred to as an ‘accommodationist’), but it increasingly seems to me that most of the sort of people that will inevitably end up in these kind of governmental advisory bodies will effectively be ‘community leaders.’ Which many on PP, including myself, are not particularly cool with.

    it seems reasonable that the religious people should be fighting their corner

    Over what, exactly? Is someone attacking them? Perhaps the reality is more complicated than this article makes out, but so far all we have is the NSS accusing church reps of wanting special dispensations to allow them to discriminate, and NO DENIAL on the part of the church reps, just ad hom.

    I’d really like to know what it is that church reps should be ‘fighting their corner’ over, and why. Many, many Christians in this country seem to be pretty OK with gay bishops, female bishops, gay people generally… so why are these people trying to claim some sort of ‘divine right’ to have their prejudices enshrined in law?

  6. Don — on 24th March, 2010 at 7:39 pm  

    Does the state need an ‘advisory body’ on religion?

    No. Any such ‘advisory body’ would largely feature the religiously assertive, whose advice would be ‘privilege us’.

    Letting secularists in (and, yes, the NSS can be a tad combatant) inevitably meant that the religious advocates took their ball and went home in a huff.

  7. KJB — on 24th March, 2010 at 10:55 pm  

    Don: that’s what I said! Kinda. :-D

  8. Don — on 24th March, 2010 at 11:30 pm  

    just more terse.

  9. fugstar — on 26th March, 2010 at 9:28 am  

    NSS infiltrate and torpedo interfaith love in

  10. persephone — on 26th March, 2010 at 9:54 am  

    “Does the state need an ‘advisory body’ on religion?”

    Not if they cannot work like one. You’d think their common values would make them the strongest and integrated body but this shows it does not.

    If anything its given them/religion bad PR. If religious groups cannot get along within themselves & others just to have a debate & air issues, it does not leave a good impression. Maybe thats because the attendees of the group are used to having group acceptance of their dogmatic stance which leaves little room for debate.Taking them outside of this protected comfort zone seems to have been too much.

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