Tuesday, 21 October 2008

There's a God-shaped hole in Westminster

[...] The creeping secularisation of politics was one of the factors that pushed Ruth Kelly, a devout Roman Catholic, into resigning her Cabinet position. It was not only that she disagreed with the Government's proposals on stem-cell research - and as a backbencher she will be able to vote against them tomorrow. She was also disturbed by the way in which her membership of Opus Dei was seen as something weird and even rather dangerous; and she disliked the way in which Mr Blair's Christianity was mocked during the war in Iraq. “The debate in Britain has become incredibly secularised,” she explained earlier this month. “Religion is seen as something a bit strange, in the margins. Politics is much the poorer for that because you want people who believe in things to go into politics.”

In policy terms, the assumption in Whitehall is that it is bad to believe. The Government's “statement of British values” is unlikely to make any mention of faith; the Department for Communities and Local Government guidelines for councils on what to tell new residents include lots about queuing but nothing on Christianity. A report published by the Church of England earlier this year accused the Government of “deep religious illiteracy” and of having “no convincing moral direction”

When Alice Thomson and I interviewed Phil Woolas last week, his comments on immigration hit the headlines - but it was his suggestion that the Anglican Church would be disestablished that got Downing Street in a jitter. Read more
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