The Unreasonableness of Secular Public Reason

Aug 28, 2015 by

By Matthew J Franck, Public Discourse: When voters and legislators act on religiously informed moral convictions in making the law, it may entail a blending of religion and politics that is disquieting to the secular liberal mind, but it closes no gap in the “separation of church and state.” Although it may come as a surprise to some, the Constitution does not enact Mr. John Rawls’s Political Liberalism. That is to say, it is a category error to attribute to the Constitution (via the establishment clause of the First Amendment) the Rawlsian concept that “public reason” and political discourse should exclude “comprehensive doctrines” such as religious belief systems. The accents of this argument could be heard in the Iowa supreme court’s marriage ruling in 2009, in which the court held that “religious opposition to same-sex marriage” was the real reason the state protected conjugal marriage in its law. Therefore, the judgment went, the law lacked a rational basis and was unconstitutional. Likewise, Judge Vaughn Walker of the federal district court that struck down California’s Proposition 8 claimed to “find” as a “fact” that “moral and religious views form the only basis for a belief that same-sex couples are different from opposite-sex couples” with respect to marriage. For Walker, “moral” was fungible with “religious,” and therefore Prop 8—you guessed it—lacked a rational basis. Read here...

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Australian schools are replacing Religious Education with lessons on ‘respectful relationships’...

Aug 21, 2015 by

By Harry Farley, Chritian Today:

Religious instruction is to be scrapped from some Australian state schools and replaced with classes on ‘respectful relationships.’
The Government believes that it is better to remove religion from regular school hours to allow time for a new class teaching “global cultures, traditions, ethics and faiths.”

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Faith Minister: why it’s right to scrap

Aug 16, 2015 by

By Jenny Taylor, Lapido Media: And so with very little notice being taken, a Constitutional experiment unprecedented in Britain’s history, has been quietly laid to rest.  Or has it? The post of Faith Minister, always unlikely especially when taken over by  Communities and Local Government Minister Eric Pickles at the resignation of Baroness Warsi, has not been renewed by Pickles’ replacement, Greg Clarke. Instead, a vague brief that includes ‘faith and integration’ has been passed to Baroness Williams, an under-secretary at the same department, no longer carrying Cabinet responsibility. Premier Radio did well to nail government obfuscation about this in an ‘exclusive’ for its website.  We should not let constitutional innovations go unnoticed for they affect, some would say corrupt, the vital checks and balances of church and state. From 2012 Lady Warsi tackled the post – for some an anomalous nod under the coalition government to multicultural well-meaning and to others a chance to harness or exploit religion’s unpredictable power – with creativity and gusto. Indeed, she threatened to make it something of a fiefdom. She spoke up loudly about the persecution of Christians, here and in Washington, hosting a summit to end it. She was not afraid to use religious language.  ‘More often than not, people who do God do good’ she said. And she made some brave speeches, defining, as a Muslim, the historic contribution of Christianity in British history, with generosity. Yet she also drew around her people, like the controversial Mudasser Ahmed, (see the Telegraph on him here and Lapido on him here) not all of the highest moral or spiritual probity, who were nonetheless mightily ambitious for their own take on religion. And she used Britain’s handling of the Gaza crisis which she described as ‘morally indefensible’ as a point to make a resignation splash, having nonetheless sat happily through Britain’s equally indefensible role in destabilising Libya. Read here...

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The plot to eradicate faith schools

Jul 31, 2015 by

by Quentin de la Bedoyere, Catholic Herald: Abortion, same-sex marriage, assisted suicide – the secular society encroaches every day. But I keep my focus on faith schools because this battle is not yet lost. While politicians for the most part support the existing arrangements, the campaign to eradicate religious schools from the public education system in Britain is so well managed and so vocal that we may soon discover that it has become a vote-winning issue. The National Secular Society, the British Humanist Association and the Accord Coalition (distinguished by its figurehead being a rabbi) are extremely active. Announcements and news stories are frequently well publicised, and there is no shortage of newspapers only too pleased to cry scandal. The term “faith schools” is easily extended to include all denominational schools, and then judged by the most extreme examples. The arguments are powerful. The major claim is the insistence that there is no reason why religious schools should be funded by the taxpayer. If we want to have specialist schools we should be prepared to fund them ourselves. Next, they address the issue of selective entry. Why should a child be unable to attend their local school which happens to be Catholic, but be obliged to travel afar for education? Finally, they argue that the segregation of groups by religion damages the cohesion of society. This is aggravated by social selection since, by the measurement of free schools meals, Catholic schools attract more prosperous children. It is easy to understand why the unwary reader is likely to accept that the case is made. A trifle more wariness might suggest that Catholics pay for education through taxation like everyone else and, if Catholic parents are prosperous, they will, in fact, be paying higher taxes. Add to that the 10 per cent of capital costs charged to voluntary-aided schools and one might conclude that we subsidise public education rather than the other way around. Read here...

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Education about faiths needs a major shift in focus, finds new report

Jul 8, 2015 by

By 3FF: A new report launched at IPPR by charity 3FF (The Three Faiths Forum) and education and youth ‘think and action-tank’LKMco argues for a major shift in education policy and practice about faiths and beliefs, towards a system of ‘intercultural education’. Drawing on the experience of educational experts working in schools across Britain, the report states that pupils from different backgrounds need to interact with each other to build tolerance and understanding. It proposes several principles for good practice, including: Policymakers need to move beyond ‘multiculturalism’ and towards intercultural education which actually engages with differences between beliefs. Pupils need to be taught skills to deal with controversial issues surrounding belief effectively. Education should tackle challenges different communities are facing, such as inter-religious tensions and prejudice. The report, “Encountering Faiths and Beliefs: the role of intercultural education in schools and communities” (which can be downloaded here), argues that positive interactions help people bridge cultural divides but cautions against a half-hearted approach. Lead author Anna Trethewey explains: “Given the sensitive nature of the issues, bad intercultural education can be worse than no intercultural education at all. Our research uncovered examples of poor intercultural education that only reinforced stereotypes or which took an unbalanced and tokenistic approach. In one example, people had invited guests to a synagogue, but were then denied access to a church on a reciprocal visit. In another case, a faith leader preached at their audience and allowed little space for dialogue.” In contrast, effective Intercultural education brings people together across difference. This means helping pupils recognise commonalities but also supporting them to engage in tough conversations about difference. Read here...

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Not fade away: the challenge for the Church

Jul 5, 2015 by

By Grace Davie, Church Times: I PUBLISHED Religion in Britain since 1945 back in 1994. It is mostly remembered for its subtitle: Believing without belonging. In due course, the publishers requested a second (comprehensively revised) edition, now published as Religion in Britain: A persistent paradox (Wiley Blackwell, 2015). The paradox in question is easily stated: in terms of their statistical contours, the Churches (and related organisations) have continued to decline. This is undeniable and well documented. In terms of the public presence of religion, however, the debate has intensified, and includes not only the part played by the Churches as such, but a much wider discussion regarding the place of faith and faith communities in a liberal democracy. The urgency of this debate reflects the changing nature of modern Britain, a country with a deeply embedded Christian culture which, at the same time, is becoming increasingly secular and increasingly diverse with regard to its religious profile. The new book explores this paradox in the light of six key factors that push and pull in different directions. These are: 1) the place of the historic Churches in forming British culture; 2) an awareness that the historic Churches still have a place at particular moments in the lives of British people, though they are no longer able to discipline the beliefs and behaviour of the great majority of the population, nor would they want to; 3) an observable change in the churchgoing constituencies of Britain, which are increasingly operating on a model of choice rather than a model of obligation or duty; 4) the arrival into Britain of groups of people from many global regions and many different faiths, which has led to the increasing significance of religion in public as well as private life; 5) the reactions of Europe’s secular elites to this shift; 6) last, and a little different, a growing awareness that the patterns of religious life in modern Europe, which includes Britain, should be considered an “exceptional case” in global terms: they are not a global prototype. THE Church of England has been influenced, and at times buffeted, by each of these points. Without doubt, it has been formative in British (specifically English) culture, and to an extent it remains so. Its buildings are some of the most visited in the country, and they continue to host the liturgies associated with national and local life. Read here  ...

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