From Kate Heywood
Sir, — I am saddened by Dr Vincent McKee’s article with which I strongly disagree (Comment, 8 May).
The debate about the place of religious faith in the public sphere is key to the future progress of our country. Too often, though, people are put off politics, rather than encouraged to become involved and contribute to the greater well-being of our communities and country. I fear that this may be the result of Dr McKee’s article.
The wide-ranging discussion on faith schools at the Lib Dem conference saw those calling for the closure of faith schools defeated. The party agreed to improve faith schools by making them more inclusive and open, serving the original purpose for which they were created; and committed to working with groups such as Accord (a coalition of progressive religious-minded people).
The same conference created policy on: financial regulation; education (allowing individuals to fulfil their potential); free quality childcare for 20 hours a week (to help those who need or want to return to work); ending fuel poverty; and new criminal-justice policy, focusing on rehabilitation and restorative justice.
Alongside the Party’s strong environmental credentials, its Iraq policy, economic justice, and support of families — whatever shape or size they come in, there is strong evidence of progressive people of faith at work within the Party.
Many Roman Catholic commentators and leaders have applauded Evan Harris for initiating his recent Private Members’ Bill to overturn the Act of Settlement, which has discriminated against Roman Catholics since 1701. While I do not agree with Dr Harris on all his policy stances, I do recognise him as a valued colleague.
Finally, there is a strong voice for the Christian faith within the Party. The Liberal Democrat Christian Forum enjoys the support of many leading Liberal Democrat MPs, peers, councillors, and members. It is continuing to grow, and actively engages with the Humanists and secularists within the Party, striving to increase religious literacy and affirm the valuable role played by people of faith in the Party and in the wider political community.
We take the view that constructive debate should come before public diatribe and misinformation. Political and theological credibility is hard to come by, and easy to lose. This article may prove very unhelpful to all Liberal Democrats — Christians and secularists alike.
Chair, Liberal Democrat Christian Forum
4 Cowley Street
London SW1P 3NB