Interview: Paul Diamond, barrister

by
13 April 2010

I am a barrister specialising in the law of religious liberty. Religious liberty covers a wide range of fields, from international work to domestic employment and education law. I have done cases from the BA air-stewardess’s cross to schoolgirls’ wishing to wear purity rings, and the nurse who offered to pray for a patient.

The issue is either you believe in “freedom of religion”, or “freedom from religion”. The balance is difficult, but it depends on whether you see religious belief as positive or negative.

There is a very primitive secularism in the United Kingdom at the moment. Many of our lawmakers possess a very fragmented and ahistorical value system.

Modern liberalism has asserted that it has no business to regulate people’s moral decision-making. The result is that the unspoken alliance between the Church and the State to produce moral citizens has come apart. Everyone’s moral decisions are ostensibly treated as equal. People have come forward with private definitions of what is good, some of which are very dangerous.

The state has had to start regulating people’s private lives much more, and we are treated with increasing suspicion. The increase in state control has been very apparent over a whole range of issues over the last ten years, and not simply in the area of child protection.

Freedom of religion is the first freedom, above freedom of expression. I call freedom of religion a “primary right”, alongside the right to life. In recent years, this important freedom has been relegated to a very lowly position.

Unfortunately, I think Lord Carey is right about Christians’ suffering discrimination today. The United Kingdom is hostile to its Judaeo-Christian values and the faith and beliefs of Christians. As the nature of our society changes, it is necessary to replace such values.

Judaeo-Christian values are seen as a threat, because they are suc­cessful and therefore can command a majority of the pop­ulation’s allegiance.

Advertisement

Religion is not a hobby or a pastime, or something very wrong that is done in private. A person who is an adherent to a religious belief would want to conduct themselves in conformity with that belief in both the public and private fields.

Not all expressions of religious faith are equally valid in law. Societies have evolved in a cultural and social dimension, which impacts on this question. Religious mani­festation covers both rites and rights, and this balance is difficult to assess.

Children should be allowed freedom of religion, though it’s a complex area. I believe in parental responsibility for children and in parental responsibility for the moral and religious upbringing of children. This principle is beyond the jurisdiction of the state in all but the most extreme examples. A wedge should not be driven between parents and their children.

I think that I entered the legal profession for the best of reasons — helping people, wanting justice in the land. Not for money. . . Over the years, I have realised the limited ability of the law to deal with the inner man. I have enjoyed being a barrister for the independence it has given me: no one can sack me.

I think it is important to repeal the Human Rights Act, and restore the sovereignty of Parliament. We have a very unsatisfactory state of affairs at the moment that I call “judocracy” — one in which the rule of law has been replaced with rulings based on personal predilections of individual judges.

I love my family, and that makes one realise that relationships are all-important.

My childhood ambitions were fairly normal: from train driver to policeman. If I’d had the hair, I’d have been a rock star.

The most important choice I made was to serve the Lord Jesus.

I have a few regrets. Most of them centre on a loss of nerve. I simply vow never to repeat them, and seek to correct my decision.

I am aware of the vainglory of man, and seek to focus on my family. But I’d like to be remembered as a significant man of faith and a great barrister.

I’m an admirer of Churchill. The more I read of the determination of this man and his strength of character, the more I admire. Britain was hanging by a thread, both ethically and politically, when he became Prime Minister.

I used to enjoy D. H. Lawrence and the Titus Groan series [by Mervyn Peake]. I say “used”, as I seem to read a lot, but so much is passing.

Advertisement

I enjoyed going to church in Cambridge. It enabled me to develop a mature Christian world-view. I was able to cross-develop spiritual growth with political and social insight.

I think so many Christians com­partmentalise their faith from the “real world”.

I love Devon, and I wish I could spend more time in that county. I love the balance between coast, moorland, and good restaurants. The beauty makes my heart sing.

The only Fairtrade product I know is coffee, and I buy it.

I like the Psalms and the sayings of Jesus the most. I like the Psalms for their encouragement in our God, and the challenging nature of Jesus’s words. I least like the Book of Revelation, mainly because it is so difficult to under­stand.

I like to sleep in a room with a window in the roof (rather than side) and listen to the sound of strong rain falling while I am comfortably in bed.

If I hadn’t become a barrister, I’d probably have been a journalist. My temperament is as a social reformer, and I would have had to do some­thing for the Lord.

I cannot abide people who moan but in reality do very little, as, in reality, they are either not interested in changing matters or do not sincerely believe.

I get angry about the spirit of defeat and poverty Christians have in the United Kingdom. Britain is a great country, but you are pushed to know it. Most Christians are very defeated and ungenerous. I would like to see them strong, kind, and giving.

I’m happiest when I’m relaxing with family on a long holiday: lots of travel, food, and family fun.

I pray too often about myself. I would love to be a man of God with pure motives.

For the future — we have won, and we need to believe this against the odds or our own feelings. We must never, never, never give up. I take that from Churchill.

I’d like to be locked in a church with Simon Burton-Jones, Archdeacon of Rochester. He’s a man of God. Pray for him. He is full of wisdom and insight.

Paul Diamond was talking to Terence Handley MacMath.

Subscribe now to get full access

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read up to twelve articles for free. (You will need to register.)