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The Druid Network and the Inter Faith Network

by
14 December 2012

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From Graeme Wilson and others

Sir, - We write as clergy and lay leaders of different beliefs and faiths working in the interfaith arena, in response to your brief news item "Druids turned down by Inter Faith Network" (7 December).

Modern Britain is an immensely diverse nation of belief and new religious philosophies. The Inter Faith Network for the United Kingdom (IFNUK) has been paid for over years by the British taxpayer in millions of pounds - at a time of economic hardship for ordinary British people. Therefore, the rejection by the IFNUK of the lawfully recognised faith charity the Druid Network raises serious concerns about possible religious discrimination under the Equality Act 2010, which have been discussed in an expert legal statement published by the leading human-rights law firm Bindmans LLP (see www.religiousfreedom.org.uk/legal).

In particular, this activates questions related to Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 concerning the Public Sector Equality Duty of government and public bodies to consider issues of religious discrimination and exclusion that may arise when they decide to give the money of British taxpayers as public funding to interfaith and other groups.

Our esteemed and greatly loved Anglican friend the Revd Peter Owen-Jones (the presenter of Around the World in 80 Faiths) chaired a meeting in Parliament, representing 24 faiths, during the recent national Inter Faith Week, to highlight the solidarity of Christians and members of other world religions against the injustice of such discrimination against the Druid and other minority communities.

As people of faith, we know that Jesus Christ had no hesitation in talking to despised and excluded religious groups, such as the Samaritans (John 4.7-9), while St Paul happily entered into dialogue with pagans in the Athenian Areopagus (Acts 17.22-28).

It, therefore, appears wholly contrary to scripture and the Christian gospel that the Church of England hierarchy should have manufactured an official 2009 policy document to denigrate and exclude from equal dialogue "New Religious Movements and Alternative Spiritualities" (go to www.churchofengland.org/our-faith/mission/engaging-with-new-religious-movements.aspx and click on the right on "NRM Policy Document"), without any biblical foundation whatsoever, but rather in breach of the Christian injunction to love one's neighbour as oneself.

Christianity was at one time a persecuted cult, as were all the so-called "mainstream" religions. The God of Israel calls his people to remember not to exclude the alien or mistreat the stranger; "for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" (Leviticus 19.34).

Graeme Wilson, Chair of Religions Working Together; Muhammad Al-Hussaini, Secretary of Scriptural Reasoning; Kevin Snyman, Chaplain of Occupy Faith UK; Tracey Coleman, Chief Executive of Camden Faith Communities Partnership; Rory Fenton, Dialogue Officer of the British Humanist Association; Phil Ryder, Chair of the Druid Network

Religious Freedom UK
146 Queen Victoria Street
London EC4V 4BY

 

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