TWO former Archbishops of Canterbury have expressed different
views of the secularisation of society.
In an article published in the Daily Mail on Saturday,
Lord Carey (right) said that it was "a bit rich" for the
Prime Minister to tell religious leaders at the pre-Easter Downing
Street reception "that they should 'stand up and oppose aggressive
secularisation' when it seems that his Government is aiding and
abetting this aggression every step of the way".
Lord Carey cited a poll of 535 "regular churchgoers", published
the same day by the Coalition for Marriage. Sixty-seven per cent of
respondents to the poll agreed with the statement: "I sometimes or
often feel a member of a persecuted minority because of the
constraints on religious expression in this country."
Lord Carey continued: "Their fears may be exaggerated, because
few in the UK are actually persecuted, but the Prime Minister has
done more than any other recent political leader to feed these
"He seems to have forgotten, in spite of his oft-repeated
support for the right of Christians to wear the cross, that lawyers
acting for the Coalition argued only months ago in the Strasbourg
court that those sacked for wearing a cross against their
employer's wishes should simply get another job."
In an interview broadcast on Premier Radio last month, Lord
Williams of Oystermouth said that recent workplace disputes did not
represent a "sustained campaign to be nasty to Christians. . .
"It's much more [that] we're in a climate where people don't
quite understand how religious conviction works very well, and,
unsurprisingly, get themselves in a great tangle about how to
honour it legally without undermining some of the public universal
provisions. . . So I'm not rushing to the barricades on this
Christians sometimes had reason to be "grumpy and anxious", Lord
Williams said, but there was "no guarantee in the Bible or anywhere
else" that the Church would be "respected [or] influential. . .
"So don't let's imagine that the welfare, the well-being, the
advance of the Kingdom of God is bound up with our being popular
and influential - sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't; it comes and
goes, historically. Just get used to that."
A parliamentary report published last year on the freedom of
Christians in the UK, Clearing the Ground, concluded that
religious belief was being "gently squeezed" from public life, but
that Christians did not face persecution (
News, 2 March 2012).