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Williams will not join Carey at the barricades

05 April 2013

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 anxieties.

"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 one."

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).


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