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Freedom of belief is vital, says Commons Speaker  

24 September 2021

UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor 

The flag-presentation ceremony, with Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Revd Neil Kelley, and Nancy Pelosi

The flag-presentation ceremony, with Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Revd Neil Kelley, and Nancy Pelosi

THE Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, emphasised the importance of freedom of religion during a conference of parliamentary speakers and presiding officers from the G7 nations in his Lancashire constituency last weekend.

Speaking before the start of the meeting in Chorley, Sir Lindsay said: “It’s so important the Church is centre of this. Faith is important to people. The conference is about fighting hate, intolerance, and terrorism, and about freedom of democracy and freedom of faith.

“How do we ensure that we have open democracy versus closed democracy? The fact there are people who will fight to stop the democratic rights of the people of the world, that is what this conference is about and, in that context, why faith is so important. . . It is all part of what we will be discussing.”

The two-day meeting ended on Sunday with a service in St Laurence’s, Chorley, attended by delegates who included the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli. The previous day, Ms Pelosi presented the church with the US flag that flew during President Biden’s inauguration in January. It will hang alongside the Stars and Stripes presented to the church by US servicemen stationed in Chorley during the Second World War.

The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Julian Henderson, who gave the blessing at the end of the service, thanked Sir Lindsay for putting faith at the heart of the conference. “The Church has had a key place this weekend, with the flag dedication and then the service at St Laurence’s. Faith is there . . . at the heart of it,” he said.

“For the diocese of Blackburn to be involved at this level in an international event is important, and is also another important mark of the work we are doing as we seek to make our churches healthy and so transform the wider community. That’s our vision, that’s our mission, and this is another demonstration of the partnership we share with all sorts of people to enable that to come about.”

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