Brett and the Bishops

This opinion piece (Barking & Dagenham Post 5.11.18) highlights the undue influence enjoyed by the Church both in the US and here.

Many of us here followed with grim fascination the process of appointing Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court.  There is a lot at stake. As a religious conservative, appointed for life, he will have an important say on key issues such as abortion and gay rights for decades to come.  It should remind us to be thankful we live in a country where appointment of judges takes place outside the political arena.

However, before we become too smug, we should reflect on an archaic anomaly that lies at the heart of our own constitution. 26 Anglican Bishops sit in the House of Lords as of right. We are the only democratic country where the clergy enjoy this unique privilege. They lead prayers before business and take precedence when speaking.  They intervene in debates and vote on our laws. This undemocratic and discriminatory medieval hangover persists despite the collapse in public support for the Church. According to the 2018 British Social Attitudes Survey just 2% of young people identify themselves as Church of England.

Freedom of religion and belief is a prized secular value. So is the freedom not to be subjected to the religious views of others. The appointment of Kavanaugh is a win for the evangelical Christian right, a minority of the US electorate, who hope he will push back the clock on hard won rights. But, however flawed, at least his appointment was subject to media scrutiny and debate and a democratic vote.

Paul Kaufman, Chair East London Humanists

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