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Posted by on Dec 10, 2009 in "Gagging" Christians, secular society | 0 comments

The “Gagging Christians” Xmas competition

We are often told that “secularists” want to prevent religious point of view being expressed in the public sphere, or religious arguments being used in public debate. I recently commented on Jonathan Chaplin’s claim that:

Many secular humanists argue as if faith-based ideas should play no role in democratic discourse

What secularists do want is a level-playing field, so that religious points of view are not given a privileged role by the state and/or public institutions.

So secularists are typically against, for example, the state insisting every state-funded school should have an act of collective worship “of a broadly Christian nature”, automatic allocation of 26 seats in the House of Lords to those of a particular faith, state funding for religious schools (that discriminate against pupils and employees based on faith), but not, say humanist schools. Yet all these privileges currently exist.

They also object to, e.g. state protection of the right to wear religious symbols at work, when other symbols, such as those indicating political party allegiance, are banned, and e.g. making religious people or organizations exempt from equal opportunities legislation regarding homosexuals. Yet this special status is regularly argued for.

The vast majority of secularists simply want a religiously neutral state. They want the state to protect equally the right of individuals to express religious and non-religious points of view, etc.

The main dispute re “secularism” is, in reality, between secularists wanting a level playing field (with no privilege for religious or atheist points of view), and some religious folk (by no means all) wanting to maintain, and indeed add to, existing privileges for religious points of view.

Nevertheless, some Christians (as I say, not all: I am not making a general anti-religious point here) see themselves as being “persecuted” and “under attack” by the forces of secularism, because secularists make these points. Indeed, some claim (and others at least leave themselves open to be interpreted as claiming that) many secularists think Christians should be “gagged” and Christian points of view entirely removed from public debate.

This, it seems to me, is simply paranoia (and indeed the erecting of a “straw man“). Even some Christians think it’s paranoia. If you think it is not paranoia, can you identify, say, even just five self-identified secularist pundits, etc. in the UK who hold and have clearly and unambiguously expressed the view that religious people should not be allowed to express their religious views in public debate?

Maybe they exist. But I can’t think of any. Be interested to find some examples. Prove me wrong.

The prize is a signed copy of Really, Really Big Questions (by myself). Please bring this competition to the attention of your anti-secular friends and colleagues.

: Three examples of public figures claiming Christian views are threatened with, or are, being silenced in public debate:

Jonathan Chaplin (again): Many secular humanists argue as if faith-based ideas should play no role in democratic discourse.”

Rev George Hargreaves: “A hostile non-Christian liberal elite now dominates all the main political parties and want to destroy what is left of our Christian culture and legacy. They pay lip service to wanting churches to take an active role in community life, and yet, as soon as any Christian says publicly what motivates and focuses their service to others, they are gagged for fear of offending someone.” Source.

Roger Trigg: …There is no hiding from the fact that some of the deepest disagreements , such as those about abortion and euthanasia, can be traced back to religious differences, and the question remains whether they can be mentioned in a debate”. (p36 Religion and Public life)

Also, Don Scott’s comment on the preceding post on this topic:

“Yes, at the moment it is not illegal to be Christian and politically outspoken but you will denounced as a “fascist” or a “theocrat” for doing so and forced out of public debate.”

Some other assorted “Christians gagged” claims:

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