I am, naturally, limited in what I can say on the matter for professional reasons. What little I do say must not be taken in any way as an official statement of my employer. I noted late this evening David Palmer’s Op Ed piece in today’s edition of The Age about Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act.
What I found very interesting was the amendment to the British anti-vilification Act which reads:
“Nothing in this (Act) shall be read or given effect in a way which prohibits or restricts discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religious or the beliefs or practices of their adherents, or of any belief system or the beliefs or practices of its adherents, or proselytising or urging adherents of a different religion or belief system to cease practising their religion or belief system.”
Well. That about wraps it up for any effect the Act (which I believe has been passed) might have to stem the rising tide of religious sectarianism in Britain. One can understand the need to have the freedom to discuss, criticise or express antipathy and dislike for particular religions or the beliefs or religious practices of their adherents, but to defend “ridicule, insult and abuse”? Is that civilised? Is that what the Catholic Church means when she defends the freedom of religion and everyone’s right to follow their own conscience in matters of belief? I suspect not.
Maybe we need to remind ourselves that this was the country in which King Henry martyred Fisher and More, Queen Mary burned Cranmar and hundred of other Protestants, in which Queen Elizabeth and King James hanged, drew and quartered Catholic priests by the score, in which the Puritans beheaded Catholic King Charles I, and Catholic King James II run out of the country, and in which Catholics are still legally disbarred from being either Prime Minister or Monarch.
I don’t think this is a country which has much of a right to try to teach the rest of the world what religious freedom means.