Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Burden sisters’ unjust tax burden

Meet Joyce and Sybil Burden, aged 90 and 82 respectively. They have just lost their final battle in the European Court of Human Rights to avoid paying inheritance tax when one of them dies.

Their case is summed up by Joyce Burden herself, who said: “If we were lesbians we would have all the rights in the world. But we are sisters, and it seems we have no rights at all.”

This is the appallingly unjust state of affairs we have in the United Kingdom. An elderly couple of siblings (the gender make-up is immaterial) who have lived together in Wiltshire all their lives have fewer rights than cohabiting homosexuals in a civil partnership. For these sisters, it means that when one of them dies the other will have to sell their £875,000 four-bedroom property in Marlborough in order to pay an inheritance tax bill of around £56,000.

Yet the European Court affirmed that the tax rights enjoyed by gay couples do not apply to cohabiting siblings, and they therefore have not suffered unfair discrimination. And this was a decisive judgement with a 15-2 majority. The judgement said: ‘The absence of such a legally-binding agreement between the applicants (the Burdens) rendered their relationship of cohabitation, despite its long duration, fundamentally different to that of a married or civil partnership couple."

Of course it is fundamentally different, but so is marriage from civil partnership, which the ECHR now conveniently lumps together.

It is curious indeed that the state now recognises a cohabiting same-sex couple in a loving (eros) relationship, but not a same-sex cohabiting couple in a loving (storge) relationship. And so erotic love trumps familial love, and the unconditional (agape) love of God is tested further still.

Well, Cranmer has an idea…

Since there is nothing in law which states that a same-sex civil partnership must involve genital activity - with the evident sheer impossibility of the state ever proving that such a union has ever been consummated - Cranmer exhorts these sisters to register their partnership through the usual channels, and see what the state does when two sisters apply for a civil partnership as ‘non-conjugal’ lesbians.

The publicity of their plight would be global, and Cranmer is 99.9% certain that the Conservative Party would step in and vow to end such injustices, and pledge itself to introduce an amendment to the Civil Partnership Bill which would recognise cohabiting brothers, sisters, or parents with grown-up children who care for them. Such a clause was originally moved by Edward Leigh MP in 2004, upon which the Conservative Party was split (on a free vote) by 63-34 and 43-39 at Third Reading.

A bit of whipping for such a popular cause would do Mr Cameron the world of good.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

USA is among most ‘Bible-literate’ nations

From VATICAN CITY via Reuters, it is reported that the United States of America is among the world's most 'Bible-literate' nations. While this comes as no real surprise to Cranmer, the report records the Spaniards, French and Italians as being ‘among the most ignorant about what the "good book" says’:

A poll carried out in nine countries - the United States, Britain, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Russia, Italy, Spain and Poland - also showed Americans were most willing to donate money to spread the message of the Bible.

The poll for the Catholic Biblical Federation interviewed Christians and non-Christians ahead of a synod of Roman Catholic Bishops on the Bible due to be held at the Vatican in October.

Most respondents in the poll, which was presented at the Vatican, were Christian. Except for in the United States, Britain and Russia, most of the Christians respondents were Catholic.

Asked if they had read a phrase from the Bible in the past 12 months, 75 percents of American respondents said yes, while between 20 percent and 38 percent of respondents in the other eight countries said yes.

The lowest were Spain with 20 percent, France with 21 percent, Italy with 27 percent, and Germany with 28 percent.

Results were similar when respondents were asked if they had read a book with a religious theme in the past 12 months. Fifty-eight percent of Americans said yes. Poland was second with 50 percent and the other countries came in between 22 and 35 percent.

The poll, taken by the GFK-Eurisko research group, showed Americans prayed the most (87 percent) and the French the least (49 percent).

Americans, Britons, Dutch, Germans, Spaniards, Poles and Russian tended to pray "with my own words" whereas Italians and French tended to recite prayers they had memorized.

Germany and the Netherlands had the highest percentage of respondents who said they believed the Bible was not divinely inspired but just "an ancient book made up of legends, historical facts and teachings written by man".

The majority of respondents in all countries believed it was either the direct word of God or inspired by God.

Americans were the largest group who said they had a Bible at home (93 percent) and the French were the lowest (48 percent).

The French were the most opposed to teaching the Bible in schools whereas the Americans were split about evenly.

Poland had the highest percentage of those who said they attended religious services regularly (91 percent), followed by the United States with 77 percent and Russia with 75 percent.

Cranmer need not patronise his readers and communicants with religious insights, denominational observations, or perceptions of nations, but shall leave them to draw their own conclusions. He shall, however, just mention that the vast majority of people in the UK cannot name even five of the Ten Commandments, do not know the birthplace of Jesus, and have almost no understanding of the Christian foundations of their own system of government.

At her coronation Her Majesty recognised the authority and supremacy of Holy
Scripture: ‘This is the most valuable thing this world affords. Here is wisdom. This is the royal law. These are the lively oracles of God.’ She promised to ‘maintain to the utmost of her power the Laws of God, the true profession of the Gospel and the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law.’

But then she never reckoned with the death of education, uncontrolled and uncontrollable mass immigration, or being a vassal state of a secular and godless European Union.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Chief Rabbi: ‘We are living through the death of civility’

Cranmer meant to comment on this Telegraph article by the Chief Rabbi some time ago, but never quite found the time. It is reproduced here verbatim for the edification of those readers and communicants who missed it, for it has much wisdom and insight:

There's a crisis on our streets, especially in London, and it has nothing to do with the cost of housing. As the blame game is played out between ministers and bankers over why mortgages are suddenly much more expensive, the price of life in parts of Britain's inner cities has hit rock bottom.

Forget, for a moment, that the property market is dying, and look instead at the number of murders through unprovoked attacks by amoral teenagers demanding a perverse "respect". While we obsess about a rise in payments to the building society, the society we have built is falling apart.

In two court cases at the Old Bailey this week, details emerged of killings perpetrated by gangs of youths, some as young as 14, operating like hyenas. They hunted in packs and slaughtered their prey.

In February last year, in an affluent area of west London, a group of feral monsters set about 16-year-old Kodja Yenga with knives, hammers and baseball bats. The boy, a regular churchgoer, who was studying for AS levels, died in hospital, having been beaten and stabbed by five members of the MDP gang - Murder Dem Pussies.

Two months later, on Good Friday, a few miles across the capital in Leytonstone, 14-year-old Paul Erhahon was walking home when he bumped into the Cathall Street Bois gang, described in court as a "cult obsessed with violence". One of the older boys, aged 15, ordered the "youngers" to attack Erhahon. He was stabbed through the heart with a sword.

In both instances, the victims were assailed by a rampaging mob, howling for blood. The culprits appeared to have no fear of being identified. The Cathall thugs even boasted about their criminal exploits on YouTube. Brazen? Stupid? Evil? Take your pick.

Yenga's tormentors chased him along a street, shouting "Catch him! Kill him!" It was eerily redolent of Lord of the Flies, as if a scene from William Golding's sinister masterpiece had been transported to W6.

In the novel, a group of schoolboys, stranded on an island, descend into savagery. They whip themselves into a frenzy, chanting, "Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!" Then they rip to pieces one of their own, Simon.

The theme, Golding wrote, is about "the darkness of man's heart". His plot has become a tale of our times. From the fiction of 1954, to the facts of 2008.

Crimes of serious violence are rising in Britain. This is not the creation of a fevered press, anxious to produce eye-catching headlines, as some ministers claim.

The Government can spin the numbers hither and thither, but the brutal reality is that knife and gun attacks are becoming an everyday occurrence. Of the 200,000 violent offences in London last year, 3,459 involved firearms.

Statistics issued by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College London show that street robberies in which a knife was used jumped sharply between 2004 and 2007. Deaths linked to knife crime rose by 18 per cent last year, from 219 to 258. The victims are more likely to be young people, those living in poor areas and ethnic communities.

Enver Solomon, the centre's deputy director, said: "The average age of male homicide victims in the Metropolitan Police area is definitely declining."

A BBC London poll of 500 youths, aged 13 to 18, across five boroughs, Brent, Croydon, Hackney, Lambeth and Southwark, revealed that one third knew someone who had been the victim of a knife assault and 17 per cent knew a victim of gun crime. Three-quarters of those questioned expected violent crime to go up again this year.

From the curse of coarse behaviour and the blight of litter to casual violence and extreme physical abuse, there is a pervasive nastiness rotting away at this country's foundations. Some urban areas feel wholly dysfunctional.

Apologists are quick to blame deprivation. If only it were that simple. Quite a few of England's worst football hooligans are earning fortunes in the City. Their poverty is not financial; it's a complete absence of worthwhile values - a collapse of decency.

Britain's Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, sums up the anxieties of many: "We are living through the death of civility … Today, it is commonplace to encounter road rage, muggings, street crime, drunkenness, lager louts, hoodies, yobbishness and laddishness. Teachers are attacked in the classroom. Nurses encounter violence from patients."

The death of civility? I'm afraid so. The liberal revolution of the Sixties, which separated morality from law, is leading us, says Sacks, to "a new form of barbarism". The view that "it's legal, so I can do it" is destroying the fabric of social harmony. Manners are disappearing, along with courtesy and shame.

The story of Shannon Matthews' abduction tells us much about the state we are in. Mercifully, the girl was rescued and taken into care. But the details of her mother's breeding with a multiplicity of partners defies rational analysis.

Karen Matthews has seven children from five fathers, an extreme example of what author Tony Parsons called "the blended family", a toxic mixture for many of the unfortunate offspring who are trapped in the middle.

The breakdown of the traditional family was likened last Saturday by a High Court judge, Mr Justice Coleridge, to an out-of-control cancerous body, posing more of a threat to our futures than global warming.

The family courts, he said, are witnessing "a never-ending carnival of human misery". So, too, are hospitals and clinics, as the number of abortions in Britain continues to rise.

When young hoodlums are prepared to hack someone to death in broad daylight, I suppose we should not be surprised that their teenage girlfriends switch off unborn life without remorse. I spoke to a leading female academic who said "more education" was needed to ease the problem. She was, I'm afraid, making excuses for many who are comfortable with abortion as a form of contraception.

About 200,000 terminations take place in England and Wales every year. The numbers have been rising steadily for a long time. Are we saying that the availability of information about safe sex and reproduction is diminishing? Hardly. What's missing is a code of ethics.

While Court of Appeal judges fret over the human rights of terrorist suspects, blocking their extradition in case they don't get a fair trial, British law is happy to approve the extermination of unwanted foetuses at 24 weeks.

The state protects Abu Qatada, but not semi-formed babies. Their lives are no longer precious, not even cheap. They are deemed to be worthless.

When our legal system loses its moral compass, it is only to be expected that on the mean streets of Britain many impressionable children will do the same.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cardinal Keith O’Brien on human/animal hybrids

Amen and amen.

Cranmer can hardly wait for the Arcbishop of York and the Bishop of Rochester to engage with this medium: YouTube is an excellent pulpit for reaching a generation inflicted with Attention Deficit Disorder.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Standards in Education

Cranmer has been sent this 'incontrovertible evidence of the concerning decline in standards in education':

1. Teaching Maths In 1970:

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for £100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?

2. Teaching Maths In 1980:

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for £100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or £80. What is his profit?

3. Teaching Maths In 1990:

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for £100. His cost of production is £80. Did he make a profit?

4. Teaching Maths In 2000:

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for £100. His cost of production is £80 and his profit is £20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

5. Teaching Maths In 2008:

A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of £20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no wrong answers. )

6. Teaching Maths 2018:

أ المسجل تبيع حموله شاحنة من الخشب من اجل 100 دولار. صاحب تكلفة الانتاج من الثمن. ما هو الربح ل

Friday, April 25, 2008

Muslim call to replace GMT with ‘Mecca time’

Cranmer can scarcely believe the veracity of this demand, but it is reported by the BBC - which is ever respectful and sensitive towards all things Islamic - so it must be true.

It transpires that ‘Muslim scientists and clerics’ are demanding that the UK adopt ‘Mecca time’ because ‘the Saudi city is the true centre of the Earth’.

The clerics can freely fabricate whatever beliefs they wish on the matter, as they do on so much else, and Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawy does precisely that when he asserts that ‘modern science has at last provided evidence that Mecca is the true centre of the Earth; proof of the greatness of the Muslim "qibla".’

But quite how these eminent scientists have deduced that Mecca is the ‘true centre of the Earth’ is something of a mystery.

However, they organised a conference and called it ‘Mecca, the Centre of the Earth, Theory and Practice’, so it must be so, in theory and practice. There is an assertion that scientific truths were revealed in the Qur’an, and it is simply the work of clerics to unearth and publicise the textual evidence. According to a Muslim geologist, ‘unlike other longitudes, Mecca's is in perfect alignment to magnetic north’.

Mind-blowing stuff, eh?

And then we hear that ‘the English imposed GMT on the rest of the world by force when Britain was a big colonial power’, and it is ‘about time that changed’.

So, why not change it to Mecca time as a symbol of the Islamist agenda to wage jihad until the whole world is taken by force? And who then will be righteously justified in challenging the existence of ‘Mecca time'?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Islamic conference: ‘Capitalism has failed to address major issues’

A site by the name of AnglicanThought (which some might consider a little oxymoronic) observes that ‘the American economy is based on this so-called “capitalistic” framework, but much of the Christian ministry - especially within Evangelicalism - is built on this same framework.’ It then decries this economic model because of its ‘tendency and motive to capitalize on the overall desires and weaknesses of the people’, which it judges to be at odds with the Christian ethic of kenotic love. And after a thoroughly detailed academic enquiry with in-depth analysis and appeals to prominent scholars (not), it concludes that ‘Western economics and ministry is simply out of control’.

And the writer’s solution to ‘secular capitalism’ is… well, he does not have one, or at least, as he says, ‘not one that would be understood by most Christians’. It is encouraging indeed to hear that there are prophets in Phoenix Arizona to whom the Lord is imparting economic models which only a chosen few may comprehend. Though the author does concede: ‘The “biblical” model of Christian economy is not found in one particular frame of history, but likely, a combination of historical frames, coupled with a combination of historical theologies’.

Now isn’t that just so very helpful? Why do these people purport to write about things they so manifestly know nothing about? Has he read Weber? Has he considered the Protestant origins of ‘Western capitalism’? Has he ever studied such developments as corporatism, social doctrine, or interventionist statism? Has the Lord imparted to him the precise formula of co-operation between employers and workers, with the state overseeing wages, working conditions, production, prices and exchange?

AnglicanThought might as well link to its sister site Muslim News, for they have come to the same conclusion about capitalism. A three-day international conference on Islamic economics hosted by King Abdulaziz University has called for the ‘rebuilding of Islamic economics on the basis of moral values rooted in spirituality’, which is ‘essential for making sacrifices for noble goals, disregarding vested interests’.

The assertion is that capitalism has failed to address major international economic issues including poverty, inflation and unemployment, so it is now time to ‘present Islamic economics to the world as the best solution to its problems in a convincing manner’. It also called on Islamic banks and financial institutions to fund such research projects, especially on topics relating to boosting economic development and fighting poverty and unemployment. Dr Abdul Raheem Saati said: “We believe that Islamic teachings, if applied properly, can fight poverty and thus we can contribute to fighting world poverty.”

Abdul Wadood Khan from Pakistan called for ‘a concrete plan to replace interest-based banks with Islamic banks’.

This sounds wonderful, and will be of great comfort to AnglicanThought. Eliminate competition, fix prices, limit ownership, intervene in industry before breakfast, lunch and dinner, control the market, and create a new social order of justice and fairness with God’s Bank at the centre of it all.

Or has this already been attempted?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

St George’s Day – cancelled

When the Bishop of Rochester said that parts of the UK were becoming ‘no-go areas’ for non-Muslims, he was ridiculed by his fellow church leaders and pilloried by politicians. But events in Bradford, at least, seem to prove his point, for there the parade intended to celebrate England’s national day has been cancelled for ‘health and safety’ reasons, along with the disproportionate ‘cost of policing’.

And before His Grace is accused of inaccurate reporting or ‘pandering to the BNP’, he is perfectly happy to report that in fact the celebrations have been postponed until July 1st, and so not actually cancelled. But in his humble opinion, postponing a St George’s Day parade to another day which is not St George’s day amounts to a cancellation. One might as well stagger New Year celebrations to make policing easier, or insisting that parts of the UK celebrate it in June. And while we’re at it, why not roll Christmas and Easter into one and put it in October when nothing else is going on? That should make it a lot more safe and healthy, and far more convenient for the police.

Of course, such a cancellation/postponement of something as prominent as a national day plays straight into the hands of the BNP, but the police and the local council are far too short-sighted to consider this. They have their eyes on the here and now, irrespective of what may be being stored up for the future.

This parade was intended to be a multi-ethnic St George's Day event, and hundreds of schoolchildren have spent many months preparing for it. And it must be noted, as was the case with Guy Fawkes’ night, that it is once again English culture and tradition which is being sidelined.

Cranmer is still waiting to hear of the cancellation of Eid or Diwali celebrations, purely on ‘health and safety’ grounds, you understand.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Lords vote for free speech on 'gay hatred' law

The House of Lords has voted on a free speech amendment to the proposed 'homophobic hatred' law, and Peers voted affirmatively by 81 votes to 57. This was a cross-party amendment which has been tabled by Lord Waddington and supported by the Bishop of Winchester.

This was not a pro-gay, anti-gay issue, but simply one of the right to freedom of speech. The amendment says: ‘In this Part, for the avoidance of doubt, the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred.’

This would seem to be a perfectly measured and utterly reasonable amending clause, and one that is imperative for the orthodoxy of a number of faiths.

Although there are other protections in the proposed law which are similar to the protections in the religious hatred law, there is no free speech clause. Lord Waddington’s amendment is an important clause for the protection for religious liberty. The similar law on religious hatred has a free speech protection. If the 'homophobic hatred' law did not have one, it would be a bizarre inconsistency.

The amendment must, of course, be approved by the Commons, where the Government may try to overturn it…

Brigitte Bardot: 'France invaded by sheep-slaughtering Muslims'

And for saying this, the 73-year-old Ms Bardot, who was evidently quite beautiful in her day, is being prosecuted for ‘inciting racial hatred’, even though Islam is not a race. But such a minor technicality appears to present no hindrance to the zealous prosecutors of Paris. Under the Napoleonic system, there is an uneasy fusion of the judiciary with the legislature which is rapidly developing into an EU-wide ‘corpus juris’.

Ms Bardot, who is not now quite so beautiful, has already been given a two-month suspended prison sentence and a fine of 15,000 euros for saying the Muslim community was ‘destroying our country and imposing its acts’. She has been a prominent advocate of animal rights, and understandably therefore finds Eid al-Adha more than a little distasteful since so many sheep are slaughtered to commemorate Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael, which is even more of a waste when one considers that they are commemorating an event which never took place.

But France is home to 5 million Muslims, Europe's largest Muslim community, making up 8 per cent of France's population. Mr Bardot is Roman Catholic and slightly objects to this. Prosecutor Anne de Fontette told the court she was seeking a tougher sentence than usual, adding, "I am a little tired of prosecuting Mrs. Bardot."

Ms Fontette is, of course, under no compulsion to prosecute Ms Bardot at all, but she is evidently of a masochistic persuasion and has no understanding of genetics. It is difficult to see how the holding of any of Ms Bardot’s opinions constitutes a crime, or why her attorneys have not demanded to know what ‘race’ has been slurred.

But there is a certain demographic development in France which is resulting in a degree of Shari’a-creep, and the authorities would rather not have national icons like Ms Bardot drawing attention to the fact. French prosecutors and judges are therefore determining the guilt of those who do not accord with l’état, and acknowledging Shari’a principles in the process. It must also be observed that it is the French courts which are also now defining what constitutes a race.

The fanatical Islamists who insist on using bombs and bullets ought to observe this process, for violent jihad is evidently no longer necessary: the courts are delivering what is demanded, and they simply ought to be patient.

But Cranmer thinks that Ms Bardot should counter-sue for harassment, or take her case to the European Court of Human Rights. His Grace would be more than happy to begin a fund to help defray the costs.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Lisbon Treaty introduces EU-wide death penalty

Helga Zepp-LaRouche is no-one that Cranmer has ever heard of, but she is chair(wo)man of the German political party Civil Rights Solidarity Movement (BüSo). She spoke recently on the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, and drew attention by analysis by one Professor Schachtschneider, who is also not someone with whom Cranmer is acquainted.

However, it appears that the Treaty of Lisbon reintroduces the death penalty in Europe, which Helga Zepp-LaRouche thinks is ‘very important’ (just a bit), ‘in light of the fact that Italy was trying to abandon the death penalty through the United Nations, forever. And this is not in the treaty, but in a footnote, because with the European Union reform treaty, we accept also the European Union Charter, which says that there is no death penalty, and then it has a footnote, which says, "except in the case of war, riots, upheaval"—then the death penalty is possible. Schachtschneider points to the fact that this is an outrage, because they put it in a footnote of a footnote, and you have to read it, like really like a super-expert to find out!

Cranmer has not bothered to check this footnote to a footnote, not least because, although he has never heard of Helga Zepp-LaRouche or Professor Schachtschneider, he is inclined to trust them impeccably against the scheming and manipulating liars in Brussels.

Let us not forget that the Union is acquiring the legal authority to ‘provide itself with the means necessary to attain its objectives and carry through its policies’, which means raising its ‘own resources’ to finance them, which may be regarded as conferring on it revenue-raising powers, which will eventually be subject to QMV instead of unanimity. But it may also be the authority to crush any opposition, especially that which does not accord with its ‘objectives’.

The European Union not only possesses such symbols of statehood as its own flag, anthem, motto and annual official holiday. It now has its own government, with a legislature, executive and judiciary, its own President, its own citizens and citizenship, its own human and civil rights code, its own currency, economic policy and revenue, its own international treaty-making powers, foreign policy, foreign minister, diplomatic corps and United Nations voice, its own crime and justice code and Public Prosecutor.

And the citizens of the Union now owe allegiance to that Union, and to its aims and ‘objectives’, even though no-one in the UK has any idea what these objectives may be.

Buy Cranmer thinks it noteworthy that the death penalty is reintroduced for political offences, even as vague and undefined as ‘unrest’, but not for serial killers, rapists, paedophiles or child murderers.

One wonders why…

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ - 40 years on

Today is the 40th anniversary of what has become, rightly or wrongly, one of the most famous speeches ever made by a politician in British history. It has been misquoted, misrepresented, parodied, paraphrased and condemned to the extent that very few now ever bother to read it either in its entirety or consider it in context. They are content, instead, to somehow 'feel' what it was about, and more often than not that indirect sensing is filtered through so many lenses that it bears little resemblance to the message of the original.

Cranmer would like today to reproduce Mr Powell’s entire speech, simply in order that his readers and communicants may make up their own mind:

The supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils. In seeking to do so, it encounters obstacles which are deeply rooted in human nature.

One is that by the very order of things such evils are not demonstrable until they have occurred: at each stage in their onset there is room for doubt and for dispute whether they be real or imaginary. By the same token, they attract little attention in comparison with current troubles, which are both indisputable and pressing: whence the besetting temptation of all politics to concern itself with the immediate present at the expense of the future.

Above all, people are disposed to mistake predicting troubles for causing troubles and even for desiring troubles: "If only," they love to think, "if only people wouldn't talk about it, it probably wouldn't happen."

Perhaps this habit goes back to the primitive belief that the word and the thing, the name and the object, are identical.

At all events, the discussion of future grave but, with effort now, avoidable evils is the most unpopular and at the same time the most necessary occupation for the politician. Those who knowingly shirk it deserve, and not infrequently receive, the curses of those who come after.

A week or two ago I fell into conversation with a constituent, a middle-aged, quite ordinary working man employed in one of our nationalised industries.

After a sentence or two about the weather, he suddenly said: "If I had the money to go, I wouldn't stay in this country." I made some deprecatory reply to the effect that even this government wouldn't last for ever; but he took no notice, and continued: "I have three children, all of them been through grammar school and two of them married now, with family. I shan't be satisfied till I have seen them all settled overseas. In this country in 15 or 20 years' time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man."

I can already hear the chorus of execration. How dare I say such a horrible thing? How dare I stir up trouble and inflame feelings by repeating such a conversation?

The answer is that I do not have the right not to do so. Here is a decent, ordinary fellow Englishman, who in broad daylight in my own town says to me, his Member of Parliament, that his country will not be worth living in for his children.

I simply do not have the right to shrug my shoulders and think about something else. What he is saying, thousands and hundreds of thousands are saying and thinking - not throughout Great Britain, perhaps, but in the areas that are already undergoing the total transformation to which there is no parallel in a thousand years of English history.

In 15 or 20 years, on present trends, there will be in this country three and a half million Commonwealth immigrants and their descendants. That is not my figure. That is the official figure given to parliament by the spokesman of the Registrar General's Office.

There is no comparable official figure for the year 2000, but it must be in the region of five to seven million, approximately one-tenth of the whole population, and approaching that of Greater London. Of course, it will not be evenly distributed from Margate to Aberystwyth and from Penzance to Aberdeen. Whole areas, towns and parts of towns across England will be occupied by sections of the immigrant and immigrant-descended population.

As time goes on, the proportion of this total who are immigrant descendants, those born in England, who arrived here by exactly the same route as the rest of us, will rapidly increase. Already by 1985 the native-born would constitute the majority. It is this fact which creates the extreme urgency of action now, of just that kind of action which is hardest for politicians to take, action where the difficulties lie in the present but the evils to be prevented or minimised lie several parliaments ahead.

The natural and rational first question with a nation confronted by such a prospect is to ask: "How can its dimensions be reduced?" Granted it be not wholly preventable, can it be limited, bearing in mind that numbers are of the essence: the significance and consequences of an alien element introduced into a country or population are profoundly different according to whether that element is 1 per cent or 10 per cent.

The answers to the simple and rational question are equally simple and rational: by stopping, or virtually stopping, further inflow, and by promoting the maximum outflow. Both answers are part of the official policy of the Conservative Party.

It almost passes belief that at this moment 20 or 30 additional immigrant children are arriving from overseas in Wolverhampton alone every week - and that means 15 or 20 additional families a decade or two hence. Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to be permitting the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependants, who are for the most part the material of the future growth of the immigrant-descended population. It is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre. So insane are we that we actually permit unmarried persons to immigrate for the purpose of founding a family with spouses and fiancés whom they have never seen.

Let no one suppose that the flow of dependants will automatically tail off. On the contrary, even at the present admission rate of only 5,000 a year by voucher, there is sufficient for a further 25,000 dependants per annum ad infinitum, without taking into account the huge reservoir of existing relations in this country - and I am making no allowance at all for fraudulent entry. In these circumstances nothing will suffice but that the total inflow for settlement should be reduced at once to negligible proportions, and that the necessary legislative and administrative measures be taken without delay.

I stress the words "for settlement." This has nothing to do with the entry of Commonwealth citizens, any more than of aliens, into this country, for the purposes of study or of improving their qualifications, like (for instance) the Commonwealth doctors who, to the advantage of their own countries, have enabled our hospital service to be expanded faster than would otherwise have been possible. They are not, and never have been, immigrants.

I turn to re-emigration. If all immigration ended tomorrow, the rate of growth of the immigrant and immigrant-descended population would be substantially reduced, but the prospective size of this element in the population would still leave the basic character of the national danger unaffected. This can only be tackled while a considerable proportion of the total still comprises persons who entered this country during the last ten years or so.

Hence the urgency of implementing now the second element of the Conservative Party's policy: the encouragement of re-emigration.

Nobody can make an estimate of the numbers which, with generous assistance, would choose either to return to their countries of origin or to go to other countries anxious to receive the manpower and the skills they represent.

Nobody knows, because no such policy has yet been attempted. I can only say that, even at present, immigrants in my own constituency from time to time come to me, asking if I can find them assistance to return home. If such a policy were adopted and pursued with the determination which the gravity of the alternative justifies, the resultant outflow could appreciably alter the prospects.

The third element of the Conservative Party's policy is that all who are in this country as citizens should be equal before the law and that there shall be no discrimination or difference made between them by public authority. As Mr Heath has put it we will have no "first-class citizens" and "second-class citizens." This does not mean that the immigrant and his descendent should be elevated into a privileged or special class or that the citizen should be denied his right to discriminate in the management of his own affairs between one fellow-citizen and another or that he should be subjected to imposition as to his reasons and motive for behaving in one lawful manner rather than another.

There could be no grosser misconception of the realities than is entertained by those who vociferously demand legislation as they call it "against discrimination", whether they be leader-writers of the same kidney and sometimes on the same newspapers which year after year in the 1930s tried to blind this country to the rising peril which confronted it, or archbishops who live in palaces, faring delicately with the bedclothes pulled right up over their heads. They have got it exactly and diametrically wrong.

The discrimination and the deprivation, the sense of alarm and of resentment, lies not with the immigrant population but with those among whom they have come and are still coming.

This is why to enact legislation of the kind before parliament at this moment is to risk throwing a match on to gunpowder. The kindest thing that can be said about those who propose and support it is that they know not what they do.

Nothing is more misleading than comparison between the Commonwealth immigrant in Britain and the American Negro. The Negro population of the United States, which was already in existence before the United States became a nation, started literally as slaves and were later given the franchise and other rights of citizenship, to the exercise of which they have only gradually and still incompletely come. The Commonwealth immigrant came to Britain as a full citizen, to a country which knew no discrimination between one citizen and another, and he entered instantly into the possession of the rights of every citizen, from the vote to free treatment under the National Health Service.

Whatever drawbacks attended the immigrants arose not from the law or from public policy or from administration, but from those personal circumstances and accidents which cause, and always will cause, the fortunes and experience of one man to be different from another's.

But while, to the immigrant, entry to this country was admission to privileges and opportunities eagerly sought, the impact upon the existing population was very different. For reasons which they could not comprehend, and in pursuance of a decision by default, on which they were never consulted, they found themselves made strangers in their own country.

They found their wives unable to obtain hospital beds in childbirth, their children unable to obtain school places, their homes and neighbourhoods changed beyond recognition, their plans and prospects for the future defeated; at work they found that employers hesitated to apply to the immigrant worker the standards of discipline and competence required of the native-born worker; they began to hear, as time went by, more and more voices which told them that they were now the unwanted. They now learn that a one-way privilege is to be established by act of parliament; a law which cannot, and is not intended to, operate to protect them or redress their grievances is to be enacted to give the stranger, the disgruntled and the agent-provocateur the power to pillory them for their private actions.

In the hundreds upon hundreds of letters I received when I last spoke on this subject two or three months ago, there was one striking feature which was largely new and which I find ominous. All Members of Parliament are used to the typical anonymous correspondent; but what surprised and alarmed me was the high proportion of ordinary, decent, sensible people, writing a rational and often well-educated letter, who believed that they had to omit their address because it was dangerous to have committed themselves to paper to a Member of Parliament agreeing with the views I had expressed, and that they would risk penalties or reprisals if they were known to have done so. The sense of being a persecuted minority which is growing among ordinary English people in the areas of the country which are affected is something that those without direct experience can hardly imagine.

I am going to allow just one of those hundreds of people to speak for me:

“Eight years ago in a respectable street in Wolverhampton a house was sold to a Negro. Now only one white (a woman old-age pensioner) lives there. This is her story. She lost her husband and both her sons in the war. So she turned her seven-roomed house, her only asset, into a boarding house. She worked hard and did well, paid off her mortgage and began to put something by for her old age. Then the immigrants moved in. With growing fear, she saw one house after another taken over. The quiet street became a place of noise and confusion. Regretfully, her white tenants moved out.

“The day after the last one left, she was awakened at 7am by two Negroes who wanted to use her 'phone to contact their employer. When she refused, as she would have refused any stranger at such an hour, she was abused and feared she would have been attacked but for the chain on her door. Immigrant families have tried to rent rooms in her house, but she always refused. Her little store of money went, and after paying rates, she has less than £2 per week. “She went to apply for a rate reduction and was seen by a young girl, who on hearing she had a seven-roomed house, suggested she should let part of it. When she said the only people she could get were Negroes, the girl said, "Racial prejudice won't get you anywhere in this country." So she went home.

“The telephone is her lifeline. Her family pay the bill, and help her out as best they can. Immigrants have offered to buy her house - at a price which the prospective landlord would be able to recover from his tenants in weeks, or at most a few months. She is becoming afraid to go out. Windows are broken. She finds excreta pushed through her letter box. When she goes to the shops, she is followed by children, charming, wide-grinning piccaninnies. They cannot speak English, but one word they know. "Racialist," they chant. When the new Race Relations Bill is passed, this woman is convinced she will go to prison. And is she so wrong? I begin to wonder.”

The other dangerous delusion from which those who are wilfully or otherwise blind to realities suffer, is summed up in the word "integration." To be integrated into a population means to become for all practical purposes indistinguishable from its other members.

Now, at all times, where there are marked physical differences, especially of colour, integration is difficult though, over a period, not impossible. There are among the Commonwealth immigrants who have come to live here in the last fifteen years or so, many thousands whose wish and purpose is to be integrated and whose every thought and endeavour is bent in that direction.

But to imagine that such a thing enters the heads of a great and growing majority of immigrants and their descendants is a ludicrous misconception, and a dangerous one.
We are on the verge here of a change. Hitherto it has been force of circumstance and of background which has rendered the very idea of integration inaccessible to the greater part of the immigrant population - that they never conceived or intended such a thing, and that their numbers and physical concentration meant the pressures towards integration which normally bear upon any small minority did not operate.

Now we are seeing the growth of positive forces acting against integration, of vested interests in the preservation and sharpening of racial and religious differences, with a view to the exercise of actual domination, first over fellow-immigrants and then over the rest of the population. The cloud no bigger than a man's hand, that can so rapidly overcast the sky, has been visible recently in Wolverhampton and has shown signs of spreading quickly. The words I am about to use, verbatim as they appeared in the local press on 17 February, are not mine, but those of a Labour Member of Parliament who is a minister in the present government:

'The Sikh communities' campaign to maintain customs inappropriate in Britain is much to be regretted. Working in Britain, particularly in the public services, they should be prepared to accept the terms and conditions of their employment. To claim special communal rights (or should one say rites?) leads to a dangerous fragmentation within society. This communalism is a canker; whether practised by one colour or another it is to be strongly condemned.'

All credit to John Stonehouse for having had the insight to perceive that, and the courage to say it.

For these dangerous and divisive elements the legislation proposed in the Race Relations Bill is the very pabulum they need to flourish. Here is the means of showing that the immigrant communities can organise to consolidate their members, to agitate and campaign against their fellow citizens, and to overawe and dominate the rest with the legal weapons which the ignorant and the ill-informed have provided. As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see "the River Tiber foaming with much blood."

That tragic and intractable phenomenon which we watch with horror on the other side of the Atlantic but which there is interwoven with the history and existence of the States itself, is coming upon us here by our own volition and our own neglect. Indeed, it has all but come. In numerical terms, it will be of American proportions long before the end of the century.

Only resolute and urgent action will avert it even now. Whether there will be the public will to demand and obtain that action, I do not know. All I know is that to see, and not to speak, would be the great betrayal.

It is manifestly a speech from another era: its scholarship would be lost and its rhetoric would be wasted on most MPs these days, let alone on local political gatherings. It is far too virile and potent for today’s limp-wristed, nicey-nicey politics, and those who object to it simply because of the use of now un-PC words like ‘negro’ have no understanding of history, society, literature, culture or politics. What is considered ‘racist’ now was certainly not considered so in 1968, and the same phrases and allusions may be found throughout English literature.

Modern politicians are not only ignorant of Virgil, but they scarcely have acquaintance with Disraeli or Hardie, or with Bevin or Churchill, and they even bend over backwards to repudiate the achievements of Thatcher and Blair. There is so little understanding of history and the philosophical roots of their own political traditions that history is doomed to repeat itself. And one looks in vain for the eloquence and rhetoric that typifies a classical education.

The ‘immigration debate’ may still bubbling beneath the surface 40 years on - even if it is a 'cold war' - but the language has changed because the make-up of Britain has changed. It is too crude to state either that Enoch Powell was right or that he was wrong, not least because the goalposts have moved from uncontrolled immigration from the Commonwealth to uncontrolled immigration from the EU, ironically to the detriment of those who now wish to immigrate from the Commonwealth. And it is also too crude to sum the man up in a word like ‘racist’, for how many racists choose to live in India for years and love the land, and then are sufficiently concerned about inculturation to learn two local languages?

No, Enoch Powell was a classicist, and not only a classicist, but a philosopher. And Cranmer is mindful of Plato on this matter, who said that philosophers never make good politicians, for they really know what they are talking about, while the politicians merely think they do. The philosopher understands the problems and discerns the solutions; the politician understands little, and what he does understand is subject to the popular will of the demos, which ultimately ensures that very little can change.

Enoch Powell was educated, intelligent, and more than a little eccentric. He was clever, but he was not wise. Any wise politician would have foreseen the consequences of applying histrionic classical allusions to present societal tensions. And he lacked judgement - possibly most evidenced by his decision to return to Westminster as an Ulster Unionist, for one has to have been born into, lived and breathed the politics of Northern Ireland in order to understand and properly represent any side in that murky and muddled context.

One of Enoch Powell's greatest observations was that all political careers end in failure. And regretably, in that, he was quite right.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Passover and liberal democracy

This is the Jewish year 5768, and it is one of those slightly inconvenient years insofar as Pesach begins on a motzaei Shabbat – on a Saturday night after the end of the Sabbath - because many of the preparations normally undertaken on the day before Pesach cannot be performed on Shabbat. And many of those practices usually performed the day before (like the fast of the firstborn), are brought forward to Thursday.

Cranmer wishes all of his Jewish readers and communicants the richest of blessings. Kaddesh.

Rabbi Abraham Pinter writes in today’s Guardian on the Passover, and how the theme of liberty from oppression must continue be heeded in liberal democracies. He is the principal of Yesodey Hatorah senior girls' school in Stamford Hill, London, and links his theme to the freedom of faith-based education:

Tonight, Jews worldwide celebrate Passover, commemorating the redemption of the Jewish nation from its slavery in Egypt. More profound still than the freedom from physical bondage, this festival expresses religious freedom. The release from the Egyptian yoke took place over 3,000 years ago. But the concept of freedom and liberation of soul and spirit, the primary theme of Passover, possesses a timeless message. It is one which is relevant today in our modern democracies.

When Moses said "Let my people go", he was demanding that the Hebrews be allowed the birthright of every human being: to live free from oppression and worship by the dictates of their conscience. Today, freedom of education is perhaps the greatest indicator of whether a society genuinely embodies the ideologies that lie behind true liberty.

America is hailed as a bastion of democracy, and its principle of separation of church and state considered the ultimate endorsement of this ideal. In reality, though, this practice often creates the opposite of the equality it aims to achieve. Any child wishing to pursue an education that is conscience-based is excluded from attending a state-funded school, so only the wealthy have the opportunity to choose for their children.

The UK in this sense is a truer democracy: choice for all. The British government recognises that the freedom to educate children based on the religious faith of one's choosing should not be limited to the richest in our society. Historically, only Anglicans, Catholics and centrist orthodox Jews were also allowed schools. Only very recently, during the Blair administration, has a sincere attempt been made to welcome Charedi Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs into the family of voluntary aided schools.

Despite this wave of religious open-mindedness and inclusion, there continue to be powers within trying to undermine this philosophy. This has been expressed through attempts to dictate and dominate on issues such as admission; trying to push through legislation which would demand the acceptance of quotas, thus diluting the religious element in faith schools. Government intervention of this nature puts into jeopardy the fine balance between true democracy and freedom of choice in education.

Those in favour of mainstream education will quickly attribute their viewpoint on segregated religious education and the lack of integration that "inevitably" follows, often citing the July 7 bombings - despite the fact that none of the bombers went to a faith school.

The majority of religious people in this country embrace good citizenship and reinforce these values in their faith schools. Jews have historically supported integration. Jewish values complement those of the state, and history has shown that the different religious practices and lifestyles of the Charedi Jewish community in no way affects their loyalty to their country and participation in the social, economic and political scenes.

The rejection of society by a few extremists purporting to have an Islamist agenda is not a result of an overzealous identification with their religion. The suppression of overt expression of religion is more likely to breed extremism than prevent it. Graduates of our faith schools have gone on to take pivotal roles in society precisely because faith schools teach us the value of serving our communities and the wider world. Positive identity cultivates cohesion: feeling comfortable with who we are enables us to more easily encounter the other. The Soviets tried to suppress religion and diversity for 70 years, and ultimately the western powers won precisely because they defended liberty.

Passover is the celebration of freedom. Let us embrace freedom by accepting that every denomination has its own specific needs. Society's ability to encourage true freedom of religion for one and all will empower minorities, enabling them to respect their religion without compromising on their loyalty to their country.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Middle East Christians becoming ‘museum pieces’

While the Pope is busy doing his Broadway stint on the world stage, Cranmer is delighted to learn that the Archbishop of Canterbury has been filling the spiritual void in Westminster Cathedral left by Tony Blair and Mark Thompson, and has delivered a lecture on ‘The Spiritual and the Religious’.

All good stuff – a bit of Bono, a mention of secularism, a nod at politics, rationalism and transcendence, with a hint of free-market religion as a logical consequence of Protestantism, a reminder of the centrality of the Eucharist, a wave to Herr Ratzinger and his ‘ecclesial communities’, all built on the foundation of a repudiation of violence and the imperative of love.

But all of this will be quickly forgotten by all who attended, and completely overlooked by the media. While the former prime minister and the Director General of the BBC had the content of their lectures broadcast far and wide, the Archbishop of Canterbury will be largely ignored, not because his speech was incomprehensible or obscure, but because he is Anglican.

As if to prove Cranmer’s point, The Daily Telegraph mentions not a word of his lecture, but instead focuses on comments made before he gave his address, in which he spoke passionately of the plight of Christians in the Middle East.

And these were no fence-sitting, pussy-footing, beating-around-the-bush kind of comments either. Dr Williams noted that ‘Christians had traditionally played a leading role in social, cultural and intellectual change in the Middle East’, and that now they are increasingly seen as a ‘foreign and aggressive presence’ as a result of British and American foreign policy.

Cranmer will set aside Dr Williams’ perceived cause (though it is not, of course, unrelated), because the Archbishop forthrightly spoke of an extremist form of ‘unfriendly’ Islam which is ‘filling the void left after the peak of Arab nationalism’. There was now a risk that the Middle East could become religiously ‘monochrome’, dominated by this form of Islam, and this would render the region’s historic Christian communities nothing more than ‘museum pieces’.

Dr Williams continued: ‘The indigenous Christian community throughout the region has suffered from being associated with the American global project, and indeed the British global project as part of the American global project. There is an urgent need for people in the UK to wake up to the fact that Christians in the Middle East are living through a time of change more dramatic and more costly than anything that has been seen for a thousand years and more. There is a quiet but numerically huge exodus of Christians, especially but not exclusively educated Christians, from the whole region. The remaining Christian communities are left exposed to violence or extremism in many countries, and the societies they live in are deprived of some of their most creative and resourceful citizens.’

He added that Christian communities in the ancient heartlands of faith often ‘felt ignored or forgotten by their Western fellow Christians’.

Quite so, quite so.

And Christian communities in England often feel ignored or forgotten by their fellow English Church leaders.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Gwyneth Dunwoody (1930-2008)

Cranmer is profoundly saddened to learn of the death of one of the great characters of the House of Commons, Gwyneth Dunwoody MP.

There are some politicians who stand head and shoulders above the anonymous mass of mediocrity in Parliament, and she was one: a truly formidable politician, of impeccable integrity. Gwyneth Dunwoody was not only the longest-serving female Member of Parliament, but the very epitome of a conviction politician. She spoke as she saw it - often to the irritation of her Whips and to the delight of the Opposition - and she was greatly admired on both sides of the House where she spoke with an authority and aplomb which few politicians these days possess.

Cranmer's one regret is that she never became Speaker.

She will be greatly missed.

May she rest in peace.

The Bishop and the BNP

Cranmer rather likes the Bishop of Durham, notwithstanding his irrational aversion to Margaret Thatcher. He has written an open letter warning that people are in danger of ‘giving up hope’ on the main political parties, and that Britain faces the ‘unwelcome news’ of the BNP making potential inroads. The letter reads as follows:

Subject: Local elections and BNP from Bishop Tom

Dear Friends,

With local elections coming up, we face again the unwelcome news of the BNP making potential inroads in our region. Splendid work has been done to counter this by several clergy working with local community leaders, for instance in distributing the pamphlet, ‘Hope Not Hate’. I want to urge all of you to get involved in this effort in whatever local sphere you can.
However, we should also be aware that the reason the BNP can even gain a foothold in people’s affections is because many people in our region feel so disaffected after the last thirty years of national politics that they are in danger of giving up hope in our regular main parties. This isn’t anybody’s fault in particular. But when a party like the BNP seems to be gaining ground we should all ask the question: ‘Why is there a vacuum there that the other parties aren’t filling?’. What frustrations are there that the BNP are exploiting, and what are the wise ways of reacting to, or even meeting, those needs?

It is one thing to point out, as many have already done, the neo-Nazi tendencies of the BNP, and to warn with a shudder against our society even taking a small step in any such direction. It is another to say, How can we drain the swamp so that this kind of ideology won’t breed again?
None of us (in other words) can be complacent. Opposing the BNP isn’t simply a matter of saying ‘the status quo is working fine, so please reject these idiots’. It should be a matter of saying, ‘What does a healthy society look like and how can we make it clear to our whole population that we are working in the best ways towards that goal?’ Part of the calling of the churches, following Jesus in his work of bringing God’s kingdom, must be to help communities ask that question and to work with them towards finding robust and positive answers.

Warm greetings and good wishes,

Bishop Tom
The Bishop of Durham, Auckland Castle.

This is precisely the sort of thing that bishops ought to be doing. The Enlightenment division between religion and politics is an artificial construct, and anyone with any real understanding of political science and theology will understand that the two are fused.

And yet while Cranmer is admiring of the Bishop for his foray into politics, he is disappointed that his politics is awry.

For many living in his local area, they have experienced first-hand the impact of immigrant workers on their community, especially the uncontrolled hordes emigrating from Eastern Europe. Young people now find it hard to find work, and the sense of resentment is palpable. And HM Government is powerless to do anything about it, for the free movement of peoples is an inextricable right under the founding principles of the EU.

When these people hear Gordon Brown promise ‘British jobs for British workers’, their ears prick up and they wait in hope. And they wait, and wait, and wait. And then they hear that he cannot deliver on his pledge, and so they turn to a party that promises the same – the BNP. And they then hear that the BNP is no longer really racist, but just mildly nationalist, with pride in English culture and heritage. And they are really promising British jobs for British workers, and explaining how they intend to do it. And because these young people desperately want a job, they are tempted to vote for the BNP, as Bishop Tom observes, but he has no compassion for or understanding of the journey these young people have travelled to get to where they are. It is not that they are pro-BNP: it is simply that they want a job; they want to feel kinship with their neighbours; they want to live in safe communities and bring up their families; and they want the same for their children, and their children’s children.

The BNP may be nothing more than a bunch of racist thugs masquerading under a political banner, preying on the disenchanted, thriving on hatred and resentment. But it is indeed the chronic impotence and perceived irrelevance of the main political parties that is fuelling their rise. And history tells of one or two odious individuals who have been elected to office when the people decide that they have simply had enough of being deceived, manipulated, ignored and lied to.

And this, dear Bishop, is indeed someone’s fault in particular, and there is no sin in apportioning blame. Perhaps you might focus on this in your next epistle.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pope Benedict wows while Gordon Brown sleeps

If a picture speaks a thousand words, this juxtaposition is worth a thesis.

There is little more to be said. His Holiness is radiant and enthusing his audience; the epitome of courtesy and diplomacy. The Prime Minister is dull and patronising; and sufficiently discourteous to fall asleep during a UN meeting.

How one longs for a prime minister of standing, distinction, esteem, brilliance, influence...

The Pope goes to America

Gordon Brown must be furious (as, by all accounts, he usually is these days) because whoever organised his visit to the US - ‘one of the most important of his premiership’ - failed to take account of the fact that it clashes with that of His Holiness, and the dour puritanism of the Scottish Presbyterian will be completely upstaged by the majesty and splendour of the Bavarian Catholic. So all the column inches and all television footage are dedicated to matters papal, not only because the Pope is more photogenic, but also because he is infinitely more interesting than the Prime Minister.

The most unfortunate diary clash comes on Friday. While Mr Brown is delivering his keynote speech on foreign policy - calling for the reshaping of the UN – Herr Ratzinger will be addressing that very body. Mr Brown’s criticisms will be somewhat overshadowed by papal blessings, as the Pope is the only religious leader on the planet who is permitted to address the UN General Assembly. He is, after all, the head of a foreign state with which the United States maintains diplomatic relations. Vatican City may be small, but the implications of its foreign policy are sometimes very large indeed. His Holiness will doubtless echo the theme of his predecessor Pope Paul VI who in the first papal address in 1965 called the organisation ‘a bridge between peoples’ – an interesting echo of his own role as ‘Pontifex Maximus’.

Doubtless he will also be talking a lot of good – the plight of Hispanic immigrants, leading prayers at Ground Zero, challenging President Bush on the Iraq war and capital punishment, and affirming him in his opposition to abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research. But there is also the unavoidable reality that in recent year the US Roman Catholic Church, which has around 65 million followers, has paid $2 billion to settle clergy sexual abuse cases.

The Pope told reporters on board his plane that he was ‘deeply ashamed’ of sexual abuse by US clergy, and he has vowed to work against a recurrence, assuring the faithful that he will ‘absolutely exclude paedophiles from the sacred ministry’. He added: ‘It is more important to have good priests than many priests. We will do everything possible to heal this wound.’

Except, it seems, agreeing to meet some victims of clerical abuse and their families.

And except, it seems, explaining why the Vatican continues to shelter Cardinal Bernard Law, former head of the Archdiocese of Boston, who, according to Christopher Hitchens, ‘was not only aware of egregious sexual misconduct among his subordinates but was apparently engaged in elaborate efforts to cover up incident after incident of child rape.

‘To be specific, the cardinal admitted in a deposition that he knew that the Rev. John Geoghan had raped at least seven boys in 1984 before he approved Geoghan's transfer to another parish where other boys were at risk. Further disclosures revealed that the Rev. Paul Shanley, who at one point was facing trial for 10 counts of child rape and six counts of indecent assault and battery, had been moved from ministry to ministry in what amounted to an attempt to protect him. Law himself lied to a West Coast bishop about Shanley's history and certified in writing that another rapist priest, the Rev. Redmond Raux, had "nothing in his background" to make him "unsuitable to work with children.’

If His Holiness were really prepared to do ‘everything possible’ to heal this appalling wound, he would not only remove Cardinal Law from his Vatican sinecure, he would also remove his cardinal’s hat. As Mr Hitchens states:

‘I think that we are entitled to hear, as the vicar of Christ and holder of the Keys of Peter favors us with his presence, whether he regards his brother Bernard Law as an honored guest in the holy city or as someone who has been given asylum. And even if we cannot get a satisfactory answer, it is essential that we hear the question. Will the press do its job, and will our elected representatives remember their responsibilities to so many thousands of tortured and exploited children? Some of us will be watching and keeping an account.’

Perhaps at this point, His Holiness will be praying that Mr Brown might steal the limelight.

It is reported that His Holiness, 'in a dramatic surprise', has privately met with victims of sexual abuse by priests, consoling them and promising them his prayers.

The 25-minute meeting, believed to be the first time a pope had met victims of such sexual abuse, was held in the Vatican Embassy chapel and kept secret until after it was over.

"They prayed with the Holy Father, who afterward listened to their personal accounts and offered them words of encouragement and hope," a Vatican statement said of the abuse victims. "His holiness assured them of his prayers for their intentions, for their families and for all victims of sexual abuse."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Religion worth £2 billion to the UK economy

Cranmer receives quite a lot of abusive emails, and occasionally those that speak of the ‘worthlessness’ of religion and how it should all be left to the era of witchcraft and goblins. Of course, they are not speaking directly of economic worthlessness, but most likely of a logical and reasonable worthlessness in an age of scientific rationalism.

Yet a report entitled Counting for Communities reveals the extensive contribution of faith community congregations (as opposed to para-congregation religious organisations) actually make, and demonstrates that religion is worth in excess of £2.1 billion to the UK economy. While Cranmer sees no need to justify God in terms of Mammon, this positive contribution does somewhat negate the blind assertions of ‘worthlessness’.

The report was commissioned by voluntary sector bodies working with the Welsh Assembly, who assessed the financial worth of faith communities in relation to welfare provision, youth work, marriage prepration, bereavement counselling, employment training, faith tourism, alcohol and drug awareness, personal finance and community building use. Faith communities are also strongly involved in local cultural and sporting activities – including music (choral singing tops the list), football, and exercise and fitness classes.

The faith communities are staffed by some 42,000 volunteers, and the total number of hours worked by these volunteers is estimated at just under 80,000 a week, equivalent to around 2,000 full-time workers.

All of this was calculated to contribute £102 million per annum to the Welsh economy. If this were projected for the UK as a whole, purely in terms of population, it may be asserted that faith community congregations are worth £2.1 billion. And this ignores the reality that some of the key religious centres of England and Scotland are worth rather more and are much better attended than many of those in Wales.

The Archbishop of Canterbury said that this report ‘demonstrates just what an extensive and valuable role faith communities play in today’s society’. And Welsh First Minister Rhodri Morgan, in his foreword to the report, says that it ‘will surprise a good many both within the “faith sector” and more widely across the public and voluntary sectors through the sheer length and breadth of the faith communities’ contribution that it reveals’.

It comes as no surprise at all to learn that Christian faith communities in particular offer a vital range of services in thousands of communities, which complement and enhance the work of government. And doubtless they also do it a good deal better.

Cranmer is bemused that Government does not therefore liberate and devolve further – both for the good of their souls and the purse of the taxpayer.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ed Balls ‘has betrayed Church of England’ over schools

The Church of England’s chief education officer, the Rev. Jan Ainsworth, has accused the Government of betraying the Church of England over its attack on faith schools. When the Department of Children Schools and Families announced that ‘the vast majority of faith schools’ were breaking the law with their admissions policies, it was rounded on from all quarters.

Frank Field MP wrote: ‘Ed Balls's recent attack on faith schools (was) not simply incomprehensible, but near criminal. The PM … must rein him in. A rant against faith schools may be good for positioning a candidate for the next leadership contest but it is deeply damaging to a government that is trying to prevent itself being confined to a political life-support machine.’

The allegation is that church and other faith schools use their admissions policies to exclude difficult and disadvantaged children. This constituted ‘shocking evidence’ of social selection, which suggested that ‘faith schools nationwide were asking parents for hundreds of pounds, weeding out poor or difficult children, and refusing to give places to children in local-authority care.’

As the Church Times points out: ‘Many schools have amenity funds, usually organised by parent-teacher associations. Contributions are never demanded in return for a place. The school cited by Mr Balls as seeking £800-plus a year from parents was a voluntary aided Jewish school that has been subjected to anti-Semitic attacks and threats and requires additional security. It is not a typical aided school.’

Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Jewish educationists complained that their schools had been unfairly traduced. Colin Hopkins, director of education for Lichfield diocese, said that the public had been given an ‘outrageously false impression of our schools’. But Mr Balls was having none of it, so he organised a press briefing and said he wanted ‘to draw a line’ under the dispute, and he did so by publishing a list of schools with their alleged failings, suggesting that they were 'a law unto themselves'.

The Board of Education, which had been advised that the statement was to be published, was not warned about the press briefing. The Rev. Jan Ainsworth has therefore questioned Mr Balls’ motives, observing: ‘The Secretary of State must have known his decision to go public in this way would result in hostile coverage. There is a real feeling of betrayal by the minister, and some anxiety about the direction of future relationships with his department.’

When one considers the inquisition faced by supporters of Roman Catholic schools, the slur against Jewish schools, and this gross misrepresentation of Church of England schools, it is difficult not to conclude that Labour is distinctly hostile to faith-based education.

Not only have Church of England schools consistently supported fair admissions policies, including the banning of interviews, but they continue to be the centuries-old embodiment of the mission to the poor, as the Dearing Report of 2001 stated. The Church of England has been a substantial provider of primary schools, of fewer secondary schools and of a significant number of teacher training colleges of which most remaining examples are now universities. The Dearing Report proposed the extension of secondary provision, which is well under way. However, there is little Church of England provision in post-16 and none at all in the Further Education sector. The Academies programme offers a new route for the entitlement of schools with a designated Church of England character. These are targeted towards areas of high deprivation in traditionally Labour constituencies.

But perhaps Mr Balls has simply not noticed that.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Hillary Clinton on her devout Christian faith.

While she insists that Barak Obama is ‘elitist’ and ‘out of touch’.

My, how these Christians love one another.

And yet she says: “I grew up in a church-going family - a family that believed in the importance of living out and expressing our faith. The people of faith I know don’t cling to religion because they are bitter. People embrace faith not because they are materially poor but because they are spiritually rich. Our faith is the faith of our parents and our grandparents. It is the fundamental expression of who we are and what we believe.”

...when it is politically expedient to do so.

On the eve of the visit of His Holiness to the USA, both Democrat candidates made indirect appeals to Roman Catholic voters. Senator Clinton mentioned the pope’s impending visit and praised his commitment to health and poverty issues around the world. In response to a question about when life began, Senator Clinton replied: “I believe that the potential for life begins at conception.”

Cranmer looks forward to her prominent pro-life advocacy.

BBC's Mark Thompson says UK broadcasters are 'over-cautious' on Islam

Mark Thompson is Director General of the BBC, and has warned broadcasters against becoming overly-cautious in their reporting on Islam - for fear of causing offence to Muslims. Speaking at Westminster Cathedral Mr Thompson, a practising Catholic, said there was ‘a growing nervousness about discussion about Islam and its relationship to the traditions and values of British and Western society as a whole’.

The Times continues:

He said that the BBC and other major channels ‘have a special responsibility’ to ensure that debates about ‘faith and society’ and about any religion ‘should not be foreclosed or censored’.

In an effort to demonstrate that his remarks were not targeted solely at ensuring that Islam received journalistic scrutiny, Mr Thompson also referred to his decision to broadcast Jerry Springer, The Opera despite an avalanche of complaints from Christians unhappy at the depiction of Jesus in the satire.

“There is no point having a BBC which isn’t prepared to stand up and be counted; which will do everything it can to mitigate potential religious offence; but which will always be forthright in the defence of freedom of speech and of impartiality,” he said.

The lecture, Faith and the Media, also discussed how religious broadcasting at the BBC developed from the secularist perspective of the 1960s and 1970s, when Mr Thompson worked on Everyman, to faith-oriented programmes that tap a ‘sharp revival of interest in the spiritual potential’.

He contrasted The Passion, a traditional portrayal of Jesus Christ’s last days written by Frank Deasey, with the previous attempt to tell the story of his life, Dennis Potter’s 1969 version of a self-doubting prophet in Son of Man.

“It is quite simply inconceivable that the BBC in the 1970s or 80s or indeed the 90s would have (shown) a drama about Christ’s passion across BBC One’s primetime schedule.”

This comes from the leader of an organisation that is content to consign the Bible to Room 101 but would not do the same to the Qur’an – for fear of causing offence to Muslims. It is content to produce a documentary on Jesus from the perspective of Islam, but would not do the same for Mohammed - for fear of causing offence to Muslims. It is content to screen programmes about Christians converting to Islam, but has not dared to examine conversions from Islam to Christianity - for fear of causing offence to Muslims.

Perhaps Mr Thompson would like to address the plank in his own eye before presuming to lecture the nation’s broadcasters on the splinters in theirs. After all, as a publicly-funded body, the BBC has a moral obligation to lead the way.

Incidentally, what is Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor up to? The pulpit of Westminster Cathedral appears to have become a veritable secularist-ecumenical Hyde Park Corner: first he permits Tony Blair to talk of the importance of ‘faith’, while not being repentant in the slightest of the decade of profoundly anti-Christian legislation he swept in. And now he gives a platform to the Director General of the BBC, which has an admitted anti-Christian bias.

By comparison, His Eminence would find Cranmer a spiritual ally and a moral friend, and so he keenly looks forward to receiving his invitation to address the faithful…

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Archbishop: Welsh devolution settlement is ‘immoral’

So, God supports more devolution, does he? Anglican bishops and archbishops seems to be polarised between the politico-theologically impressive (York, Rochester) and the theological-politically naïve (Oxford, Canterbury), and Barry Morgan, the Archbishop of Wales, falls quite firmly in the latter camp. He has stated that the present devolution settlement for Wales is ‘immoral’, and that that only by giving the Welsh Assembly ‘full law-making powers’ can this immorality be rectified.

Immoral? How can a constituent part of the United Kingdom within a liberal democratic framework of freedom, equality and tolerance be in any sense immoral?

Slavery is immoral; prostitution is immoral; what’s going on in Zimbabwe, Darfur and Tibet is immoral. One has to wonder if this archbishop has any clue about the theological meaning of the term. Moral law is the idea of that set of standards outlined in the Decalogue, and Cranmer is intrigued to learn that the Welsh Bible must include ‘Thou shalt not have a devolution settlement inferior to that of the Scots’. Moral requirements have the form of Kantian categorical imperatives which prescribe what is to be done regardless of what one may want.

So what the Archbishop wants is not remotely concerned with morality, and his insistence that devolution is a moral precept is akin to saying that God is a Protestant Unionist.

Of course, in Ulster, he may be.

The Archbishop is right, however, in his insistence that religion could not be ‘separate from life’, and that people in his position ‘can't divorce themselves from the life of politics because politics is about the way we organise ourselves in society and, therefore every single aspect of life ought to have relevance to the Gospel’. But his expression is a personal one, and he is wrong to give the impression that the Anglican Church has a position on Welsh devolution.

Conservative Monmouth MP David Davies criticised the Archbishop saying: ‘What disappoints me is that the most senior member of the Anglican Church in Wales is using his position to put forward a political point of view which he may - and is perfectly entitled to - hold, but he's not making it clear that this is a personal view. He's doing so wearing his crown and mitre, as it were, and frankly I think that's very disappointing, especially when there are so many issues that you would expect the Anglican church to be speaking out at the moment about.’

Cranmer thinks that is load of poppycock as well.

What disappoints Cranmer is that the most senior (namesake-recognised?) Conservative MP in Wales is using his position to put forward a point of view which he may - and is perfectly entitled to - hold, but he's not making it clear that this is a personal view. He's doing so as a member of the House of Commons, as it were, and frankly he thinks that's very disappointing, especially when there are so many issues that you would expect the Conservative Party to be speaking out at the moment about.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Judge accuses Government of breaching soldiers’ human rights

A High Court judge has ruled that sending British soldiers on patrol or into battle with defective equipment is in breach of their human rights. In a test case over Scottish soldier Pte Jason Smith's death in Iraq, Mr Justice Collins said human rights laws could apply to troops serving abroad. He also ruled the families of those killed in conflict should get legal aid and access to military documents.

The government is appealing against the court's decision on human rights.

Cranmer deplores the fact that British servicemen and women were sent into a war zone without adequate equipment, and considers it a government’s moral obligation to ensure that such troops are properly and fully equipped, not least because they are risking and sometimes losing their lives in order to ensure that future generations enjoy the rights and liberties which our fathers and grandfathers fought two world wars to defend.

But Cranmer is with the Labour Government on this one (and you will not hear that very often; indeed, His Grace hopes never again).

Lawyers for the Ministry of Defence had argued it was impossible to give soldiers on active service the benefits of the Human Rights Act.

How can it be?

The Human Rights Acts has enshrined within it the right to life.

If a soldier is killed on active service, will his or her dependents have the right to sue the MoD for breach of this right?

And there is also freedom of expression, so solidiers can freely tell their colleagues what they think of their superiors and their military objectives. And freedom to practise their religion, so all the Muslims can demand Fridays off, the Jews Saturday, and the Christians Sunday. Fantastic - half a week of ceasefire while the MoD sorts out a human-rights-friendly rota. And the MoD must always ensure that Muslims and Jews are catered for while the Christians are tucking in to their bacon sandwiches. And let us not forget the ceasing of hostilities to accommodate prayer times, and parental rights to leave when babies are born, and the right to take time off if a relative is sick, and the right to take industrial action...

O yes, all of this is wholly compatible with military discipline and vital issues of national security.

Recourse to the courts each time ‘human rights’ are violated undermines Parliament and the political process; indeed, we are increasingly being ruled by judges instead of by our elected representatives.

Yet the Labour Government has only itself to blame for this, for it was they who enshrined the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law.

Boris accused of ‘smear on Islam’

Cranmer urged and begged Boris Johnson to run for the office of Mayor of London, and, as he promised, His Grace has prayed every day for him since his candidature was confirmed. It remains His Grace’s conviction that in a democracy God gives people the governments they deserve, and the people of London now deserve a man of conviction, honesty and integrity.

That man is Boris Johnson.

But it is not remotely surprising that Ken Livingstone is cheating and lying as he seeks to smear the Conservative candidate, not least because Boris Johnson represents the most credible threat to Mr Livingstone’s private fiefdom since the office of Mayor was created.

The row centres upon an article Mr Johnson wrote for The Spectator in the wake of the July 7th bombings - 'Just don't call it war'.

The accusation is that while Mayor Livingstone was making his tearful statement exhorting the people of London to unity in the face of adversity, Mr Johnson was sowing discord. While the Mayor was proclaiming ‘our defiance and our unwillingness to submit to that kind of terror and kind of cowardly attack’, Mr Johnson was blaming the Qur’an. While the Mayor said the bombings were ‘a criminal act by a handful of men’, Mr Johnson said: ‘Islam is the problem... and the Qur’an is inherently violent’. The Mayor ‘made certain that we were looking at individuals’, while Mr Johnson ‘smeared an entire faith’.

Mr Johnson subsequently accused the Mayor of ‘demeaning’ his office, and took ‘deep offence’ at the Mayor’s claim that he had said the Qur’an was ‘inherently’ violent. He added: ‘My view is that Islam is a religion of peace and indeed I am very proud to say I have Muslim ancestors. My great-grandfather knew the Qur’an off by heart, Ken Livingstone, and I really wish you would leave off these kinds of tactics, which demean this race and demean your office.’

This is interesting not only because of the Mayor’s misrepresentation of the Spectator article, but because Mr Johnson is discovering the difficulties for journalists of entering politics: their words come back to haunt them.

The Spectator article is accurate and forthright; it is bold and uncompromising; it is everything one can no longer be in politics. Mr Johnson wrote:

The Islamicists last week horribly and irrefutably asserted the supreme importance of that faith, overriding all worldly considerations... the problem is Islam. Islam is the problem.

‘To any non-Muslim reader of the Koran, Islamophobia - fear of Islam - seems a natural reaction...

‘Judged purely on its scripture — to say nothing of what is preached in the mosques — it is the most viciously sectarian of all religions

‘The trouble with this disgusting arrogance and condescension is that it is widely supported in Koranic texts, and we look in vain for the enlightened Islamic teachers and preachers who will begin the process of reform. What is going on in these mosques and madrasas? When is someone going to get 18th century on Islam’s mediaeval ass?

Politicians can no longer talk in such terms; Paul Goodman and Michael Gove would not dare. To refer to Islam (the faith) as 'visciously sectarian' is not conducive to winning the Muslim vote, and such phrases potentially undermine David Cameron's painstaking overtures to minority ethnic groups.

Of course Mr Johnson distinguishes between ‘Islamicist nutters’ and the moderate majority, and he added: ‘Last week's bombs were placed neither by martyrs nor by soldiers, but by criminals. It was not war, but terrorism, and to say otherwise is a mistake and a surrender.’ But this conclusion is lost on the Mayor, and there is sufficient in the article for him to excise sentences from their context and convey them as the smearing of an entire faith.

Mr Johnson’s mistake in his polemic was to ignore the history and the theology. Had he once used the phrase ‘classical Islam’ or referred to the ‘classical interpretation of Islam’, he would have been on safer ground, for it is indeed true that classical Islam has always been an ideology that aims at world domination - if necessary by force. As Martin Parsons observes: ‘If an “enemy” is to be defined, then the enemy is not Muslims, but the classical interpretation of Islam.’

It is important to distinguish between this historic interpretation of Islam and the views of ordinary Muslims in the West today. Mr Parsons states: ‘For the masses Islam has more often than not taken on a traditional form, where people believe in God, concern themselves with prayer and with the other basic devotional duties of Islam, but do not bother much with legal, political or military requirements.’

Patrick Sookhdeo suggests that the current threat to the west is due to ‘a puritan form of Islam re-emphasising the literal teaching of the Qur'an and Hadith, as classical Islam in countries such as Saudi Arabia has always done’.

When Mr Johnson referred to ‘Islam’s mediaeval ass’, he was doubtless alluding to this classical interpretation, but it was all too subtle for the crude cut-and-thrust of politics, and way beyond the mental capacity of a cerebral dwarf like Ken Livingstone.
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