Saturday, June 30, 2012

Double Dutch standards on Islam


From Mr Rodney Atkinson:

These are the kind of double standards practised by the fascist left both in Britain and Holland: Ignore the evils preached by Islamists but prosecute the non Muslims who reveal them.  

Amsterdam Gets a Harsh Lesson in Islam 101 Posted by Bruce Bawer Jun 29th, 2012
In January 2009 a Dutch court ordered Geert Wilders to be prosecuted for offending Muslims and inciting anti-Muslim hatred.

The complaint was based not on slurs, as such, but on factual statements made by Wilders, in his film Fitna and in various public venues, about Islamic beliefs and about actions inspired by those beliefs.

In June 2011, after a prolonged legal ordeal that cost Wilders greatly in time, money, and emotion, and that represented a disgrace to the tradition of Dutch liberty, he was finally acquitted.

In February of this year, the Islamic Students Association at the Vrije Universiteit (VU) in Amsterdam invited Haitham al-Haddad, a British sharia scholar, to participate in a symposium, but when some of al-Haddad’s sophisticated theological statements about Jews (the usual “pigs and dogs” business) and about other topics came to light, members of the Dutch Parliament spoke out against the invitation, a media storm erupted, and VU canceled its plans.

Whereupon a venue in Amsterdam called De Balie, which sponsors debates, talks, plays, and sundry cultural and artistic events (and whose café is a good spot to grab a late-morning coffee), stepped in and offered al-Haddad their stage.

At the event that ensued, al-Haddad spelled out, and defended, many aspects of Islamic law, including the death penalty for apostates. Because of this specific statement about executing apostates, al-Haddad was reported to Dutch officials for having broken the same laws that Wilders had been put on trial for violating.

The other day, however, judicial authorities announced their determination that al-Haddad had not committed any offense and would therefore not be prosecuted for his remarks. Why? Supposedly because he had placed conditions on the death penalty for apostates.

I was curious to know exactly what he had said, so I searched for the debate on You Tube. Lucky me, there it was, all 76 minutes of it. I will recount it in some detail here because I think it provides a window on one or two bemusing aspects of the European mentality in our time.

As the event began, Yoeri Albrecht, director of De Balie and the evening’s host, explained that he’d decided to invite al-Haddad because it’s “important to discuss the position of Islam in the West.” He told the cleric that he was “very happy that you agreed” to come and wished him “a warm welcome.”

Albrecht had invited two other men to join him and al-Haddad onstage. One was Kustaw Bessems, a journalist associated with the Labor Party; the other was Tofik Dibi, a young Dutch-Moroccan Marxist, university student, and member of Parliament for the Green Left Party who has publicly protested against Wilders and who represents himself as an advocate for a modern, progressive Islam. Two members, in short, of leftist establishment parties; neither Wilders nor anyone else from his Freedom Party was asked to join the debate.

Bessums noted early on that while he finds al-Haddad’s views “despicable,” it was he who had personally taken the initiative to find an alternate venue after VU’s cancellation, because he believes in free speech (as if free speech means that fanatics have an automatic right to a platform).

Dibi’s questions for al-Haddad were a tad challenging, but his manner was respectful, even deferential. The imam, for his part, didn’t beat around the bush.

Dibi: “Do you have more right to speak about Islam than other Muslims?”
Al-Haddad: “Yeah, of course.”

Dibi: “Do you allow yourself to doubt?”

Al-Haddad: “There are certain things in Islam that are clear. No one can doubt them.”

Albrecht, for his part, sounded almost astonished when, having finally grasped al-Haddad’s key point, he said: “Outside of Islam, there is no truth?”

Al-Haddad: “No.”

Albrecht: “Could you understand that a lot of people would be afraid of this kind of thinking?”

Al-Haddad: “There is something called truth. There is right and wrong.”

When al-Haddad admitted that he supported stoning for crimes like adultery and apostasy, Albrecht exclaimed: “You can’t be serious!”

The host seemed to be genuinely gobsmacked. (Incidentally, the “conditions” al-Haddad had reportedly placed on the death penalty for apostates, and that had purportedly saved him from prosecution by the Dutch judiciary, were as follows: an apostate could not be executed until his case was handled in a Muslim country by a sharia judge.)

It emerged that earlier that day al-Haddad had refused to let a woman sit beside him on a TV show.

Asked now about women’s rights, al-Haddad insisted that men and women, being different, have different rights; that obliging women to wear headscarves is not an act of oppression any more than parking rules in Britain are; and that “women’s rights” need to be viewed in context.

A woman in the audience was given an opportunity to express her own shock at al-Haddad’s views on women: “I am really amazed at the way you think!” For a while, Albrecht gave up his seat onstage to her. “Who gives you the right,” she asked al-Haddad, “where do you get the right, to discuss women’s rights?”

I was shocked too. I was shocked that in the year 2012, these Dutch infidels – intellectual infidels – professed to be shocked, and indeed gave every indication of being sincerely shocked, when they heard a recognized Islamic authority spell out basic facts of Islamic belief.

These are the same basic facts that Geert Wilders has been talking about for years. It was for daring to speak these facts – for, in effect, reporting on the same barbaric beliefs and practices that al-Haddad was now not only describing but defending – that Wilders had been hauled into court on charges of having insulted al-Haddad’s faith.

Pim Fortuyn, Theo van Gogh, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wilders – all of them had been reviled around the world as Islamophobes for stating these same facts. But on that evening at De Balie it was almost as if none of these critics of Islam had ever opened their mouths.

By the end of the evening, al-Haddad had made it absolutely clear that he supported the gradual implementation of sharia law in the West – starting with relatively innocuous-seeming stuff like divorce tribunals and Islamic finance, then moving bit by bit into ever more serious territory.

One particularly depressing development was that after an hour or so of listening to al-Haddad, Dibi admitted that he had caught himself feeling that al-Haddad, being a scholar, must be right about Islam after all.

I’ve often felt that a major reason why less observant, essentially secularized Muslims like Dibi are so hesitant to speak out against the likes of al-Haddad (aside from sheer terror) is that some small voice deep inside whispers to them that he’s the real thing – the good Muslim, a man whose pious certitude, and unwavering devotion to the Prophet shame their own co-optation by infidel decadence.

It was at around this point that Geert Wilders and the Freedom Party entered the discussion – indirectly, to be sure.

“Some people in Parliament,” said Dibi, “I don’t want to name the party again, think that men like yourself are slowly colonizing the West – they’re pretending to be nice, pretending to be intellectuals, but secretly they are trying to take over.”

Al-Haddad asked Dibi if he had allowed himself to be brainwashed by such silliness.

“No,” Dibi was quick to insist, “I don’t believe that” – even though he had just spent over an hour listening to al-Haddad confirm these very warnings.
Dibi’s next question suggested that he was, indeed, after the evening’s workout, a torn, confused, and, yes, cowed young man: “Are you slowly, step by step, trying to implement sharia as a scholar?”

“Yes,” the scholar replied, “if the people request it.”

Certainly the audience at De Balie that evening was packed with sharia fans. They cheered al-Haddad’s attacks on the West; they applauded his praise of Islamic law. Every outburst of boisterous support for the imam’s ugly sentiments only reaffirmed things that Geert Wilders has been saying for years.

But nobody at De Balie that evening – including Bessons, who from beginning to end made clear his utter hostility to al-Haddad’s views – even wanted to mention Wilders’s name.
Enjoy:

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Circumcision contravenes the Rights of the Child

This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant (Gen 17:10-14).
Both Jews and Muslims in Germany are more than a little concerned about an Appeal Court ruling from Cologne which stipulates that the removal of the foreskins of babies and young boys amounts to bodily injury, and is therefore a violation of German law.

Sweeping aside millennia of religious custom and ritual, the Court has determined that State law in this regard is above God’s law, and that the child’s fundamental constitutional ‘right to physical integrity’ is challenged by the parental fundamental right to freedom of religion.

In cutting the boy, they reason, he is denied the freedom to choose his religion, because the outward change to his body and permanent. This is not, of course, the case with Christian baptism, which is also usually inflicted on babies, but a sprinkling of water on the forehead is not deemed to have enduring effects on sexual pleasure later in life. This Higher Court ruling expresses the view that the boy should have the freedom to choose whether or not to be circumcised when he reaches the age of majority and there is informed consent; that he is born with the right to ‘physical integrity’ which nobody should be permitted to take away (other than for acute medical reasons).

The verdict has some specific context, but the precedent has far-reaching implications. The case involved a four-year-old Muslim boy who suffered serious bleeding after undergoing a botched procedure. His mother took him to the emergency unit at Cologne University Hospital, and state prosecutors subsequently charged the doctor who had performed the operation.

A lower court found that the doctor had carried out the operation properly and ruled that the child’s circumcision was in his interests as it signified his membership of the Muslim community. However the prosecution appealed to a higher Cologne court which overruled the lower court’s verdict and concluded that circumcision caused bodily harm and was therefore not justified.

There are some four million Muslims in Germany and 200,000 Jews. Dieter Graumann, the President of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, denounced the ruling as ‘outrageous and insensitive’. He views it as an ‘unprecedented and dramatic intervention in the right of religious communities to self-determination’, and he demands that Parliament intervene to ‘protect religious freedom’. Aiman Mazyek of the Central Council of Muslims said the ruling was both ‘inadmissible’ and ‘outrageous’.

Mindful of past German antipathy toward his people, Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said: "There's not a snowball's chance in hell the Jewish people would ever look to a German court, especially when it comes to how we should define our values or fulfil our traditions."

Now, there are those who insist that circumcision is not merely gratuitous Abrahamic law, but has been proven to be hygienically preferable and helps to prevent cancer or inhibit the transmission of HIV-AIDS. And yet (it seems to this Christian) there is nothing medically preventative about the practice if you wash properly and remain faithful in marriage.

The debate about banning the practice is even more interesting in the context of Kantian notions of human rights and his categorical imperatives on human dignity and liberty. Germany intends to outlaw female circumcision as it is considered barbaric: if man and woman are equal, the law may not discriminate against boys. Ergo, they must also be spared the barbarism of circumcision dogma.

His Grace can hardly wait to see how Germany’s 4.2 million children of Abraham react to this. It beggars belief that ancient religious practices which are symbolic of the sacred Covenant can be overturned by notions of inviolable human rights which have existed for all of five minutes. Once again, it is individual religious identity must give way to secular state orthodoxy. As JS Mill might put it, we once again observe the tyranny of the majority.

Either the judgment will be overturned by the Federal Court, or there will be one or two riots on the streets (probably not courtesy of the Jews). Another possibility is that David Cameron might extend an invitation to German’s Semites as he did to France’s millionaires: if your government is oppressing you financially or religiously, you will find the United Kingdom more conducive to your tax affairs and blood rituals.

Britain is surely open for a bit of circumcision tourism.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Queen shakes hands with Martin McGuinness


Historic. Symbolic. Significant. See below for comment.

Queen visits Irish Roman Catholic church


“Blasphemy!” cried one of His Grace’s communicants, in an irate email received yesterday.

 “Ecumenical religion is apostasy,” he wrote, “which runs contrary to the Queen’s Coronation Oath to uphold the Protestant Reformed Religion.” He insisted that Her Majesty should be denouncing ‘Romanist priests’; not consorting with them. They are ‘purveyors of false religion, deniers of the efficacy of the atoning death of Christ and of His sole mediatorship’. He concluded: “For the Supreme Governor of the Church of England to enter a Roman Catholic Church and shake hands with Romanist priests and cardinals is to condone their erroneous views and endorse their falsehoods.”

Utter tosh.

The Supreme Governor of the Church of England is also the British Head of State, and by virtue of being so she is obliged to exercise her public ‘outward government’ in a manner which accords with the private welfare of her subjects – of whatever creed, ethnicity, sexuality or political philosophy. The Royal Supremacy in regard to the Church is, as Hooker said, ‘in its essence the right of supervision over the administration of the Church, vested in the Crown as the champion of the Church, in order that the religious welfare of its subjects may be provided for’. Theologians and politicians may argue over the manner of this ‘religious welfare’ or the precise meaning of what Hooker meant by the ‘true fulfilment’ of a ‘right relationship with God’, but that is the function of theologians and politicians. For Hooker, church and society were one.

The Queen is acutely involved in leading men to salvation: ‘A gross error it is, to think that regal power ought to serve for the good of the body, and not of the soul; for men’s temporal peace, and not for their eternal safety,’ wrote Hooker. If the state were concerned solely with economics and the material, it would cease to be concerned with people’s welfare in respect of a right relationship with God. Hooker’s articulation of the prerogative of the Crown over its subjects’ religious welfare is the same as that which still underlies the role of the Queen in relation to the Church of England.

So the brief walk over the road from the Anglican St Macartin's Cathedral to St Michael's Roman Catholic church is consistent with both her Coronation Oath and her vocation as a Christian and Church leader.

Indeed, His Grace is increasingly persuaded that the Queen is the greatest living embodiment of the Gospel of Christ of any world leader; the very incarnation of patience, kindness, grace and forgiveness. In Northern Ireland she is quite literally a bringer of peace, sowing love where there is hatred, and pardon where there is injury. She instils faith where there is doubt, and hope where there is despair. She shines light where there is darkness, and brings joy where there is sadness.

Politicians rarely achieve the spiritual objectives of St Francis’. They might quote them, talk about them, debate them, or make manifesto pledges to fulfil them. But the Queen just gets on with it, and lives them.

Today, she will shake hands with Martin McGuinness in Belfast, and we are told that it will be captured on camera. This has been greeted with incredulity and despair by representatives on both sides of the sectarian divide. Martin McGuinness did, after all, play a not insignificant role in the murder of the Queen’s cousin, the Lord Mountbatten. But she will not feign pardon or utter words of forgiveness: in the symbolic shaking of the hand of a terrorist and murderer, she lays bare her heart, which is for peace, reconciliation, and hope.

To those who criticise her for walking into a Roman Catholic church or shaking hands with a former leader of the IRA, consider what Jesus might do.

In an era beyond conflict, he would not hold grudges or harbour unforgiveness. He urges us to love our enemies, which requires a counter-intuitive act of will. And that might mean the occasional visit to a Roman Catholic church, a mosque, gurdwara or mandir. It might also mean encounter with one’s enemies or critics, which involves discussion, and even a handshake.

The Queen doesn’t do emotion in public: the nearest she has ever got to baring her soul was in her address to the nation following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. But she does ‘do God’. As she said in Dublin last year, it is important ‘to bow to the past, but not be bound by it’. By shaking hands with the Sinn Féin deputy first minister, she is recognising not only his elected position, but that things have moved on. The bombs, blood and carnage of Enniskillen have been transformed into another milestone in the peace process in Northern Ireland. As the Queen reaches out her hand in friendship and reconciliation, Martin McGuinness extends his to the ultimate symbol of British rule in the Province.

Blessed are the peacemakers.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Egypt’s first elected Pharaoh



As democracy spreads throughout what the West insist on calling the ‘Islamic world’, Egypt is seeing the firstfruits of the ‘Arab Spring’. While Libya’s uncertain future is still emerging, and Syria faces a certain future of civil war, Mohamed Morsi has become the first freely elected president of Egypt. The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, once proscribed by Hosni Mubarak, is on the ascendancy.

With this election dies all Western geo-political influence in Egypt, and also quite possibly the Camp David accords which heralded peace with Israel. With Islamists in Iran, Islamists in Gaza, Islamists in Syria and Islamists in Egypt, we must thank Allah that the ‘Islamic world’ is as fractured and fragmented as the Christian one. There is no more social cohesion, unity of doctrine or meeting of minds among the disparate expressions of Islam as there are between the myriad of denominations, factions and cults which purport to constitute Christendom. The ‘Islamic world’ is simply a convenient classification of the West: it is meaningless because it implies a geographic entity unified by a monolithic faith – a caliphate. But the ‘Islamic world’ has no universal understanding of this, and so the concept is as meaningless to Muslims as it is to those of other faiths and none.

But that won’t stop Mohamed Morsi, for whom the ‘Brotherhood’ does indeed constitute the ‘Muslim world’, the unity of Islam, the Ummah. Political Islam is the only Islam: Egypt’s allies are no longer in the West, but with the jihadic struggle of other Islamist movements who seek to depose those corrupt and repressive dictatorships who consort with the Great Satan.

President Morsi has pledged to rule Egypt for all Egyptians, but don’t expect much on human rights or liberty if you’re female or Coptic Christian, and even less if you happen to be both. And you really should expect a high degree of antagonism if you’re a military type, for the new President won’t be keen on the constitutional constraints imposed by the unelected generals of yesterday, who hastily cobbled together a formula to prevent another 35-year pharaoh exercising supreme power. President Morsi will bide his time and cultivate a number of reconciliatory faces in order to appear all things to all people. One day he will be full of conservative religious fervour; the nest he will be moderate and liberal. One day he will be orthodox Brotherhood; the next he will be no friend of their at all.

But we must not forget that in his heart he loves his god above all, and that his doctrine of his god isn’t particularly disposed to equality, democracy or the existence of Israel. “We as Egyptians, Muslims and Christians,” he said, “we will face together the strife and conspiracies that target our national unity.”

For the Brotherhood, there is only one ‘strife’ in the region: there is only one conspiracy which targets Egyptian national unity.

And that is the Zionist one.

Allahu Akbar.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Most young people do not know Battle of Britain was fought in the air


'On the night of April 26-27, 1944, Jackson had been due to go on leave after completing his scheduled tour of 30 operations, but he volunteered for one more sortie ‘for luck’ before celebrating the birth of his baby son. This meant he was the flight engineer on a Lancaster aircraft that was returning from a bombing raid in Germany when it was attacked by an enemy fighter aircraft.

'When a fire broke out on the starboard wing, Jackson did not hesitate to act, even though he had been wounded. The Lancaster was flying at 200mph and at 20,000ft, yet he tackled the blaze in a most extraordinary fashion.

'Jackson clipped on his parachute and tucked a hand-held fire extinguisher into his life-jacket, before clambering out of the cockpit and back along the fuselage. His precarious mission had hardly begun when his parachute pack opened and the canopy spilled into the cockpit.

'By the time Jackson had managed to crawl further along the fuselage in the bitter cold, the fire had spread and he slipped, losing his fire extinguisher into the night. His face, hands and clothing were now badly burnt and, to make matters worse, he was then dragged through the flames and over the edge of the wing.

'Jackson was last seen by his fellow aircrew hurtling towards the ground with his parachute ablaze and only partly open. He landed heavily, breaking his ankle. Severely burnt, he was taken prisoner of war and paraded through a German town.

'The citation for his VC, received from George VI, concluded: "By his ready willingness to face these dangers he set an example of self-sacrifice which will ever be remembered."'
Or not.

In the O-level mêlée and the tensions between Mssrs Gove and Clegg about abolishing GCSEs to restore a degree of academic rigour to state qualifications, it is easy to overlook the consequential details of chronic ‘dumbing down’.

Lord Ashcroft commissioned a poll to coincide with the establishing of a permanent memorial to Bomber Command, which is to be dedicated and unveiled by the Queen in Green Park, London, on 28th June. The memorial honours the 55,573 men of Bomber Command who lost their lives during the Second World War. You’d think that knowledge of this might be part of the national consciousness, imbued through the fervent patriotism latent within our schools and inculcated through a history syllabus which focuses on our great island story...

Yet only just over two in five secondary school children know the Battle of Britain was fought in the air, according to Lord Ashcroft’s survey. Some 1,007 children aged 11-18 were interviewed face-to-face between 15-23 May 2012. The survey was conducted throughout Great Britain and the results are nationally representative. The research also shows that only one third of children know the Second World War began in 1939, while only one in five know what happened on D-Day.

The results of the survey highlight the importance of ensuring that current and future generations remember the sacrifices made by those who served Britain in time of war. Key findings include:

•Only 34% of children – including less than half (45%) of those aged 17-18 – knew the Second World War began in 1939. 39% knew it ended in 1945 (again including 45% of 17-18 year-olds).

•While 92% of children could correctly identify a picture of Churchill the insurance dog, only 62% correctly identified a photo of Sir Winston Churchill. •43% knew the Battle of Britain was fought in the air; 29% said it was fought on land, and 8% at sea. 20% said they did not know.

•Only one third (34%) correctly said the Battle of Britain took place in the 1940s, and only 11% of these – about one in 27 of the whole sample – knew it happened in 1940.

•Only a fifth of children had some idea of what happened on D-Day. The most frequent answer was that it was the day the war ended.

•86% correctly said there had been two World Wars. One in twenty thought there had been three.

•Nearly a third (29%) were unable to give any unprompted explanation of why Britain had fought the Second World War. This included more than a fifth (21%) of those aged 17-18 and a quarter of those aged 15-16.

•89% correctly named Germany as an adversary in the Second World War. Only 15% named Japan unprompted. Nearly a quarter thought Britain ’s enemies had included Russia , France , China , the USA , Australia or New Zealand.

•Only 61% correctly named the USA as an ally of Britain ’s in the Second World War. One in ten thought our allies had included Italy, Germany or Japan.

•Offered four different explanations for what Bomber Command is or was, only 36% correctly said it had been part of the RAF.

There was some encouraging news, however: 95% correctly identified the Royal British Legion’s poppy, and 84% knew what it signified. Commenting on the findings, Lord Ashcroft, who made a £1 million donation towards the new Bomber Command Memorial, said:

“It is sobering to find that so many children of secondary school age simply do not know important facts about crucial events in Britain ’s recent history. My own father fought in D-Day, and I was keen to discover how much today’s young people know of what happened just 70 years ago.

“I don’t mean to criticise the children. We must all take responsibility for ensuring that what we know is passed to the next generation. These findings show we can never be complacent about our duty to remember.

“One of the ways we can do this is to build lasting memorials to those who have sacrificed so much to serve our country. That is the purpose of the Bomber Command Memorial, which I am proud to support.

“The Memorial is long overdue. Those who flew on countless missions over Nazi Germany and occupied Europe , many of whom were barely out of their teenage years, knew the odds were stacked against them, and many did not return. All of us should be thankful for the sacrifice they made to ensure that we can all live in a free society.”

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Archbishop of Canterbury blasts Cameron's Big Society as ‘aspirational waffle’



The outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury has launched another broadside against the overarching theme of David Cameron’s premiership. In a section of his soon-to-be-released book Faith in the Public Square (which has conveniently been released sooner than expected exclusively to The Observer), Dr Williams dismisses the ‘Big Society’ as ‘aspirational waffle’, explaining:
'...if the big society is anything better than a slogan looking increasingly threadbare as we look at our society reeling under the impact of public spending cuts, then discussion on this subject has got to take on board some of those issues about what it is to be a citizen and where it is that we most deeply and helpfully acquire the resources of civic identity and dignity.'
Now, some might think it a bit rich of an archbishop who has defined his entire occupancy of the See of Canterbury by dense and inaccessible verbiage to criticise the Prime Minister for spouting ‘waffle’ – aspirational or otherwise. And you can expect to read such painfully obvious swipes at Dr Williams upon the Blogosphere and in the pages of The Daily Mail. But, the incontrovertible fact is that the Archbishop has a point.

The concept of the ‘Big Society’ was widely trailed before the 2010 General Election: it was bold, visionary, even revolutionary in its principal objectives. The central thesis was a demand for ‘a massive, sweeping, radical redistribution of power’. This, Mr Cameron said, had to be:
‘From the state to citizens; from the government to parliament; from Whitehall to communities. From Brussels to Britain; from judges to the people; from bureaucracy to democracy. Through decentralisation, transparency and accountability we must take power away from the political elite and hand it to the man and woman in the street.’
It was all about the restoration of civil society: in the Big Society, we glimpsed David Cameron’s core philosophy. It was a wholly necessary political pursuit to fix ‘Broken Britain’, and the policy by which his premiership may be judged to have succeeded or failed. So important was the vision that he appointed a dedicated Big Society adviser in the House of Lords: Lord Wei was based at the Office for Civil Society in the Cabinet Office, advising the Government on all aspects of Big Society thinking.

Sadly, the Prime Minister permitted the vision to be relentlessly buffeted by bureaucrats and hijacked by the ‘cuts’ narrative, or, as Dr Williams puts it, the ‘deeply damaging withdrawal of the state from its responsibilities to the most vulnerable’. Interminable delays and Whitehall inaction frustrated one of its principal architects – Steve Hilton – to the extent that he went off ‘on sabbatical’. Lord Wei subsequently resigned, citing ‘work-life balance’ as the principal reason.

The fault lies squarely with David Cameron: he never effectively articulated the meaning of the Big Society: he never expounded it for popular consumption. When Tony Blair spoke of ‘Education, education, education’, everyone knew that it was about schools and students and raising standards. Forget that he failed: that is peripheral to the issue raised by Dr Williams. The fact is that the Big Society remains undefined, nebulous and opaque. As the Archbishop says: “The big society, introduced in the run-up to the last election as a major political idea for the coming generation, has suffered from a lack of definition about the means by which such ideals can be realised.”

The idea was a perfect unifying policy for the Coalition; indeed, the formation of a Conservative-LibDem partnership augured well for the vision, because it is fundamentally both liberal and democratic. David Cameron’s plans for free schools are both liberal and democratic; his plans for a ‘pupil premium’ for the most challenging pupils are both liberal and democratic; his desire to redistribute NHS funding to the areas with the lowest life expectancy is both liberal and democratic. His opposition to further taxes on jobs is both liberal and democratic; his desire for lower personal taxation is both liberal and democratic; his opposition to ID cards is both liberal and democratic. And what liberal and democrat could possibly resile from the Conservatives’ proposed reforms to Parliament – that of granting the electorate the right to recall their MP, and petition for a parliamentary debate?

What went wrong?

Some of these policies never came to fruition; some have been U-turned. Cameron permitted his Conservative-led Government to be tarnished with the primacy of economics: Mammon, materialism and the market are perceived to be his primary concerns, such that any and every policy is perceived to be about money rather than the size of the state.

The Prime Minister needs to remind us of his core conviction: that big government is a big part of the big problem, and that it exacerbates the nation’s social problems. He needs to talk about personal and social responsibility, liberated from state control, which fosters fraternity, strengthens families, inculcates respect and permits the application of common sense. He needs to remember that there is little point in churning out ‘free schools’ to improve social mobility if children are nurtured in a state-induced poverty trap which actively discriminates against married couples. He must bring some ‘joined-up’ thinking to his education reforms by actively supporting families and backing commitment. He must tackle drug abuse, alcohol abuse, family breakdown and the worst rate of teenage pregnancy in Western Europe not by pouring in more billions of pounds, but by liberating people from inhuman state interference, monolithic state surveillance and oppressive state control.

If David Cameron wants a Big Society, he must bring ‘We the people’ into his thinking. And to do that, he must devolve and trust. But if he will not do that within his own party, he is not likely to achieve it in the country. The Big Society is about personal and collective responsibility – the Church has been doing it for centuries. And that irrefutable fact calls for humility on the part of the Prime Minister: instead of criticising and lecturing church leaders, he might just sit at their feet and learn about the church’s centuries of experience in educating children, feeding the poor, housing the homeless and ensuring justice for the oppressed.

The Big Society is a true Conservative vision: it respects the individual, embraces diversity and empowers community. It shows faith, deep faith, in mankind as the vehicle of compassion, of neighbourliness, of love. It demands the bottom-up participation of the traditional institutions – family, church, charities, community and country. So any attack on the family, any negation of religious freedom and any denigration of our instinctive patriotism is an offence against the Big Society: you cannot force families or coerce charities or the church into doing what’s right when you pursue policies and issue diktats which are wrong.

There is a balance to be struck between liberalism and conservatism. And that ought to be at the heart of every policy. If David Cameron really believes that strong families lead to strong societies, he must put his policies where his heart is. If he believes that the church is indispensible to social cohesion, he must harness its strengths and build on its conservative values and roll back the immoral cultural revolution.

The ‘Big Society’ is to David Cameron what ‘Education, education, education’ was to Tony Blair, and the Prime Minister must make sure it does not go the same way. The Big Society is not only in need of urgent definition, but targets must be set in order that progress may be measured and data verified qualitatively and quantitatively. If there can be no empirical verification, we cannot know if David Cameron has succeeded in delivering. And if we cannot know if he has succeeded in implementing his vision, we cannot know what manner of prime minister he was: a great reforming one or just another sophist and salesman.

So, it’s two cheers for the Archbishop of Canterbury from this blog. It would have been three, but instead of using his Office to assist the Prime Minister in defining what he means by the Big Society, or advising on how its ideals might be realised, Dr Williams is heading off to Magdalene College, Cambridge, to inculcate the next generation with his own aspirational waffle.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Church of England part of the corporatist establishment

Sir,

In so many matters which affect the lives of the British people the Church of England, while failing to promote Christianity, promotes politically contentious matters such as wind farms, regional Government and the European Union and even fails to speak out against murderous attacks on Christians throughout the world.

But I see the Church establishment has been forced to drop plans for six giant wind turbines on land it owns in North Devon. Angry parishioners noted that the Government was providing (out of the people's pockets) vast subsidies without which the wind farm would have been an economic nonsense. As one parishioner said: “This is a great moment, it’s a David and Goliath victory. The Church is an enormous institution and a very large landowner." Indeed it is and in this as on so many other issues it is on the side of big Government and big money and totally alienated from the flock they claim to lead! They are verily a part of the corporatist Statist establishment, mere politicians in fancy clothes. They could change of course and become a moral light again, but I doubt they will.

Rodney Atkinson

Friday, June 22, 2012

Sorry, but ‘sorry’ isn’t good enough

Ed Miliband is apologising today for Labour’s open, generous and unlimited immigration policy, which saw millions of foreign nationals flood into the country ostensibly to meet the needs of the economy. Forget how many billions it cost the taxpayer in housing, welfare benefits and translation services. Forget how many schools have been forced to employ dozens of ‘support staff’ in order to deal with half a million children who do not speak English as their first language. Forget how many indigenous Britons were bypassed for council housing in favour of ‘higher priority’ immigrants with greater needs (ie more children). Forget the impact on hospital waiting lists, or to getting an appointment with a GP or dentist. And forget how much irreversible damage all this has had on community cohesion.

When Ed Miliband apologises for Labour’s immigration policy, he has statistics in his head, political posturing in his heart, and absolutely nothing in his soul. This is no sincere or meaningful apology, because there is no attitude of regret and not a shred of insight or analysis into the culture of equality and interminable political correctness which produced the policy.

Remember Gordon Brown calling Gillian Duffy a ‘bigot’ merely for expressing concern about immigration? Her response was natural, human, compassionate and concerned about her community and way of life. To Labour, she was simply a ‘bigot’. Gordon Brown grovelled and squirmed, but his apology was hollow, for we all knew what he really thought and believed in his heart.

Labour’s immigration policy has not been merely a matter of money: it has destroyed trust. Immigration has been on such a scale for so long that entire ghetto communities have imported their customs and cultures and refused to integrate, forcing Britons not out of their homes but out of their country. Among the ethnic restaurants and foreign corner shops there is fear, a lack of understanding, an absence of compatriotism, unity, cohesion.

And there is an increase in fundamentalist religion, of the sort which has no time or tolerance of the mores and traditions of liberal democracy. For some of these immigrants – the undoubted minority but very vocal – there is an aggressive assertion of divine law, an intolerance of apostasy and religious freedom, and a total rejection of the foundational principles of the Enlightenment.

Labour’s immigration policy was not about economic charts, employment figures or equality tables: it destroyed lives, killed trust, harmed communities, and challenged our very sense of what it means to be British.

True sorrow means repentance, which necessitates profound change way beyond the rhetorical flourish of political posturing. If Labour were truly sorry, they would need to bring forward policy proposals to regain sovereign control of our borders. And that would mean not only reconfiguring welfare and benefits to deter bogus claims for asylum; it would involve fundamental reconsideration of the unconditional ‘free movement of people’ within the EU. And that would set us on the path to withdrawal.

Sorry, Ed, but unless you’re prepared to go there: your apology is worthless.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

'I love Michael Gove', but...



The MSM today is full of more good news of the greatest of glad tidings in the continuing education revolution, which is irritating the hell out of socialist-inclined teaching profession (ie 99.85% of them) and their guardian Marxist unions, to whom Secreary of State Michael Gove is "'an evil entity' bent on 'demolishing state schools' who is surrounded by 'cronies' and pursuing 'fetishes' while 'terrorising teachers' and empowering 'vultures'" (h/t Paul Goodman for the summary).

Having sent a King James Bible to every state school (how many politicians would have done that?), and having demolished Lord Leveson in defence of liberty, the fearless Gove has taken an axe to to GCSEs and announced the return of O-levels (for the academically able) and CSEs (for those less so). After decades of breastfeeding, the nation's children are to be weaned off milk onto beef: the 'gold standard' is to return, we read, accompanied with the abolition of the National Curriculum.

And so, once again, Michael Gove is being talked of a potential prime minister, and Paul Goodman has penned a love letter.

His Grace loves Michael Gove, too. But...

There can be no real abolition of the National Curriculum while the state determines the the content and rigour of the qualifications: the two are mutually integrally contingent. By all means, heap your praises upon the man, but the contradictions and tensions remain.

On one day we read that all children are to be forced encouraged to recite poetry; the next, teachers are to be put in charge of children's learning. One day we are told that the EBacc will include English, maths, two sciences, a language and humanity (ignoring the arts and RE); the next, the National Curriculum is to be abolished. If the country's primary qualification to certify completion of a 'rounded education' is prescriptive, then it follows that the National Curriculum is necessarily sustained.

Any move to dilute, devolve and deregulate the National Curriculum is unlikely to lead to a strengthening of educational provision: school governors, heads and teachers will simply invoke the liberties granted by the Academies Bill 2010 to base their educational ethos on the magic breathing philosophy of Goldie Hawn, on the Islamic principles of sharia, or on Dawkins’ extremist atheism.

It is strange indeed, not to say something of a contradiction, that the academy or ‘free school’ movement, which proposes to permit local groups of parents and teachers the autonomy to develop their own curricula and forge a distinct educational ethos, should simultaneously have imposed upon it a standardised national history syllabus which is to be written by Niall Ferguson.

Mr Ferguson has his views and his version of history. But an awful lot of academic historians, history teachers, and teaching organisations disagree with him. How does that equate with less prescription, yet an imposed centralised curriculum?

Michael Gove cannot have it both ways.Either one trusts parents and teachers or one does not.Either one is prescriptively imposing a centralised national curriculum or one is not.

And if this right-wing, Christian, Whiggish Secretary of State is permitted by Act of Parliament to demand that academies and free schools teach a particular view of history or encourage children to recite poetry, then his successors will be endowed with that very same authority to ensure the teaching of whatever leftist, globalist, multi-faith, multi-cultural or ‘environmentalist’ creed he or she requires.

With the advantage that 99.85% of teachers and 100% of the teaching unions are far more disposed to such a worldview.

So, when we laud Michael Gove for placing an emphasis on the rigorous study of traditional subjects and the reintroduction of difficult exams rather than wasting time on what he calls 'pseudo-subjects' and inspid GCSEs, let us not forget he forgets that Goldie Hawn’s school will be free to prioritise the technique of breathing over sentence structure and poetry recital (though the latter may well assist with breathing techniques).

And when Mr Gove encourages a focus on the teaching of language and literature, his ‘greats’ of Shakespeare and Chaucer are not going to be everyone’s: there will be one or two governor-bishops who might want the list expanded to include Herbert, Donne, Newman, Hopkins, Eliot, Chesterton, Greene and Belloc. But the final list of these 'greats' will ultimately be determined by the state's qualifications agency (or appointed quango), which necessarily remains responsible for developing the curriculum, improving and delivering tests and assessments, and reviewing and reforming qualifications.

His Grace's love for Michael Gove is not unconditional.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Is the Church of England about to adopt anti-Semitism?

There ia a motion tabled at the Church of England’s General Synod in York (10 July 2012) which seeks to adopt formally and deepen the Church’s links with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The Anglican Friends of Israel (AFI) are a little uneasy about this: EAPPI is a creation of the World Council of Churches and totally devoted to the anti-Semitic Palestinian narrative of the Middle East conflict, which it disseminates far and wide, particularly among the churches. Should the Synod adopt the EAPPI, it would be adopting the 'Nakba' agenda along with the organisation.

AFI has produced a document outlining their concerns about the EAPPI, its parent organisation and the eagerness with which some Christians are embracing its distorted narrative. His Grace reproduces it in its entirety:
Will the Nakba narrative be too tempting for Synod to resist?

A Christian Church voting to support an organisation founded by the World Council of Churches whose existence is to protect innocents from brutal soldiers of an occupying force. What could possibly go wrong?

Well quite a lot actually. At July’s Synod Church of England Bishops, Clergy and Laity will be invited to ‘adopt’ the Ecumenical Accompaniers Programme in Palestine and Israel. EAPPI describes its vision as bringing “internationals to the West Bank to experience life under occupation. Ecumenical Accompaniers provide protective presence to vulnerable communities, monitor and report human rights abuses and support Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace.”

EAPPI describes its mission as “to accompany Palestinians and Israelis in their non-violent actions and to carry out concerted advocacy efforts to end the occupation. Participants in the programme monitor and report violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, support acts of non-violent resistance alongside local Christian and Muslim Palestinians and Israeli peace activists, offer protection through non-violent presence, engage in public policy advocacy and, in general, stand in solidarity with the churches and all those struggling against the occupation.”

In other words, EAPPI exists solely to criticise Israel, a country which has had to contend with continual attempts by its neighbours to destroy it even prior to 1947 when the United Nations voted for a place of Jewish national self-determination in its ancient homeland.

EAPPI was spawned by The World Council of Churches which has largely adopted the ‘Nakba narrative’ of Palestinian victimhood and Israeli aggression, doggedly ignoring Arab terror and anti-semitism. WCC debates and pronouncements on the Middle East all condemn Israel, particularly IDF soldiers who stand daily between Israel’s multi-ethic citizenry and determined Palestinian terrorists. Examples of their notes and motions include

• September 11th 2001 the WCC passed a motion calling for “an international boycott of goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.”
• Of veteran terrorist Yassir Arafat, Peter Weiderud, Director of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs wrote “President Arafat will be remembered for bringing the Palestinian people together and for his unique and tenacious contribution to the cause of establishing their national home.”
• The General Secretary of the WCC falsely called Israel’s boarding of the Mava Mari ‘illegal’, ignoring the violence of the jihadists who inflicted serious injuries on IDF personnel. Assumption of Israel’s guilt is second nature to the WCC.
• The WCC claims to support a 2-state solution to the conflict, yet in February 2001 it affirmed support for “ the right of return of Palestinian refugees” knowing that this would end the existence of Israel as a Jewish Homeland.

Notably absent from WCC statements on the Middle is explicit condemnation of Palestinian incitement to hatred of Israel and Jews, much of it directed at Palestinian children. Neither is any blame for Palestinian suffering laid at the door of Palestinian leaders who have squandered $billions of aid on bribes and terrorism over decades. Nor do human rights abuses by the Palestinian Authority, including the rights of Palestinian Christians, attract much WCC attention.

EAPPI embraces the WCC approach, blaming Palestinian misery on Israel alone and turning a blind eye to Palestinian corruption, rejectionism and incitement. EAPPI ignores the Arab aggression and anti-Semitism that lies at the root of the Middle East conflict and existed decades before 1967 – the year in which Israel offered to return all territory captured in the June war started by Egypt, in return for recognition and cessation of hostilities. (One wonders how many Ecumenical Accompaniers know about this offer, let alone the Arab response in the notorious Khartoum Declaration, “No recognition of Israel, No conciliation with Israel, and No negotiations with Israel.”)

EAPPI depicts the security barrier as an effort to steal land and resources from the Palestinians while downplaying one crucial fact: the number of terrorist attacks has decreased by 90 percent since the construction of the barrier. Even Palestinian terrorists admit the barrier has made it difficult to launch terror attacks. Instead, EAPPI uses the barrier to depict Israel as a racist nation despite its vibrantly multiracial, multi-faith society in which 1 in 5 Israeli citizens is Arab. Despite claiming to support a 2 state solution, EAPPI links to WCC declarations that enshrine the ‘Right of Return’ of Palestinian refugees, a move which would spell the end of Israel as a homeland where Jews can exercise the national self-determination that EAPPI is so keen to see for Palestinians.

To spread its message, EAPPI use volunteer ‘Accompaniers’, whose training includes only a couple of hours on Israel’s perspective on the conflict, to go with Palestinians through checkpoints and be on the look out for any ‘abusive’ IDF activity. Of the 3 months which these well-meaning but ill-informed Accompaniers spend in the Holy Land, only one day is dedicated to visiting Israel; so there is little opportunity for Accompaniers to meet Israelis apart from those who share EAPPI’s hostility towards Israel’s security measures. Thus they cannot learn about the desire for peace amongst ordinary Israelis or the physical economic and mental suffering which decades of Arab terrorism have inflicted upon them.

On their return, Accompaniers speak at venues, including churches of all denominations, about their experiences in the Holy Land. Their pronouncements are often regarded as authoritative by audiences unaware that Accompaniers know next to nothing of the ways in which Arab hostility and terror impacts mainstream Israelis. In this way an entirely skewed narrative fosters a climate of disdain and hostility towards Israel amongst UK Christians.

Islamist persecution, widespread throughout the Middle East, is the primary cause of the haemorrhage of Christians from the region. Yet once again, the Church’s spotlight is on Israel as Synod considers adopting EAPPI, an organisation that exists solely to criticise the one Middle Eastern democracy where Christianity flourishes and freedom of religion is a reality rather than an illusion.

It is alarming that, only 70 years after the Holocaust, some Christians are apparently so eager to embrace the Nakba narrative whose creators openly express their desire to see the end of Israel as a national homeland for the Jewish people. Can it be coincidence that Israel, the world’s only Jewish state, receives more opprobrium from Christian Churches than any other nation, including North Korea, Iran or the Sudan? It is time for the Church of England to ask this question very seriously indeed.
UPDATE: (21 June 2012) Canon Andrew White has approved this statement for issue:
"As someone who has spent many years living in the Middle East-the Land of the Bible-, risking life and limb for peace and who is proud to be a friend of Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Christians and Muslims, I do hope Synod will reject the motion calling for endorsement of EAPPI.

The motion is unjust and has caused deep pain in the Jewish Community. It neglects the wars against Israel's very right to exist. It overlooks the persecution of Jews in the Middle East that preceded the establishment of the modern State of Israel. Israel-like all countries-is not perfect, but she sincerely wishes to find peace.

It is not clear why Synod is being asked to adopt a one sided "NAKBA" narrative against Israel while our fellow Christians are dying in Iraq, Sudan, Egypt and Syria. There are many wonderful peace-loving people in the Palestinian territories who are entangled in a conflict they do not endorse, but the culture of incitement against Jews and Christians as well as the continuing rocket bombardments on Sderot are factors that Synod is being asked to ignore or at best discount."

Rev Canon Andrew White, St George's Baghdad. 21 June 2012

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The CofE and the EU – ‘Not in my name’

So much has been written recently by sundry Anglicans who favour same-sex marriage, with quite a few ranting/blogging/tweeting ‘Not in my name’, in answer to the Church’s ‘Response to the Government Equalities Office Consultation -“Equal Civil Marriage”- from the Church of England’. It is as though there were some ‘I’m gay-friendly Spartacus’ campaign to confound those evil traditionalist bigots who have absolutely no authority to express their homo-sceptical views under the aegis and in the name of the Church of England.

Well, here we are again with an outburst of Europhilia, if not Eurotica, from that very self-same Church, which goes on and on with its quest to ‘encourage the religious communities to present projects meetings, seminars social activities...; to contribute to the recognition and understanding of the ethical and spiritual dimension of European unification and Politics’.

Daniel Hannan MEP observed four years ago:
As regular readers of this blog will know, one of my own recurrent themes is that the EU always pits the top brass against the Poor Bloody Infantry. This is true of the CBI, the TUC, the NFU, most political parties and, for that matter, most churches. I'll never forget walking past my local parish church in 1992 and seeing, among the prayers being posted, one for "the Maastricht Treaty and peace in Europe".
Now the Church of England has contributed to a report by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee: ‘The future of the European Union: UK Government policy’. And on behalf of all communicants of the Established Church, the Archbishops’ Council says (in summary):

• The Church of England is a Church established by law in the UK but it is also by virtue of its history a European Church. It recognizes that to have any influence in Brussels it needs to work in partnership with others. To this end it has invested time, energy and resources in building appropriate bilateral and multilateral relations with key strategic partners across Europe.

• At the December 2011 European Council, the United Kingdom found itself not only without allies, but without credibility as a negotiating partner as it opposed measures which were intended to achieve broad policy goals which are fully in line with UK national interest. This exposed the domestic constraints on the British government and left its partners with the impression that it was an unreliable partner. An opportunity to show solidarity with partners was missed. The UK must work to rebuild trust with its EU partners.

• Successive British governments have failed to articulate a policy towards the United Kingdom’s closest partners that sustains public opinion while enabling it to take a constructive line across the board. Unless future governments develop more constructive and positive conceptions of and commitments to the EU and are able to sell them to an increasingly skeptical domestic audience then Britain could find itself slowly drifting towards the exit. Rather than looking to formalize a two-tier structure the Government should use existing Treaty provisions on enhanced oooperation to press for a more flexible multi-speed Europe with variable membership across different policy spheres.

• By agreeing a legally binding intergovernmental agreement outside the scope of the EU Treaties, signatories to the fiscal compact have marginalised the EU institutions and in so doing weakened their ability to defend the single market. These new arrangements could also have significant implications for the EU’s common judicial space and common foreign and security policy. There is a very real worry therefore that the fiscal compact while saving the Euro might over time contribute to the EU’s demise.

• It is in the fundamental interests of the UK that the problems of the Eurozone are resolved and it is in the UK’s interests that this fiscal compact is folded back into existing EU Treaties as soon as possible. Those wishing to press ahead with a stability union should be able to do so using existing Treaty provisions that allow for enhanced cooperation. The development of a two-tier or even a multi-speed Europe is not without its riskes but it is preferable that such a development builds on existing Treaties rather than departing from them.

All of which amounts to the CofE opposing a referendum on EU membership. And there are some absolute gems in the detail:

...The Archbishop of Canterbury has a permanent representative to the EU institutions in Brussels and members of its Europe Bishop’s Panel are frequent visitors to Brussels and Strasbourg.

...The Church of England’s policy on Europe has been framed by a succession of papers which have been endorsed by the General Synod, its representative assembly. The Church of England engages with the European Union to ensure a values based approach to Europe's development. It does so in order to build a humane, socially conscious and sustainable Europe at peace with itself and its neighbours.

...The decision not to join the Euro until the economic conditions are right, and only then if approved by referenda, has meant that Britain has always been detached from conversations regarding the governance of the Eurozone. One of the stated reasons why past governments have opposed membership of the Eurozone is that along with monetary union must come closer fiscal integration. There is therefore a ‘remorseless logic’ of closer integration in-built into the Euro project that Britain has rightly or wrongly decided to exclude itself from.

...Moving beyond Eurozone specifics, the 2011 European Union Act acts as an emergency brake on Britain's relationship with the EU by requiring any proposed EU Treaty or Treaty change to be subject to a referendum. As a number of Lords Spiritual pointed out at the Second Reading, the Bill ties the government’s hands in future Treaty negotiations by delegating authority to the people acting through a referendum. The relatively negative state of public opinion towards the EU (in 2011 opinion polls indicated for the first time a majority in favour of leaving the EU) opens up the prospect of referendum defeat for any future government.

...The December 2011 European Council showed, however, that the 2011 European Union Act does not serve as an emergency brake on the integrationist tendencies of others. That other countries, even non‐Eurozone states, are now willing to openly press ahead without Britain, even if that means working outside the formal structures of the EU, is symptomatic of Britain’s waning influence in Europe and its declining ability to cultivate allies in Europe.

...Against this uncertain background future British governments need to develop constructive and positive conceptions and commitments to the EU, sell these ideas to an increasingly sceptical domestic audience, and find friends in Europe. Unless it does so the UK could find itself slowly drifting towards the exit. That would be a travesty given the positive contribution that Britain has made to the EU since it joined in 1973.

...Any notion that the UK could somehow turn to ‘like‐minded’ member states to define an alternative to a core of more ‘integrationist’ member states was shown by events in December to be unrealistic. The problem of the December European Council was not that of two camps, but of a single camp with one major player outside it, despite its vital interest being at stake.

...The events of December have shown that, despite differences of approach between member states, almost all wish to travel together based on a recognition of continuing shared interests and a desire for solidarity in the face of the most significant policy challenge for the EU since its inception. A two‐tier Europe is simply not on the agenda. We suspect Europe’s future will be more messy and complex with Europe developing a multispeed approach with variable membership across more closely coordinated policy spheres.

...Popular disenchantment with the EU, might be most marked in the UK, but the EU’s crisis of legitimacy is a Europe‐wide rather than a uniquely UK problem. As suggested by the Lord Bishop of Guildford in the House of Lords debate on the EU on 16 February 2012, Europe needs a revival of the vision of Europe which fired the EU's founders and which is deeply rooted in Europe's many cultures and, now, its many communities of faith.

...As suggested by the Lord Bishop of Exeter in a supplementary question in the House of Lords on 8 December 2011 the EU’s international reputation has already been dented by its handling of the Eurozone crisis, but its soft power could be further eroded if others find the way it organises itself less attractive. We suspect it will be hard for the EU to meet future challenges if an important geopolitical country such as Britain is excluded from its core.

...It is in Britain’s interests that this fiscal compact and/or its provisions are folded back into existing EU Treaties as soon as possible. Those wishing to press ahead with a stability union should be allowed to do so using existing Treaty provisions that allow for enhanced cooperation. The development of a two‐speed or even a multi‐speed Europe is not without its risks, but it is preferable that such a development builds upon the existing Treaties rather than departing from them.

...In terms of safeguards, the Government should press for a deepening of the single market in order to strengthen the ties that bind all member states together regardless of which lane they are in. This step might be productively linked to pressing for enhanced cooperation in other areas where Britain has a competitive advantage and strategic interest such as foreign and defence policy.

...Taken together these measures might go some way to dispelling the impression given in December 2011 that Britain was being awkward for the sake of it. We recognise that this strategy is unlikely to find immediate favour with a euro‐sceptic electorate, but over time it might help to refute the assertion that the EU works against British interests.

If His Grace may on this one occasion, uniquely and extraordinarily (for the end is nigh), adopt the first person singular: the Archbishops Council of the Church of England speaks ‘Not in my name’.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Greece prolongs the agony


“...there's a special
providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now,
'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be
now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the
readiness is all.”
As Hamlet defied augury, he submitted to the inevitable: matters of life and death are beyond man’s control. It is God who determines such matters, and in these words he echoes those of Jesus:
“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father."
As with the sparrow, so it is with the Greek euro. There is an inevitability about its fall: ‘if it be not now, yet it will come.’ Whether now or in the future, Greece will leave the euro because her people will not bear the burden of interminable years of ‘austerity’. Chancellor Merkel of Germany all but ordered the Greeks to vote to stick to their agreements and remain in the euro: “I can only warn everyone against leaving the currency union,” she said. “The internal cohesion of the euro zone would be in danger." In this she was joined by Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the Euro Group, who lectured: "If the radical left wins - which cannot be ruled out - the consequences for the currency union are unforeseeable."

And so the choice was that of a rock or a hard place: between the austerity-supporting New Democracy party on the right, or the liberating austerity-rejecting Syriza party on the left. This election was essentially a referendum on euro membership and the rebirth of the drachma. For the EU, ‘ever closer union’ precludes any restoration of national sovereignty. But if democracy is seen to be subverted by external forces – in this case Berlin and Brussels – we are only storing up and civil unrest, political upheaval and revolution.

A New Democracy coalition – a very unstable one with the centre-left Pasok socialists – is now likely between the pro-EU, pro-euro, pro-austerity majority. If not formal coalition, there will be enormous pressure for ‘cooperation’ to save the euro. The quest will be led by Antonis Samaras, who hailed the election result as a ‘victory for Europe’. He will lead, he says, a government of ‘national salvation’.

And so the nightmare continues: more renegotiation of terms, more loans from the EU and the IMF, more debt, more recession, more burden, more bailout, more austerity, more job cuts, more salary cuts, more pension cuts, more unemployment, more poverty, more homelessness, more suffering, more social tensions, more protests, more civil unrest, more lectures from Berlin and warnings from Brussels.

There is nothing new under the sun: the sparrow will fall, as providence decrees.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Progenitor A’s Day!

From the Coalition for Marriage:

Dear marriage supporter,

When Spain redefined marriage the Spanish Government rewrote birth certificates, removing the words “father and mother” and replacing them with “progenitor A and progenitor B”.

So, this Father’s Day weekend, we have placed adverts on 13 websites wishing Britain “Happy Progenitor A’s Day”, and asking: “what will they change next?”

It’s no joke. Those calling for marriage to be redefined have already said the words “husband and wife” should be stripped out of matrimonial law.

Words matter because truth matters. You and 550,000 others want to keep the true meaning of marriage. More and more people are joining in the campaign every day.

The C4M campaign rolls on. The petition continues to grow daily, and it will remain open. We will not rest nor will we waver in our defence of marriage. Our campaign will continue into the months and years ahead.

The Home Office’s consultation on redefining marriage has now closed. Thanks to all of you who sent a response. It looks like it could be the largest response in British Government history.

Please continue to stand with us, and together we can keep the true meaning of marriage.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Gay Tory challenges 'intolerant' Church



Nicholas Le Quesne Herbert MP, Minister of State for Police and Criminal Justice, says: "I consider myself to be a Christian and I've never in my life felt more distant from the Church than I do at the moment."

Which is interesting, because His Grace considers himself to be a Conservative and he's never in his life felt more distant from the Party than he does at the moment.

And he's not alone.

Friday, June 15, 2012

ASA rules that God can heal



But the claim can only be made on a website; not on printed leaflets.

Yes, that’s the latest ex cathedra ruling of the omnipotent Advertising Standards Authority.

A bit of background:

A Christian group in Bath which goes by the name of HOTS (Healing on the Streets) was banned in February by the ASA from claiming that the Creator of the Universe can heal. As in all such cases, Manichaeism prevailed and the sheep divided from goats: the faithful were incensed, claiming a fundamental attack on religious liberty and freedom of expression, while the secular-humanist-atheists were insisting on the strict application of the scientific method in accordance with the principles of logical positivism (ie, there’s no proof).

As a result of a complaint (yes, one, singular), the ASA investigated with regulatory zeal the outrageous claim that God could heal, and determined after a few coffees that He is just another witchdoctor offering nothing but tinctures of bogus homeopathic potions and ineffectual lotions. God cannot heal, they concluded: the absurd claims of HOTS were fraudulent. The group was told to go and sin no more print no more leaflets and could never again make such absurd claims upon their website.

His Grace will not go into the theological evangelical charismatic debates about which apostolic gifts ceased when and whether or not God still irrupts into human history as He was wont. The issue here is the ASA, to which His Grace is not particularly well disposed (declaration of interest).

The ‘Authority’ has now amended its original judgment, which obviously wasn’t ex cathedra, and issued another one, which is (moreso).

HOTS are now free to proclaim on their website with impunity that God can heal, but they still may not do so upon printed leaflets, for websites (the ASA has determined) lie outside their jurisdiction.

Now then, His Grace is mightily puzzled by this, for reasons which one or two of his regular readers might understand (clue: here, here, here and here).

If His Grace’s blog isn’t a website, he is at a loss to know what it is. Why is it permissible for a Christian to advertise the healing power of God upon a website with impunity, while the promotion of the traditional and legal form of marriage on a website falls under the quasi-judicial powers appropriated by the ASA?

If God’s healing powers are determined to belong to the realm of causes and ideas, and so outside the jurisdiction of the ASA, in what sense and by what reasoning do they assume the authority to pontificate upon marriage, which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man's innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church?

It couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that ASA Chairman Lord Smith (with his shifting declarations of interest) is a tad more interested in promoting gay marriage than he is in trivial issues like preternatural healing, could it?

If not, could he please explain why the HOTS website is decreed to lie beyond the competence of the ASA, while His Grace’s website is subject to their bullying, harassment and summary judgment?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Roman Catholic Church seeks to own ‘catholic’



Yesterday, His Grace was rather amused by this story. Today, he is rather irritated by it.

It is one thing to be geographically territorial about domain names: by all means, let HM Government own ‘.co.uk’, France own ‘.fr’, Zimbabwe own ‘.zw’, and the Vatican City State own ‘.va’. But by granting contested theological and philosophical terms to one single authority ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is inadvertently arbitrating between competing interpretations and conflicting histories in order to determine an official global orthodoxy.

Vatican City has spent $740,000 in applications for control of the top-level extension ‘.catholic’ (and the equivalent in the Cyrillic, Arabic and Chinese alphabets) and will thereby be able to decide who is permitted to use the term. Msgr. Paul Tighe, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said that controlling the top-level domain ‘will be a way to authenticate the Catholic presence online’. He confirmed that the Vatican plans only to allow ‘institutions and communities that have canonical recognition’ to use the extension, ‘so people online – Catholics and non-Catholics – will know a site is authentically Catholic’.

That’s nice.

But what of those who contest that the Roman Catholic Church is itself authentically catholic?

Significantly, we read that the Vatican does not plan to allow individual bloggers or 'private Catholics' to use ‘.catholic’. Msgr. Tighe explains that ‘use of the domain would be limited to those with a formal canonical recognition: dioceses, parishes and other territorial church jurisdictions; religious orders and other canonically recognized communities; and Catholic institutions such as universities, schools and hospitals’.

So, His Grace will not be permitted use of ‘anglo.catholic’, and (barring some ecumenical miracle) the Church of England will perpetually be denied use of ‘reformed.catholic’ (which heretical oxymoron is likely to be withheld forever).

What would Shi’a Muslims feel if the Sunnis were to apply for and be granted global control of ‘.Islam’, thereby determining forever the orthodox composition of the Ummah? What would Roman Catholics feel if the Orthodox were granted ‘.Church’? Significantly, Msgr. Tighe said that such concerns had been expressed to ICANN, and the corporation has been warned of possible conflicts, ‘particularly involving religious groups that do not have any clear or strong central leadership’. In consideration of their own application, he said: “We decided we were best suited to apply for ‘.catholic’.

So, that’s alright then.

As at 13th June, there has been one request for ‘.christmas’ (doubtless commercial), but no requests for ‘.christian’. Two applicants have asked for ‘.church’, but no one has asked for ‘.orthodox’, ‘.lutheran’ or ‘.anglican’.

And, frankly, His Grace isn’t surprised at $185,000 per application with an ongoing £25,000 per annum. ICANN is still open to applications, so if His Grace manages to raise £115,000 over the next few weeks, he’ll contest the Vatican’s application.

The thing is – let’s be honest – that ‘.catholic’ would be owned exclusively by the Latin Rite Church of the Western Empire. Its own claims to universality are not shared by the Reformation churches or those of the Orthodox East: we are no longer in an age of cultural and religious unity or linguistic and liturgical uniformity under the authority of the Pope in Rome. The application to own ‘.catholic’ simply because ‘we decided we were best suited’ is the claim of medieval Christendom. It is the Roman Catholic Church which calls itself Catholic, and has done so since the Emperor Constantine pushed through the requisite religio-political formulae to establish politician-bishops at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, whose task it was to quell the rise of the Arian Christians and, indeed, to obliterate them. Since most of the history books of the time were written by (Roman) Catholic clergy, and most of the libraries were owned and run by monks, it is unsurprising that 'Catholic' became synonymous with 'catholic', and Western canon law became systematised and widely inculcated by missionaries of the Nicene vision.

Six years ago, Pope Benedict XVI aroused the ire of ‘the whole Islamic world’ when he quoted a 14th-century Byzantine emperor who observed that Mohammed ‘spread by the sword the faith he preached’. Merely for choosing to repeat this undeniable fact of history, the Pope was deemed to be a ‘bigot’. But the Latin Church is no less guilty of spreading its creed through alliances with powerful military patrons in the West. It, too, has been intolerant and certainly persecuted the Arians and other heretics in a manner no less bloody than that meted out by Mohammed. It was the Archbishop of Canterbury who (politely) reminded Pope Benedict XVI on his visit to the UK that ‘Christians have very diverse views about the nature of the vocation that belongs to the See of Rome’.

And Dr Williams spoke of ‘the Church catholic — East and West, global north and global south’. Martin Luther left a legacy – some call it a wound – which fundamentally challenges still the claim of the Latin Rite Church to be the sole authoritative expression of catholic unity. Protestantism confronted the ‘Magisterium’ and established a decentralised Christianity: catholicity is no longer owned exclusively by the one who calls himself the ‘Successor of Saint Peter in the See of Rome’.

Insofar as the Holy Roman Empire of medieval Western Catholicism is past, and the only resonance of the vision of the Emperor Charlemagne subsists in Europe’s latest falling empire, should not the centralising impulse of the See of Rome be challenged once again, and the symbolic bestowal of ‘.catholic’ be subject to a little more scrutiny than “We decided we were best suited to apply for (it)”?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

UKIP submission on gay marriage 'consultation'

UKIP today submitted its response to the Government's 'consultation' on plans to legislate for same-sex marriage. Despite the philosophical tensions (see here), UKIP oppose this legislation because 'they believe that contrary to the hype it is illiberal legislation that threatens rather than enhances civil liberties'. The submission is reproduced below, but in summary UKIP believes:
...that The State should play only a minimal role in the lives of the people of the United Kingdom; more particularly, given the scope of this consultation, in the lives of the people of England and Wales. As such we support the concept of civil partnerships. Civil partnerships represent an entirely common sense way of allowing gay men and women in our country to register in a formal way their long-term commitment to one another and to take advantage of various laws relating to, for example, succession and financial planning in the same way as heterosexual couples.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage said: "This consultation is merely gift wrapping (as the Government has clearly already made up its mind) and risks - due to both domestic and European Human Rights legislation - forcing religious groups into a situation were, by law, they must do that which they have a legitimate and moral right to oppose. That a Government Justice Minister, Crispin Blunt, himself gay, admitted to this merely strengthens our point. To that end, we in UKIP oppose the imposition of 'gay Marriage' as, rather than a confirmation of liberty and equality, it will instead be an imposition and a threat to those ideals."

So, as outraged gay UKIPpers flock back to the Conservative, Labour and LibDem parties(...), appalled at the bigoted homophobia of Nigel Farage, the hetero-traditionalists now have an alternative home.

UK INDEPENDENCE PARTY SUBMISSION ON HOME OFFICE EQUAL CIVIL MARRIAGE CONSULTATION

The UK Independence Party Policy

The UK Independence Party's position on this issue may be stated simply: while UKIP fully supports the concept of civil partnerships, it opposes the move to legislate for same-sex marriage.

As a democratic libertarian Party, we believe that The State should play only a minimal role in the lives of the people of the United Kingdom; more particularly, given the scope of this consultation, in the lives of the people of England and Wales. As such we support the concept of civil partnerships. Civil partnerships represent an entirely common sense way of allowing gay men and women in our country to register in a formal way their long-term commitment to one another and to take advantage of various laws relating to, for example, succession and financial planning in the same way as heterosexual couples.

Civil partnerships in no way impinge upon the lives, beliefs, conscience and faith of other people. And the experience of our nation since the introduction of civil partnerships has been one of tolerant acceptance of them as a sensible way forward in adapting our society to meet changed attitudes of the 21st. century.

The UK Independence Party has many in its ranks who are gay men or women who have, without fuss or ostentation, taken advantage of the new arrangements. As a libertarian party, we are entirely at ease with their choice and wish all of them well.

Gay marriage is an entirely different thing altogether.

The Consultation paper states that in respect of four categories of marriage no changes to the law are proposed. These are:

1. A marriage according to the rites of the Church of England or Church in Wales;

2. A marriage according to the usages of the Society of Friends (the Quakers);

3. A marriage according to the usages of the Jewish religion;

A marriage conducted by some other Faith in a registered building in the presence of an authorised person (a marriage conducted through a religious ceremony and on registered religious premises).

On the other hand changes are proposed for the following categories:

1. A marriage in a register office conducted by a superintendent registrar and registered by a registrar. This ceremony cannot contain any religious elements e.g. hymns (it is proposed that this is open to same-sex couples as well as opposite-sex couples).

2. A marriage on approved premises (e.g. a hotel) conducted by a superintendent registrar and registered by a registrar. This ceremony also cannot contain any religious elements e.g. hymns (it is proposed that this is open to same-sex couples as well as opposite-sex couples).

3. A marriage for the housebound or detained. There is also the facility for marriage by Registrar Generals licence for “death bed” marriages (it is proposed that this is open to same-sex couples as well as opposite-sex couples).

It may well be that that is all that the Government are currently proposing.

But it is noticeable that the Consultation document is singularly bereft of any or any realistic attention as to what are very likely to be, in the circumstances set out above, the unintended consequences of introducing , to use a popular shorthand, gay civil marriage that is entirely on a par with heterosexual civil marriage.

There are many gay and lesbian people in England and Wales who are persons of deep religious faith. It is inevitable that some (though by no means all) such people would wish to have the right to have a religious marriage celebrated in a Church or other such place according to the rites and rituals of their particular religion.

The problem is that many Churches are very strongly opposed, by reason of their religious faith, principles and conviction, deeply opposed to the concept of permitting gay couples to marry in their Church. It is thus equally inevitable that gay couples will seek the right to marry in Church and inevitable that Churches will refuse to permit them to do so.

We are quite sure that, whatever the Government's worthy declaration that it proposes no change to the duties of the Church in relation to the estate of marriage, there will,very soon after the introduction of gay civil marriage, be a challenge in first the domestic courts of England and Wales and then in the European Court of Human Rights alleging that the exclusion of gay people from the right to have a religious ceremony of marriage is unlawful discrimination against them on the grounds of their sexual orientation.

We believe that, given the current nature of the European Court of Human Rights' attitude to such matters, there is a very strong likelihood that the Court at Strasbourg will agree that it is an unlawful discrimination on those grounds and order the United Kingdom to introduce laws which will force Churches to marry gay people according to their rites, rituals and customs.

We are also sure that, if that were to take place, the Government would swiftly bend the knee to such a ruling and introduce such legislation.

If that happens and Churches were forced to marry gay people, it will be no more and no less than a wicked piece of tyranny by which the rights of hundreds of thousands of people of faith who hold true to the fundamental tenets of their religion will be ruthlessly trampled upon.

If that were to happen, it would by itself be a breach of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights which says:

ARTICLE 9

Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

2. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

The intention of the Government to legislate to introduce civil same-sex marriage presents a very high risk of Churches and Faiths being forced to marry gay people. Their right to manifest their religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance will be struck down at the Altar of Equality.

It cannot be that legislating for religious gay marriage could be justified under Article 9.2 but we strongly fear - as do most of the Churches and Faiths of our country that, whatever the intentions of the Government are in this regard, such will be forced on them by the Strasbourg Court - a court which has a well-established track record of forcing the United Kingdom to adopt positions, such as votes for prisoners, which are anathema to our people. We believe that this case will be no different.

We believe that the Government must not take this step to far and risk the grave harm of undermining the rights of Churches and Faiths to decide for themselves who they will and will not marry.

We make a number of further observations.

Firstly that, however they may have dressed it up, this is not a consultation at all. The Consultation document makes it plain that the Government has made up its mind to legislate for same-sex civil marriage regardless of any dissenting views. This is thus an entirely bogus exercise. We suspect very strongly that it is intended as a distraction from the grave difficulties that the Government currently finds itself on a series of fronts such as the economy and Europe.

Secondly, we strongly suspect that the sudden desire of the Government to "consult" upon the matter of same-sex civil marriage is entirely driven by the fear that a case lodged in the European Court of Human Rights alleging that the UK's laws on marriage and civil partnerships are discriminatory of gay people and heterosexuals respectively[1] will lead to those laws being declared to be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

There is, thus, a strong fear that the case will go against the UK and that the Government will suffer serious political damage when it is seen to be forced to act to change the law at the behest of the Strasbourg Court.

Given the current difficulties that the Government faces over such issues as votes for prisoners, it has concluded, we believe, that it cannot in this instance yet again be seen to be forced to act by the Strasbourg Court and is thus unwilling to take the political hit attendant upon that event.

Thirdly we must express our deep concern that, were Churches and Faiths to be forced to accept having to marry gay couples, that would, in the case of the Church of England, represent a threat to its position as the Established Church. The very act of having the Queen-in-Parliament pass laws that would utterly subvert the strongly-held beliefs of the Church of England would in turn risk destroying its position as The Established Church with her Majesty the Queen as its Supreme Governor.

We cannot believe that to risk doing that is in the interests of the United Kingdom.

Finally we pose this question: why now?

This is not a burning issue. It is not a matter which animates the daily social intercourse of our Nation. There is, apart from a small but noisy minority within the gay community, no strong demand for this. This is therefore not vital to the life and well-being of our Nation and, given the risks attendant upon it, should not be proceeded with.

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