Response to the Report of the Commission on Religion & Belief in British Public Life

The Woolf Institute convened a Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life, chaired by Baroness Butler-Sloss, which issued its report Living with Difference: Community, Diversity and the Common Good last month.

This is Edward Leigh’s response to the report.

The Commission’s report is a clever attempt to denude the public square and reduce faith to something that goes on in private while promoting religious indifferentism. Great Britain is tolerant precisely because it is a Christian country and if we banish religion from public life I fear we will become increasingly victim to a creeping conformist totalitarianism dressed in a therapeutic guise. We would certainly be even more subject to the tyranny of naked materialism and self-centredness.

Catholics will view the Report’s recommendation that faith schools be shut as a specific attack on us as well as on evangelicals as we tend to be the only two groups of any size who are bucking the trend and resisting the educational conformism of the official establishment mindset. The Report also, in a mealy mouthed way, accused Catholic schools of fostering sectarianism without giving any supporting evidence. Indeed the only testimony of open sectarianism I read in the report was a Catholic victim of prejudice in Glasgow. How insidious and ingenious to employ the victims of sectarianism as an argument in favour of destroying those victims’ schools, culture, and right to live out the fullness of their faith in modern Britain.

I both hope and expect this report will be ignored. The UN Declaration on Human Rights specifically asserts the rights of parents to direct the education of their children and I’m sure the United Kingdom will continue to comply with this. I’m sure most Catholics – alongside Protestants, Muslims, Hindus, and others – will reject the dull, dreary, conformist, and obsequiously inoffensive society this Commission aims for and instead seek to build a better Britain, to borrow Chesterton’s words, “aflame with faith and free”.