As defenders of religious freedom in the US rail against the Obamacare contraception mandate, today brought another reminder that the campaign by secular extremists to drive religion from public life isn’t confined to the US.
A judge ruled that a town council in Devon, in south-west England, acted unlawfully by beginning its meetings with a prayer, which it had been doing without controversy for around 400 years. The court case was brought by the National Secular Society after an atheist former councillor, Clive Bone, complained. Not surprisingly, Bone represented the Liberal Democrats, who are the Conservative’s coalition partners in the national government and who, in spite of their name, are liberal only when it comes to matters of crime and punishment.
The court ruling wasn’t quite the victory militant atheists are claiming, however. The judge did not find that the saying of prayers breached the human rights of atheists, as the NSS had claimed. Instead he found against the council under legislation relating to the conduct of council meetings; those laws could shortly be scrapped as part of reforms to local government, allowing prayers to resume, and presumably leading to a new legal challenge.
But this case wasn’t about the ‘rights’ of atheists, or the wounded feelings of Bone, who of course wasn’t compelled to join in the pre-meeting prayers. While Bone was probably motivated in part by good old-fashioned British bloody-mindedness, as in the US, the aim of the liberal-left militant atheist movement is to destroy religion as a source of moral authority, clearing the field for the state, when under the control of enlightened liberals, to impose its values on society.
At least in the US there’s a powerful coalition fighting to defend religious liberty. Here we have the Church of England, whose leaders are either too busy engaging in liberal activism or too lacking in self-belief to defend religion, and which is headed by a leftist crank who’s called for elements of sharia to be incorporated into the law of the land, attacked the free market and sided with anti-capitalist mobs.
Groups such as the National Secular Society hardly need to trouble themselves with court cases to banish religion from public life. They could just sit back and let the CofE do the job for them.
- There's a good analysis of the outcome at Heresy Corner.