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Tuesday, February 12, 2008


James Graham has pinpointed the real problem with the Archbishop of Canterbury's speech on Sharia law. He tells us that Rowan Williams has argued for a system of exceptionalism, whereby atheists (or, as he put it in his speech on Thursday, sterile positivists) must abide by the rule of law while anyone of faith can negotiate whatever opt-outs they wish. At the same time, of course, he insists that the Church should be established and retain its existing seats in the House of Lords....In short, he believes absolutely in equal rights with the modest proviso that the religious are more equal than the rest of us.

James also points out that for all the Archbishop’s exhortation about the importance of human rights, it was the Church of England that demanded to be exempted from such rights when the Human Rights Bill was being debated in 1998.

Personally, I am still laughing at an earlier post on the excellent Quaequam blog in which James suggests an opening line for the Archbishop so as to break the ice when he addresses the General Synod:

When I set out to write a speech about major religions operating their own quasi-legal systems, I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition!
Peter, you are a member of the Welsh Asembly and are living in Wales. There is no need to disestablish the Anglican Church here. The job was donelong ago by Lloyd George. Rowan Williams didn't have a seat in the Lords till he became Archbishop and clearly found the priviledge addictive
I am fully aware that the Church in Wales is disestablished especially as it was a Liberal Government which performed that act. I am also aware that it is separate to the Anglican Church. However, that does not exclude me from commenting on the Church of England or, as in this case referring to somebody else's comments. We are not an island here no matter how much the Nats want us to be.
The church isn't all that disestablished in reality - as far as I know, the Sovereign remains its head, and unelected bishops from that communion do continue to sit in the Lords and so influence law that impacts upin us all ... time to finish the job and separate church and state once and for all?

I do agree with James though, the Archbishop's intent seems to be something far more insidious than 'just' accpeting sharia in the UK, he was making the case for faith groups generally to continue to opt out of state legislation.
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