On Friday 3rd February, the House of Lords debated the Education (Non Religious Philosophical Convictions) Bill in its second reading. The bill would introduce provision for “religious worldviews” to replace religious education in some schools. The Bishop of Southwark spoke in the debate, arguing that religious education fills a key place in the curriculum:
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I speak in this debate feeling somewhat like an officer of the Salvation Army commending temperance to a conference of brewers. None the less, while I believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Burt of Solihull, has made some important points introducing this Bill and I am grateful for them, I want to make some general points to gently demonstrate why this proposed measure for RE in schools without a religious character is unnecessary. I am glad to follow the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, although my view is somewhat different on this occasion from his wisdom and I have no immediate plans to join the British Humanist Association.
First, I stress the value of what remains of religious education within our schools. While the outcomes of education remain a contested area of debate in society, the purpose of education and what it does to us receives much less attention. Too much is assumed in that regard, and that partly informs this Bill. My belief is that human flourishing happens in body, mind and spirit and that education engages us in each of these aspects, which need to be held together holistically.
The Bishop of Leeds asked a question regarding the government’s assessment of the role of religion in the conflict in Ukraine, following a statement giving an update on the conflict on 2nd March 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, I very much appreciate what the Government are doing and the Statement that was given. One of the elements that is lacking from it, however, is any reference to religion. One cannot understand the politics of Russia or Ukraine without understanding the history of the past 1,200 years, what is intended to be part of the reunification of the original Rus—I speak as a Russian linguist and former Soviet specialist at GCHQ. If we do not understand the role of religion, we are in danger of short-term, reactive, tactical activities in relation to the current conflict, whereas the Russians, certainly, have been running a long-term strategy under Putin, in which he has been extremely successful thus far. What role is religion playing in the Government’s assessment of how to care for refugees, which we have talked about, and in establishing back channels with the Moscow patriarchate and the Ukrainian patriarchate?
On 22nd July the Government’s Immigration and Social Security (EU Withdrawal) Bill was debated at Sec0nd Reading in the House of Lords. The Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark, and the Rt Revd Vivienne Faull, Bishop of Bristol, spoke in the debate, highlighting modern slavery, work eligibility, EU citizens, visas for ministers of religion, tariffs, and children’s welfare.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, the introduction of this Bill in another place is a signal opportunity for Her Majesty’s Government comprehensively to reset the legislative basis for immigration control in this country, to set out a vision for doing so, and to rationalise and streamline the more than 1,000 pages of immigration legislation under which we labour. It is surprising, therefore, that, as other speakers have pointed out, this Bill is so narrow in scope. Continue reading “Bishops of Southwark and Bristol highlight concerns with Government’s Immigration Bill”
On 7th May 2019 Baroness Williams of Trafford repeated a Statement by the Home Secretary on protective security funding for places of worship. The Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd James Langstaff, responded to the statement:
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I too am very grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement from the other place. From these Benches, I welcome it and echo some of the things that have already been said by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, not least about the wider context, although I recognise that this Statement has a limited focus.
The Minister has already observed the tragic events in Christchurch, Sri Lanka and San Diego. It seems to me that one of the learnings from those events is the impossibility of predicting where, or even when, a dreadful event might occur. With that in mind, I am particularly grateful for the broadening of the eligibility criteria in relation to potential grants from the fund, whereby it is now not necessary for places of worship to have experienced an incident of hate crime in order to make an application. That is an important loosening around the unpredictability of where things might occur.
“I celebrate today the contribution of humanists and atheists to the common good. I revel in our common humanity, our shared commitment to society and the gift of friendship.”
On 25th July 2013, Lord Harrison led a debate in the House of Lords to take note of the contribution of atheists and humanists to United Kingdom society. The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, welcomed the debate and the contribution of humanists and aetheists to the common good. He hoped that the debate would challenge intolerant tribalism and noted that people of faith, atheists and humanists had in common a desire to explore profound questions about life.
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, while I am still privileged to occupy the Bench of the Lords spiritual on behalf of the nation, I am delighted to say that the debate today is most welcome and I am honoured to follow the previous three speakers. They have given us the opportunity to hear the great deal of good that can and should be recognised, wherever we find it, whether in philosophy—the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, reminded us of the great traditions of humanist philosophy—or in science. I note the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, about the very serious business of assisted dying; I am sure that we will work hard on that together to get it right.
There is also the wonderful good that comes from humanists or atheists ringing bells. So often in society we appear to be motivated simply by our own interests, with the consequence that acknowledging good in others is interpreted simply as disloyalty to one’s tribe. Within the church, we are not immune to this problem. None the less, the Christian tradition points to the wider generosity; when Jesus was asked for an example of neighbourliness, he told a story about the Samaritan and not a good religious Jew, such as himself. I hope that, among many other themes, this debate will challenge intolerant tribalism in all walks of life wherever we find it. Continue reading “Bishop of Birmingham speaks of shared values of religious and non-religious”
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