13 February 2008

Not another comment on the Archbishop’s speech

There seems little point in adding to the torrent of words already spilt in response to Archbishop Rowan’s recent speech on ‘Civil and Religious Law in England’. Instead I would simply recommend that anyone who wants to engage with what he was actually saying would be well advised to read the excellent analyses by Andrew Goddard and Mike Higton.

Hopefully when the present furore has died down some serious thought will be given to the very important questions raised by his lecture. For example, how should a modern pluralistic society accommodate the religious believers in its midst? Is there any place for conscientious objection to aspects of our public culture? What limits should the state impose upon religious communities to ensure that their members both enjoy the rights and fulfil the responsibilities of citizenship in the wider society?

And, of course, the way sections of the media and some politicians reacted to his call for a carefully reasoned debate on these matters says some disturbing things about the nature of British society at the beginning of twenty-first century, which need to be teased out.

Addendum: Mike Higton continues his analysis of the Archbishop’s speech with a piece entitled ‘What is Enlightenment?’ The Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright, has issued a statement, which offers a very lucid summary of the Archbishop’s main points. And The Tablet offers an interesting take on what Rowan Williams was trying to do.

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