Prime Minister Brown insists Britain is still a Christian country
The message seems not to have got through to the bureaucracy, though
Gordon Brown has insisted that Britain remains a Christian country and defended the right of worshippers to express their faith in public. The Prime Minister claimed the country's values are still based on traditional religious teachings, and said it would be wrong if the devout were forced to keep their beliefs private.
His comments, made in an interview with a Christian radio station, come amid growing concern that public sector employees are being punished for acting according to their faith. A community nurse was suspended without pay for two months after she offered to pray for an elderly woman, while two registrars claim they were forced out of their jobs for refusing to perform civil partnership ceremonies involving same-sex couples.
All NHS staff have been warned they face disciplinary action if they are accused of "preaching" to colleagues or patients, while a proposed EU equality directive has raised fears that religious groups could be sued by anyone who declares themselves offended by their practices.
But Mr Brown, whose father was a Church of Scotland minister, told Premier Christian Radio: "I think the role of religion and faith in what people sometimes call the public square is incredibly important. "In Britain we are not a secular state as France is, or some other countries. It's true that the role of official institutions changes from time to time, but I would submit that the values that all of us think important – if you held a survey around the country of what people thought was important, what it is they really believed in, these would come back to Judeo-Christian values, and the values that underpin all the faiths that diverse groups in our society feel part of."
Asked if he thought it would be better if Christianity were "privatised", he replied: "I think it's impossible because when we talk about faith, we are talking about what people believe in, we are talking about the values that underpin what they do, we are talking about the convictions that they have about how you can make for a better society. "So I don't accept this idea of privatisation – I think what people want to do is to make their views current.
"There is a moral sense that people have, perhaps 50 years ago the rules were more detailed and intrusive, perhaps now what we're talking about is boundaries, beyond which people should not go. "And I think that's where it's important that we have the views of all religions and all faiths, and it's important particularly that we're clear about what kind of society we want to be. "So I think the idea that you can say: 'What I do in my own life is privatised and I'm not going to try to suggest that these are values that can bind your society together', would be wrong."
Asked whether he believed the Government gave preferential treatment to Muslims ahead of other faith groups, the Prime Minister said: "When you've got a society that is diverse, what happens is for a time, the issue is integrating your minorities into that society. And so people want to make sure that people who may feel discriminated against have the chance to get jobs, or get education, or get chances that otherwise they might not have. Then people – rightly, I think – say: 'But what about the integration of your society as a whole – how can people work together, how can you have a more cohesive society'?"
Although Mr Brown often describes himself as a "son of the manse" and said the MPs' expenses scandal offended his "Presbyterian conscience", his new comments are his strongest in recent years on the expression of faith by others. His predecessor, Tony Blair, famously did not "do God" while in Downing Street but soon after stepping down converted to Roman Catholicism and set up a faith foundation in the hope of promoting religion as a "powerful force for good".
British victims of crime failed by justice system, says MPs' report
Victims of crime are being failed by the justice system, which is weighted in favour of criminals, a damning report by MPs has warned. Government claims that victims are at the heart of the system, with prosecutors acting as their "champions", misrepresented reality, the Commons Justice Committee said. Ministers who tell victims that the system is being "re-balanced" in their favour were likely to leave them disappointed, they concluded after an inquiry into the working of the Criminal Prosecution Service (CPS).
Instead, offenders were being charged with lower offences by prosecutors keen to boost conviction rates. Violent offenders, muggers, burglars and sex offenders were escaping prison because the CPS wanted to guarantee a guilty verdict, according to magistrates, police and barristers who gave evidence to MPs. The report attacked the growth in out-of-court penalties as a "fundamental change" to criminal justice. This compared with innocent members of the public given harsh fines for overfilling wheelie-bins or driving in bus lanes, a watchdog pointed out.
The report comes 10 months after Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, admitted the Government has too often concentrated on the needs of offenders, rather than victims.
The report concluded: "The prosecutor is not able to be an advocate for the victim in the way that the defence counsel is for the defendant, yet government proclamations that the prosecutor is the champion of victims' rights may falsely give this impression. "Telling a victim that their views are central to the criminal justice system, or that the prosecutor is their champion, is a damaging misrepresentation of reality. "Expectations have been raised that will inevitably be disappointed."
The report also quotes comments made by Sir Ken Macdonald QC in his final speech as the Director of Public Prosecutions last year, when he warned "it will never be possible, in adversarial proceedings governed appropriately [by the right to a fair trial] for the interests of victims to overcome those of defendants".
Barristers, police and magistrates all told the committee of concerns that crown prosecutors deliberately bring lesser charges, or no charge at all, to offenders to ensure an easier "less risky" conviction in a target-driven culture. It includes violent offenders being charged with common assault instead of actual bodily harm, muggers being charged with theft from the person instead of robbery or burglars and sex offenders being given cautions rather than facing court and possible jail.
John Thornhill, chairman of the Magistrates' Association, quoted one example when a man was kicked and punched by three men, an offence caught on CCTV, but the culprits were charged with threatening behaviour. He told the Daily Telegraph the concern was whether such moves were "fair on the victim".
Sir Alan Beith, chairman of the committee, added: "Victims often feel like powerless bystanders in the criminal justice system. The Government propagates this idea that the CPS is the victims' champion, but it isn't."
Police officers told the committee some prosecutors were "risk averse" so they could hit conviction targets, while the Magistrates' Association raised the prospect of "plea bargaining by the back door". John Coppen, from the Police Federation, said officers believe the CPS are "reluctant to put before the a court anything other than cast iron cases so better to meet their performance targets".
Peter Lodder QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, added: "We suspect that there has been some under charging. We have reason to suppose that there is a tendency to accept inappropriate pleas."
Stephen Wooler, the Chief Inspector of the CPS, raised concerns over the growth of cases which don't reach court, such as cautions and on-the-spot fines. He warned that in some parts of the country, people who overfill wheelie bins or drive in bus lanes are fined more than those guilty of shoplifting or criminal damage. Residents who overfill their wheelie bins face fines of up to £110, while those driving in bus lanes can face fines of up to £120. Shoplifters face just £80 fines.
He called for a "form of scrutiny" over the ways the powers are being used amid concerns they are "less subject to judicial process". He said: "I am not satisfied that the present level of checks and balances is sufficient to retain public confidence." MPs were told that no further action is taken in a fifth of occasions where offenders breach conditional cautions.
Figures earlier this year showed less than half of suspects in cases considered solved by the police are actually charged or summonsed, with the rest not reaching court. A record 207,500 on-the-spot fines were issued last year.
The report concluded: "The growth in the number of out-of-court disposals represents a fundamental change to our concept of a criminal justice system and raises a number of concerns about consistency and transparency in the application of punishment."
Keir Starmer, the current DPP, said there was "no evidence of over or under charging". He added: "Fair, fearless and effective; open, honest and transparent; protective, supportive and independent: these are the qualities that the public has a right to expect of its public prosecution service. We are determined to meet those expectations."
A spokesman for Baroness Scotland, the Attorney General, added: "The Attorney continues to support the commitment to victims in the Prosecutor's Pledge and the other initiatives the CPS has put in place to support and secure fair treatment for victims and witnesses, including those who suffer from hate crimes. "The CPS has made it clear that its role is to enable, encourage and support the effective participation of both victims and witnesses at all stages of the criminal justice process."
City of Gary, Indiana, agrees to hire white medics
White applicants sued after blacks with lower test scores were hired instead
Six white medics who sued the city for discrimination after blacks with lower test scores were hired instead have reached an agreement that will provide some with cash and most with another chance to work for the Gary Fire Department.
In a consent decree issued Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice and Gary officials agreed to divide more than $25,000 between Nathan Bogner, Christopher Ferrand and Tina Bruks. Those three and Richard Hurst and Timothy Sierazy must also be offered jobs within a year in positions that would provide the seniority and other benefits they would have earned if hired in October 2006. A sixth complainant is not included in the settlement.
"I'm extremely happy," said South Haven Fire Department medic Bruks, who will receive more than $12,000 and the chance to work at a job she once coveted. "I love my job now, but you never know what will happen in a year," she said.
Mayor Rudy Clay said Thursday he was unaware of the settlement.
In the 10-page decree, the city denies it discriminated against the medics when it hired six blacks who, except for one, ranked lower on the eligibility list prepared by former Emergency Medical Services director Angelo Bruno. Bruno, who followed the fire department's testing standards and criteria to develop a hiring list, was demoted after Clay named a new chief, then retired. He died last year.
When the controversy surfaced, Fire Chief Jeff Ward said he was not obligated to honor the list prepared by a prior adminstration. He denied the six were rejected because of race, claiming the issue was residency, although all six had indicated on their applications they would move to the city if hired.
Gary lawyer Charles Brooks represented the city in the lawsuit.
After the Gary Police Civil Service Commission meeting, where Brooks advises the board, Brooks said the decree constituted "a consensus" involving all parties. Each city department with a role in the final settlement should take action, including issuing the checks and processing letters of employment. The cash awards represent 80 percent of the difference between what the medics would have earned with Gary in comparison to their actual income since 2006.
Australia: Catholic seminaries full as religion resurges
By comparison, Moore Theological College, the seminary of the very evangelical Anglican Archdiocese of Sydney, has over 300 full-time students in its 4-year courses
AFTER years of decline, the number of priests in the Catholic Church in NSW is on the rise. Sydney seminaries are full of holy hopefuls for the first time in 10 years, as 60 men prepare for a life in the priesthood - three times as many as there were in 2000. Eighty per cent of them are under the age of 30.
While some cite World Youth Day as their inspiration, others describe a calling they just couldn't ignore. The youngest is 19, and the majority are in their early or mid-20s. They may be young, but they are determined to be part of a revolution bringing people back to the Catholic Church.
Homebush's Seminary of the Good Shepherd is one of two seminaries in Sydney and houses 40 of those in the midst of their seven-year learning curve. Of those enrolled, 31 are under the age of 30. Father Anthony Percy, who runs the seminary, said having the younger generation aspire to be priests was encouraging, and would help resolve the problem of Sydney's priest shortage. "There is definitely a renewed interest in the Church and the priesthood," Father Percy said. "We had the ordination of four priests a few months ago - that hasn't happened since 1983." He said one reason for the shift in attitude was a reaction to a post-modern world with fluid values.
Blacktown 19-year-old Mark Aarts told The Sunday Telegraph he was accepted into the seminary when he was 18, and couldn't be happier. "As difficult as it is, there is something very firm about my desire because I see it as a gift from God," he said. "My parents were very accepting."
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.