Monday, August 25, 2014
Interview: the former attorney general says he fears that 'aggressive' secularism is pushing the Chrisitan 'faith out of the public space'
Britain is at risk of being “sanitised” of faith because an “aggressive form of secularism” in workplaces and public bodies is forcing Christians to hide their beliefs, a former attorney general has warned.
Dominic Grieve said he found it “quite extraordinary” that people were being sacked or disciplined for expressing their beliefs at work.
He described Christianity as a “powerful force for good” in modern Britain and warned that Christians should not be “intimidated” and “excluded” for their beliefs.
He said that politicians and public figures should not be afraid of “doing God” and that they have a duty to explain how their beliefs inform their decisions.
The “appalling” scenes in Iraq, which have seen Islamic extremists behead and crucify religious minorities including Christians, showed that it was “more important than ever” for people to express their religious beliefs, he said.
He told The Telegraph: “I worry that there are attempts to push faith out of the public space. Clearly it happens at a level of local power.
“You can watch institutions or organisations do it or watch it happen at a local government level. In my view it’s very undesirable.
“Some of the cases which have come to light of employers being disciplined or sacked for simply trying to talk about their faith in the workplace I find quite extraordinary.
“The sanitisation will lead to people of faith excluding themselves from the public space and being excluded.
“It is in nobody’s interest that groups should find themselves excluded from society.” Two years ago the Government changed the law to ensure that councils could not face legal challenges for holding prayers before town hall meetings after the High Court backed a controversial campaign to abolish such acts of worship.
There have also been a series of high-profile cases in which people have been banned from wearing crosses at work or sacked for resisting tasks which went against their religious beliefs.
Mr Grieve, a practising Anglican, said that Britain is “underpinned” by Christian ethics and principles.
He criticised the Tony Blair era when Alastair Campbell, the then communications director in Downing Street, famously said “we don’t do God” amid concerns that religion would put off voters.
David Cameron once described his own faith as being like “Magic FM in the Chilterns”, meaning it can come and go.
However, earlier this year the Prime Minister said he has found greater strength in religion and suggested that Britain should be unashamedly “evangelical” about its Christian faith.
Mr Grieve said: “I think politicians should express their faith. I have never adhered to the Blair view that we don’t do God, indeed I’m not sure that Blair does. I think that people with faith have an entitlement to explain where that places them in approaching problems.
“I think that those of us who are politicians and Christians should be in the business of doing it.
“It doesn’t mean that we have the monopoly of wisdom, but I do think Christianity has played an enormous role in shaping this country.
“It’s a very powerful force in this country [but] I think it’s underrated, and partly because in the past it has failed to express itself as clearly as it might.
“Recognising people’s right to manifest their faith and express it is very important.”
Mr Grieve lost his post in government during the reshuffle last month after objecting to plans to give MPs powers to veto decisions made by the European Court of Human Rights.
He said that while he was “sad” to lose his job he did not complain because he took an “old fashioned” approach: “If someone doesn’t want your services, they don’t want your services.”
He warned that the increasingly “capricious” European Commission was attempting to make a “land grab” with a growing number of challenges to government policies on freedom of movement and benefits.
He said: “I think there’s some support at a European Union level for the criticism that the European Commission is capricious and inconsistent on this issue. If we can mobilise that support it might help us obtain support for the reforms the Prime Minister wants.”
He also said that Britain must ask Israel to justify its actions in Gaza after the deaths of hundreds of civilians, including children.
Baroness Warsi resigned as a foreign office minister earlier this month in protest at the Government’s failure to confront Israel over the conflict.
He said: “We are not acting as good friends to Israel if we do not highlight our view as to whether we think they are doing the right thing.
“I have come across very few colleagues in government who are comfortable with what has been going on over the last few weeks. Killing large numbers of children in UN schools which are supposed to be havens of safety is a very unfortunate event to take place and I think needs an explanation.”
As attorney general, Mr Grieve also had to respond to concerns that the RSPCA was becoming politicised with its repeated private prosecutions of hunts. He wrote to the charity asking it to consider appointing a lawyer to review its private prosecution policy.
He said he was concerned that the charity has been prosecuting “vulnerable” individuals unnecessarily. He said: “I found it difficult to see that the public interest supported prosecutions at all. These are people who, because of age or lack of education, would not have a pet put down when it got old because they were so attached to it.
“Obviously, there’s also an issue as to the proportionality of its prosecution policy with hunts.
“One would hope that one would not see prosecutions taking place for matters which appear to be purely capricious or indeed simply a way of forcing individuals to spend vast sums of money in their defence when the case against them is paltry or trivial.”
Mr Grieve is MP for Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire, where many of his constituents are opposed to the proposed High Speed 2 line because it will pass through or close to their homes.
“Constructing HS2 will have a negative environmental impact on my constituency. There is also wider concern about whether in fact this project is good value for money,” said Mr Grieve.
“There is no business case for it. I don’t think any private investor would ever be in a position to finance this project.”
Compensation packages on offer for those affected were insufficient, he added.
“Only those living very close to where the line is going will be bought out. Once you are beyond that small margin you still have to buy another house and pay stamp duty, which is a very substantial financial burden,” he said.
You Probably Didn't Hear About This Police Shooting
A police shooting of a supposedly unarmed man by a Salt Lake City police officer of a different race last week has received scant media attention in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.
Here is what is known: Dillon Taylor, a 20-year-old white man, his brother, Jerrail Taylor, 22, and their cousin were confronted by police outside a 7-Eleven. Cops were responding to a 911 call about a man they are saying matched Dillon Taylor’s description waving a gun. Taylor was also facing an arrest warrant for violating probation connected to a felony robbery. Cops ordered him to the ground. According to his brother Jerrail, Dillon was wearing headphones at the time and did not hear them. Jerrail said that the officers pointed their guns at Dillon’s face, and he was told to put his hands up, while another officer repeated the command to get on the ground. Jerrail claims that his brother reached down to pull up his pants so that he could get down on the ground, at which point an officer fired, fatally wounding Dillon.
Keep in mind the brother of the slain man gave this version of the story, and that Jerrail also has had his share of run-ins with the law. The Salt Lake City police department has released few details of the case. They stand by the officer’s actions, but they have so far refused to confirm or deny whether there was actually a gun. Nor have they identified the officer, other than to say that he was “not white.” Police chief Chris Burbank told reporters that the entire incident was captured by a body camera worn by one of the officers. He said that the video would be released at the “appropriate” time, along with the officer’s identity.
So, there are two young men in different cities, both supposedly unarmed (which police could not have known) but with a criminal history, both shot by cops who were of a different race than the suspects. Facts in the Ferguson case indicate that Michael Brown assaulted the officer who ultimately shot him. Civilian witnesses and Dillon Taylor’s family and friends claim he was unarmed when he was killed, though police have refused to comment on that aspect of the incident. In reaching for his pants, Dillon could have been reaching for a weapon. Brown became a national news story and his shooting sparked a riot and became the focal point of race baiters looking to cash in and play up the racist cop narrative that further stoked violence in Ferguson. Conversely, Taylor’s death was barely reported and life continues pretty much as before in Salt Lake City.
In the Ferguson case, a black man was shot by a white police officer. That plays into the Left’s race-baiting narrative of cops supposedly declaring war on black people. That means ratings. And in this case, it also meant a full-scale riot that took days to bring to a close, even by heavily armed police officers. In Salt Lake City, the man who was shot was white, and the cop is … not white. Therefore, the Salt Lake City story runs against the racial narrative, and reporters can’t, or won’t, confirm the officer’s race.
As Mark Alexander pointed out, if there is a war on black people in this country, then it is a war with other blacks. The latest national statistics on homicide and race tell the story. Blacks represent 13% of the population, yet half of all homicide victims were black. And over 90% of those murdered were killed by other blacks.
This is a disturbing trend that truly is a national tragedy. Yet, it gets no airplay, and it certainly doesn’t get the attention of Barack Obama or Activist General Eric Holder. Stopping black-on-black crime would require real work to stop the cycle of poverty, crime, and lack of education that has plagued blacks for decades. It would mean admitting that the “Great Society” was a failure that has created nothing but a poverty-plantation base of Democrat support. It’s more convenient to point fingers and stir racial animosity, because that draws headlines and makes it appear as if something is being done without expending any real effort.
The Great Racial Disconnect on Police
On Monday, Rasmussen released a poll of Americans regarding the guilt or innocence of Officer Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot unarmed 18-year-old black man Michael Brown six times in Ferguson, Missouri. Those polls show that 57 percent of black adults think that Wilson should be found guilty of murder; 56 percent of whites, by contrast, are undecided on the matter.
The latter position is the correct one. Witnesses, including one Dorian Johnson, claim that Brown was pulled over by Wilson, attacked by him and pulled into the car, ran, stopped when told to freeze by Wilson, held up his hands, and was then shot. Other witnesses — more than a dozen of them, according to local media — say that Brown attacked Wilson, went for Wilson's gun, fled before being told to stop, then charged Wilson before being shot.
Here's what we do know: Despite original media reports labeling Brown a "gentle giant," Brown and shooting witness Dorian Johnson did participate in a strong-arm robbery of a local convenience store. We know that despite original witness reports suggesting that Brown was shot in the back, he was not. We know that contemporaneous witness accounts caught on tape suggest that Brown charged at Wilson. And we know that a young black man is dead with six bullets in him at the hands of a white cop.
And to huge segments of the black community, that last fact is the only one that matters. The full facts do not matter to extremists in the black community and to their white leftist enablers, particularly in the media. A full 41 percent of black Americans believe that riots and looting represent "legitimate outrage." Not protesting — riots and looting. Just 35 percent of blacks think that looters and rioters are criminals taking advantage of the situation.
There is a pattern here: a widespread belief in the black community that the justice system is rigged against them. That belief is not without basis — there is no question that America has a history of racism within the criminal justice community. By the same token, there is also no question that American law enforcement is the least racist it has ever been, by a long shot, and that racism within the law enforcement community is broadly considered unacceptable and vile.
But the belief in a racist justice system seems to have maintained its stranglehold inside the black community. That belief, taken to its extreme, means support for black criminality. It is no coincidence that during the O.J. Simpson trial, 60 percent of black Americans did not believe O.J. was guilty. It is also no coincidence that many white Americans perceive black support for murderers like O.J. Simpson and riots in Ferguson as support for lawlessness, and therefore pooh-pooh charges of police racism. When crying racism becomes crying wolf, it is hard to take such charges seriously.
The solution, however, lays neither in knee-jerk accusations of racism from the black community nor in immediate dismissals of individual accusations by the white community. It lies in continued targeting and prosecution of individual racists in the police community, of course — and far more importantly, it lies in less criminality within the black community. The high levels of crime in the black community contribute to heavier policing, which in turn reinforces perceptions of racial targeting; those perceptions then create resentment against police than ends too often in violent encounters and failure to report crime. And so the cycle starts anew.
It's time to break the cycle. The only way to do that is to focus on the fact that police have no excuse to shoot anyone unless those people are committing criminal acts. On that we can all agree. Yes, we must arduously insist that police hold to that standard, and we must prosecute those who do not to the fullest extent of the law. But by the same token, we must insist that criminal acts stop — and to do that, we must move beyond simple anti-police sentiment.
Government to Farmers: Host Same-Sex Wedding or Pay a $13,000 Fine
Should the government be able to coerce a family farm into hosting a same-sex wedding?
In a free society, the answer is no. Family farms should be free to operate in accordance with the beliefs and values of their owners. Government shouldn’t be able to fine citizens for acting in the market according to their own—rather than the government’s—values, unless there is a compelling government interest being pursued in the least restrictive way possible.
But the New York State Division of Human Rights doesn’t see things this way. On August 8, it fined Cynthia and Robert Gifford $13,000 for acting on their belief that marriage is the union of a man and woman and thus declining to rent out their family farm for a same-sex wedding celebration. The Human Rights Commission ruled that “the nature and circumstances of the [Giffords’s] violation of the Human Rights Law also warrants a penalty.”
This is coercive big government run amok.
Here’s the back story. In 2012, Melissa Erwin and Jennie McCarthy contacted the Giffords to rent the family’s barn for their same-sex wedding ceremony and reception. Cynthia Gifford responded that she and her husband would have to decline their request as they felt they could not in good conscience host a same-sex wedding ceremony at their home. The Giffords live on the second and third floor of the barn and, when they host weddings on the first floor, they open part of the second floor as a bridal suite.
The Giffords have owned and operated Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke, New York for over 25 years. Like many small farm families, they often open the farm to the public for events like berry picking, fall festivals, and pig racing.
Should the government be in the business of “re-educating” its citizens to change their moral beliefs?
They also open their home for weddings and receptions. When the Giffords host weddings, they are involved in every aspect of the wedding planning and celebration: they greet and drive guests in their farm trolley, decorate the barn, set up floral arrangements, arrange fireworks displays, and provide catering. As the Human Rights Commission ruling even points out, “the only wedding-related service Liberty Ridge Farm does not offer is providing the official for the wedding ceremony.”
As many brides know, planning a wedding requires hours of careful work to organize in order to pull off the celebration—hours during which family businesses operating venues like the Giffords’ actively participate in the weddings they host. The Giffords believe that as free citizens running a business, they should have the right to decline to participate in an event that does not reflect their values.
Unfortunately, New York’s Human Right’s law (Executive Law, art. 15) creates special privileges based on sexual orientation that trump the rights of business owners. Because the Giffords’ family farm is open to the public for business, New York classifies it as a “public accommodation” and then mandates that it not “discriminate” on the basis of sexual orientation.
Of course the Giffords were not engaging in any insidious discrimination—they were acting on their belief about the nature of marriage. They do not object to gay or lesbian customers attending the fall festivals, or going berry picking, or doing any of the other activities that the farm facilitates. The Giffords’ only objection is to being forced to abide by the government’s views on sexuality and host a same-sex wedding. The Human Rights Commission has now declared this historic belief about marriage to be “discrimination.”
The Giffords must pay a $1,500 mental anguish fine to each of the women and pay $10,000 in civil damages penalty to New York State. If they can’t pay in 60 days, a nine percent interest rate will be added to that total. Like Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Giffords must also institute anti-discrimination re-education classes and procedures for their staff.
The question before all citizens is whether this law and this fine are just. Should the government be able to force family businesses to betray their consciences and participate in ceremonies that violate their beliefs? Should the government be in the business of “rehabilitating” consciences or “re-educating” its citizens to change their moral beliefs about the definition of marriage?
Government should not create special legal privileges based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Instead, government should protect the rights of Americans and the associations they form to act in the public square in accordance with their beliefs. The Giffords’ case illustrates the growing conflict between religious liberty rights and laws that grant special privileges based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In a nation founded on limited government and religious freedom, government should not attempt to coerce any citizen, association, or business into celebrating same-sex relationships.
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.