While Britain has become increasingly secularized in recent years, it is only recently that the loss and even opposition to religiosity is finding expression in laws and public policy, writes Jonathan Luxmoore inCommonweal magazine (April 20).
Among the laws increasingly challenging religious rights and a public role for religion in Britain is a recent bill requiring that Catholic adoption agencies place children with gay and lesbian couples. An equally controversial Education Bill amendment would have required Catholic and other church-owned schools and colleges to reserve at least a quarter of their places for non-religious children. The legislation was only withdrawn after Catholic and Anglican leaders said they would create such a space voluntarily.
Meanwhile, social services in several counties are reported to have denied adoption rights to Christian couples, after claiming the children in question could be “brainwashed,” according to Luxmoore. A new Charity Law is expected to withdraw tax-exempt status from religious bodies that fail to reflect “`modern morals and existing orthodoxy,’ ” even as Christian Union societies at British universities have had to resort to legal action after being denied facilities and having their bank accounts frozen for their views on homosexuality.
Luxmoore writes that an “anti-religious elite,” led by such a figure as scientist and atheist activist Richard Dawkins are accelerating this process of secularization. Dawkins and the National Secular Society have called for removing all financial support for religious schools and even have questioned the right of parents to “indoctrinate their children.” Dawkins’ views have found support in Parliament, with a Labor Party Humanist Group recently established to “oppose faith schools.”
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