Disestablishment and secularism needed more than ever!
An interesting article on the Guardian Comment is Free site today from Terry Sanderson, long time Gay Times columnist and elected President of the National Secular Society in 2006. Terry focuses on the recent off-the-cuff comments of the Bishop of Carlisle who let slip that the leaders of the church have been in a prolonged conversation with the government about the church taking over the running of a range of services :
Dow revealed that the government had, for more than two years, "been in conversation with church leaders about the possibility of the church providing extensive welfare services, rather in the way that the church plays a major part in education". Part of this, apparently, is a 20-year contract for "Christian groups bidding to deliver dentistry".
Not only does the bishop envisage the church taking over welfare provision with the use of public money, he doesn't want that provision to be regulated. "Church projects of course would be audited, but not controlled. My opinion is that, recently, we have been building a society that is very low on trust and very high on inspection and control," said his reverence.
But we've trusted churches before to carry "faith-based welfare" provision without regulation, and we got the Magdalen laundries.
It seems like it is high time that those who are serious about a tolerant and progressive secular society in Britain stepped up their support for the likes of the National Secular Society and others campaigning for the disestablishment of the Church of England and the complete separation of Church and state.
It seems clear to me that some in government and ruling class circles are intent on moving to a situation of modern corporate feudalism - where, as in the previous feudalism services are the preserve of the church and religious charities and absolute power lies with the modern barons - the banks, transnational corporations and their political and media puppets.
One does not have to be a rampant atheist to feel angry at the government conspiring to bring the church back into a position of power over people's lives, nor to believe that it is perfectly possible to have a good and moral society where religion has no official or specially protected status.