Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Banish the Bishops

If ever there was a slap in the face to the idea of a separation of Church and State, it is the privileged position of the phalanx of Bishops in the House of Lords - a deeply undemocratic institution to begin with.

Next week the House of Commons will be debating House of Lords reform and the British Humanist Association is calling on people to let their MPs know their views on the place of Bishops in a 'reformed' House of Lords.

The BHA says:

"The Government proposes to retain the right of Bishops to sit in parliament and even to give the Church new powers to decide precisely which Bishops will represent them. The BHA and our supporters in Parliament will be arguing that the right of Bishops to sit in the Lords must be removed."

The BHA has also produced a briefing paper on the issue, which is worth reading. It sets out all the arguments for giving the bishops the boot.

They are urging people to write to their MPs urging them to support initiatives to remove the bishops from the Lords, especially by adding their name to EDM 998.

For those with limited time, the BHA has produced a pro forma letter which can be automatically sent to your MP with two or three mouse clicks. It literally takes 30 seconds to do.

Also encourage your friends to write in. We can be fairly certain that the organised religious groups will be engaged in heavy lobbying. This is a rare opportunity to get this unelected and unrepresentative group out of parliament.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Little Atoms

A few Friday's ago I was invited onto the Little Atoms radio show to discuss various humanist and secularist issues: the new SORs, communalist politics, the rise of the religious right, the pitfalls of standing up for secularism when some cynically conflate race and religion, etc... you know, my usual hobby-horses.

The show, which airs on Resonance 104.4 FM is hosted by Padraig Reidy and Richard Sanderson.

You can listen to the show here. (The talking starts after about 1:30 of really spacy/trippy new-age theme music.)

Past shows can be downloaded from their audio archive. Guests have included Harry from Harry's Place, as well as Johann Hari, Nick Cohen, David Aaronovitch, Jon Ronson (twice) and A.C. Grayling.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Jews and Gay Adoption Law

In my capacity as editor of Gay Humanist Quarterly, I was invited to write a comment piece for Totally Jewish on the issue of exemptions for religious groups from having to provide services to gay adoptive parents, following a feature they ran in the previous edition.

I argued that the Jewish community, particularly, should support anti-discrimination issues and should be very wary of so-called "conscientious" opt-outs:

"It’s hard to accept, but antisemites also have consciences. Should anti-Jewish discrimination be overlooked if the perpetrators claim it is a conscientious objection to Jews, not blind prejudice? If so, all manner of far-right bigots would suddenly become very pious indeed."

The full article is here.