Richards Lucas says that “the default position of many secularists is to try to exclude religious voices from debate” (Letters, 29 September).
Not all secularists are atheists and we would fiercely defend any religious person’s right to have their say. Sadly, that is not enough for some who maintain that “religious freedom” must involve the freedom to impose religion on others.
Secularism champions the right of all to free expression, but opposes privilege in that expression as seen in unelected bishops in the House of Lords, statutory religious seats on education committees or the religious assumption of institutional involvement with our councils, legal system and schools. With separation of church and state and clarity on freedom of religion with freedom from religion, all voices can and should be heard.
Having called for “feminist ire” to be excluded from the public debate over abortion (Letters, 27 September), Richard Lucas now cries foul when he thinks someone is trying to exclude religious ire from public debate.
Let me reassure him as to the “default” position that secularists adopt to public discourse. We are more than happy for everyone – religious believer or not – to speak out on any issue. In fact, the more that religious leaders speak out, the faster it seems the pews are emptying.
What secularists object to, however, is that when the religious lose the argument, that is usually when they claim they are being “persecuted” or marginalised. More often than not, these cries are led by former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, from his free seat in the House of Lords, alongside 25 of his archbishop peer group. Secularists would be very happy indeed to be so marginalised!
National Secular Society
Richard Lucas writes that I “called for ‘the religious to stay out of the [abortion] debate’. This is the hard-line secularist’s faulty vision of neutrality.” What effrontery. The letter from me to which he refers was a response to one in which he called for the contributions of feminists, as representative of the views of a “secular liberal political and media elite”, to be excluded from the debate on the moral status of the unborn.
The point of my response was to suggest that once we embark on the slippery slope of excluding voices from decisions, there would seem to be just as good a case for excluding religious voices as secularist feminist ones. It’s Mr Lucas who is the excluder, who has the faulty vision of neutrality.