Saturday, 11 February 2012

Lord Carey's "Terrifying Prospect"

The Guardian is carrying some quotes from Lord Carey, former archbishop of Canterbury, about the recent High Court ruling that councils do not have the power to formally impose prayers as part of official business.

Carey says the ruling will have "incredibly far-reaching consequences" and he gives the example: "Will the next step be scrapping the prayers which mark the start of each day in parliament?"

I am not sure what counts as a "far-reaching consequence" - let alone an "incredibly far-reaching consequence" - but it is difficult to see prayers in parliament (used often by MPs just to reserve seats) as a consequence worthy of even an adjective or an adverb, let alone the ones he chooses.

The former archbishop goes on.

"These legal rulings may also mean army chaplains could no longer serve, and that the coronation oath, in which the King or Queen pledges to maintain the laws of God and the lessons contained in the gospels, would need to be abolished. This is a truly terrifying prospect."

Well, this is a rather heady interpretation of a judgment on the scope of the Local Government Act.

It is, of course, legal nonsense.

There is no such prospect from this ruling, still less a "terrifying" - indeed, "truly terrifying" - one.

The former archbishop is simply using words which he cannot mean or does not understand.

"It is clear that these sensitive matters can no longer be left in the hands of judges."

So that's a former archbishop coming out against the Rule of Law then.

This is all hysterical silliness from someone who - worryingly - remains one of this country's legislators.

Prayers should have no part in official civic business, just as religious oaths should have no part in the practice of law.

Law and public policy should be free from the formal trappings of religion.

Perhaps one day soon they will be.


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DT Stayte said...

I never expected anything less silly from a man who takes his advice from a book that advocates stoning and slavery.

The most infuriating thing about archaic figures like Lord Carey is that they consider themselves victims because they cant force their nonsense beliefs on those of other or no faith.

I look forward to the day where prayer takes no part whatsoever in anything governmental.

Andy Lopata said...

What is terrifying is that an advanced nation such as the UK still has a formal role for such fantasies in our public life. What is even more terrifying is the role religion plays in public life in a powerful country like the US.

We need to stop giving people like Carey undue respect for their fantasies and dangerous opinions. Millions and millions have been murdered over the centuries in the name of religion, that's what's truly terrifying.

Zeno said...

It's difficult to know whether Carey just doesn't understand the law (in which case, why is he one of those who makes our laws?) or whether he does understand the law, but is quite happy to spread lies and misinformation (in which case, why does he call himself a Christian?).

Mike said...

Every time a bishop or archbishop makes a ridiculous statement - almost a daily occurrence these days - it just further underlines how inappropriate it is for them to have such a disproportionate role in public affairs.

They have no self-correcting mechanism, no peer review; every fantastic proposition made by one of their colleagues is allowed to pass without comment.

caebrwyn said...

agree entirely with this post but I think wider importance is the ruling on the very broad scope of the Local Government Act, and the defining of what is, or what is not, conducive to the functions of a local authority. I wonder whether more challenges will now follow on other issues.

Dr Aust said...

My memory is that, when he was appointed to Canterbury some 20 years ago, Carey was not regarded as the sharpest knife in the episcopal drawer by a long way. It was much rumoured that he owed his getting the job to Mrs T's deep loathing for the kind of donnish liberals who traditionally occupied Lambeth Palace (and other episcopal seats), and who she thought of as wafflers and often instinctive lefties. Rowan Williams is very much in that don-manqué tradition, of course. Carey remains the only modern Archbish NOT to have gone to Oxbridge.

Since Carey retired his public pronouncements seems to have got progressively dottier, with this 'attack on Christianity' idea as a major bee in his bonnet lately - see his pronouncements in respect of the McFarlane v Relate Avon case.

Anyway, as to his not understanding the law, I would have suggested that was highly likely.

Personally I am amazed in this day and age that any Council would be having prayers at their meetings. Perhaps they were getting the Council chamber confused with the Masonic Lodge?

Stephen said...

I quite liked the ruling in terms of telling councils they can't do whatever they like. I think there are a good number of admirable public servants on councils in this country but also a good number that don't seem to have been told that nearly enough.

Martin Budden said...

Lord Carey is just promoting his book. The Guardian quotes Lord Carey's article in the Daily Mail, which ends with a plug for his new book. Lord Carey is also interviewed by The Telegraph, and the article ends with a plug for the book. Lord Carey was also interviewed by the Today programme on Radio 4 on the 11th of Feb. Here he plugged his book in the first sentence he uttered.

You say: "This is all hysterical silliness from someone who - worryingly - remains one of this country's legislators." I disagree that it is hysterical silliness - I tend to think it is calculated controversy with the purpose of promoting the book. I do share your worry that Lord Carey (or indeed any bishop) is one of this country's legislators.

Richard T said...

Surely the poor, slightly dim, former Archbishop is someone who adds to the general gaiety of life. Whenever something like this case arises, he can be guaranteed to pop up and spout about the persecution of christians. His absurd exaggerations diminish the already flimsy case he might make against the welcome moves to a fully secular country. In short I see him as one of the peculiarly British silly old men who brighten our days.

Cardinal Fang said...

To be honest I am not surprised that Lord Carey is talking about this as a "truly terrifying" because he regularly seems to comment that Christianity is under threat and Christians are a persecuted minority (he's doing a talk about it near me next week on this subject).

Christianity is under such threat that our monarch is also the head of the Church, that it is the only religion that has people given seats in the House of Lords (and so can influence legislation) based soley and exclusively because they are of that religion, and that all official ceremonies from the state opening of Parliament to Rememberence Day commemorations all involve at least one Christian prayer. Truly it is a persecuted religion.

Mike said...

@Cardinal Fang: I think that he's trying to compete with the Catholic Church who have been persecuted with official ambassadors, seats on the UN and other bodies, not to mention paid invitations to visit other countries like the UK where they can proselytise, attack its citizens and poach from Lord Carey's flock. The rest of the time is spent quivering in palatial residences in designer clothing.

Graham Montague said...

I can remember initially being very anxious about affirming rather than swearing on the bible when I appeared in court as a probation officer. People like Carey choose not to acknowledge that societal pressure is still on people to use christian 'tokens' in such situations.

Dr Brian Blood said...

Whenever I read of Lord Carey spouting this sort of nonsense I reread from paragraph 16 of Lord Justice Laws' judgment in McFarlane vs Relate Avon Limited


It seems either that Lord Carey has a very short memory or that he fails to grasp what Lord Justice Laws wrote.

Nick Evans said...

Religious person in "believing something is true, regardless of the actual facts" shocker.