The "Gagging Christians" Xmas competition

We are often told that "secularists" want to prevent religious point of view being expressed in the public sphere, or religious arguments being used in public debate. I recently commented on Jonathan Chaplin's claim that:

Many secular humanists argue as if faith-based ideas should play no role in democratic discourse

What secularists do want is a level-playing field, so that religious points of view are not given a privileged role by the state and/or public institutions.

So secularists are typically against, for example, the state insisting every state-funded school should have an act of collective worship "of a broadly Christian nature", automatic allocation of 26 seats in the House of Lords to those of a particular faith, state funding for religious schools (that discriminate against pupils and employees based on faith), but not, say humanist schools. Yet all these privileges currently exist.

They also object to, e.g. state protection of the right to wear religious symbols at work, when other symbols, such as those indicating political party allegiance, are banned, and e.g. making religious people or organizations exempt from equal opportunities legislation regarding homosexuals. Yet this special status is regularly argued for.

The vast majority of secularists simply want a religiously neutral state. They want the state to protect equally the right of individuals to express religious and non-religious points of view, etc.

The main dispute re "secularism" is, in reality, between secularists wanting a level playing field (with no privilege for religious or atheist points of view), and some religious folk (by no means all) wanting to maintain, and indeed add to, existing privileges for religious points of view.

Nevertheless, some Christians (as I say, not all: I am not making a general anti-religious point here) see themselves as being "persecuted" and "under attack" by the forces of secularism, because secularists make these points. Indeed, some claim (and others at least leave themselves open to be interpreted as claiming that) many secularists think Christians should be "gagged" and Christian points of view entirely removed from public debate.

This, it seems to me, is simply paranoia (and indeed the erecting of a "straw man"). Even some Christians think it's paranoia. If you think it is not paranoia, can you identify, say, even just five self-identified secularist pundits, etc. in the UK who hold and have clearly and unambiguously expressed the view that religious people should not be allowed to express their religious views in public debate?

Maybe they exist. But I can't think of any. Be interested to find some examples. Prove me wrong.

The prize is a signed copy of Really, Really Big Questions (by myself). Please bring this competition to the attention of your anti-secular friends and colleagues.

: Three examples of public figures claiming Christian views are threatened with, or are, being silenced in public debate:

Jonathan Chaplin (again): Many secular humanists argue as if faith-based ideas should play no role in democratic discourse."

Rev George Hargreaves: “A hostile non-Christian liberal elite now dominates all the main political parties and want to destroy what is left of our Christian culture and legacy. They pay lip service to wanting churches to take an active role in community life, and yet, as soon as any Christian says publicly what motivates and focuses their service to others, they are gagged for fear of offending someone." Source.

Roger Trigg: ...There is no hiding from the fact that some of the deepest disagreements , such as those about abortion and euthanasia, can be traced back to religious differences, and the question remains whether they can be mentioned in a debate". (p36 Religion and Public life)

Also, Don Scott's comment on the preceding post on this topic:

"Yes, at the moment it is not illegal to be Christian and politically outspoken but you will denounced as a "fascist" or a "theocrat" for doing so and forced out of public debate."

Some other assorted "Christians gagged" claims:


allocation of 26 seats in the House of Lords to those of a particular faith.

Surely you jest.
Stephen Law said…
If (as I believe is likely) there are life forms in the universe which are more advanced than humans and aware of our existence, I'm not sure whether they are laughing or crying right now. The safe money is on the latter.
Anonymous said…
What I want to know is, where are the religious voices calling for an end to this iniquitous state of affairs? I've never heard one. Is there not one religious person with least sense of fairness? Have those bishops no shame?
Mike said…
Speaking of gagging, I felt a bit queasy today reading a news article from the Dec. 8 Asheville Citizen-Times ( about Cecil Bothwell, a man who was elected to a City Council post in Asheville, North Carolina, but was being challenged because of his atheism. The lead paragraph reads:

"North Carolina's constitution is clear: politicians who deny the existence of God are barred from holding office."

Article 6, section 8 of North Carolina's constitution says, "The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God."

Fortunately, such rules are barred by the U.S. Constitution. Still, this situation gives you some idea of the state of affairs here in America.
anticant said…
We live in an increasingly paranoid age. Most of the paranoia emanates from religious persons and groups of various stripes.

My own belief ('faith'?) is that unless humanity rapidly reverts to a more rational, logical, and evidentially based approach to its collective affairs, we are all doomed in the shorter rather than the longer run. By mid-century we shall be in an acute and probably irremediable global crisis.
Stephen Law said…
anonymous 9.24pm - I have added a post script for your edification! check it out...
Paul Crowley said…
@Stephen Law: I think you misinterpreted Anonymous, who I think was asking where are the religious voices calling for an end to bishops in the Lords. They do exist, but they're not exactly out in force. There are zillions more religious people prepared to pay lip service to being fluffy than are actually prepared to raise their voice against institutionalized religious privilege, it seems.
Mike said…
Interesting: One week later and no one has responded to Stephen's challenge. It seems that when a few simple facts are requested, the theists who regularly read this blog (and who jump into every conversation when opinions are flying) remain silent.
Stephen Law said…
My apologies to anonymous if I misinterpreted you.

BTW I sent this link to Hargreaves (whom I quoted) to see if he could meet the challenge. No response.....
Stephen Law said…
actually i clearly did misinterpret anonymous didn't I? sorry....
Billy said…
You probably already know this, but here are some of Hargreaves' policies

Pretty extreme. He does not want equality, he wants a christian monopoly. Fortnately even Christians dont want to vote for his "christian Taliban" party
Anthony said…
In my opinion, the issue of exclusion or inclusion of Christian themes/topics in public arenas is an incredibly complex topic. How does one create an environment that respects the dignity of people of all faiths (Christian, atheist, non-Christian, etc) while at the same time allowing open discourse? I am not sure that it is possible to achieve this result. Even if one creates an environment that excludes mention of religion, it will still be dominated by the values and perspectives of the dominant faith. In saying that, I do believe that we (speaking for Americans here) should not tolerate environments that heavily favor one faith over others.
Dave said…
What sort of rebuttal can we atheists give to theists who attack us with the word 'bigot' every time their 'rights' are challenged?
I have several friends and acquaintances who are theists who bandy 'bigot' about when any challenge on Christianity hits the media.
Only today a theist used the phrase 'secular bigotry' in a letter to the Times.
It seems overly emotive to me and I would like a considered and reasonable riposte to this accusation but cant think of one myself!
Anonymous said…
"What secularists do want is a level-playing field."
Where the religious are dissuaded from seeking to prove their paradigm through reference to their paradigm? Which would naturally preclude the nonreligious from producing supporting quotes from a personage, who at some point contradicted their very own assessment.
It would appear that those believers who actually question religion, may deep down discover tenets fundamental to human continuation. While believers who don’t question, may perceive it a weapon to deploy against those who don’t think as they do.