Thursday, 9 August 2018

"We need to be willing to take a hit for Religious Freedom"

Lord David Alton
This is a full transcript, in the original English, of my short interview with Lord David Alton. It took place in September 2017, at a reception at the Houses of Parliament, which he hosted for participants of the Alliance Defending Freedom Press Symposium.

Esta é uma transcrição integral, no inglês original, da minha curta conversa com Lorde David Alton. Decorreu no passado mês de Setembro, 2017, durante uma recepção no Parlamento Britânico, que ele organizou para os participantes no Simpósio de Imprensa convocado pela Alliance Defending Freedom. A reportagem portuguesa está aqui.

Is religious liberty and freedom of conscience under threat in Western Europe and in the UK specifically?
Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights insists that it is every person's right to believe, not to believe or to change their belief, and all three elements are under attack both here in countries like the UK, where people are discriminated against, or outright persecution in countries like Saudi Arabia, or China, where it is impossible to follow your beliefs in the way you would wish.

So there is a sort of hierarchy. It would be absurd to suggest that in countries like the UK that it is as difficult to be a Christian as it is in North Korea, obviously that is absurd, but nevertheless we should be careful about the erosion of our fundamental freedoms.

The attacks come in a slightly different way. The devil comes in carpet slippers, in a society like this. So you see a harbinger in the dismissal of two catholic nurses, midwives, in Scotland, who refused to collaborate in an abortion. They said they are called to deliver babies, not to take their lives. As a result of that they lost their jobs. If they had been doctors they would have been protected under a conscience clause. But because they are not doctors they weren't, and I think we need to strengthen our laws so that conscience prevails in situations of that kind.

There is one case I know affected you personally, to do with the Catholic adoption agencies, at the time of gay adoption legislation. Are these the types of situation which are mounting up to pose a threat to conscience protection?
Yes, and society loses a great deal when it discriminates against religious communities because it can't accept that they are entitled to have a different view about something such as adoption or marriage. These are fundamental questions that affect people in a very personal way, and people have got to learn to live and let live.

Forcing the closure of adoption agencies hurts children, it becomes part of an ideology, the latest of which is gender ideology. And I think we have got to stand firm against these things and say that you must learn to live alongside us respectfully, and we must learn to live alongside you respectively. Its the dignity of difference.

You mentioned Tim Farron and Reese Mogg in your speech... Is it in fact becoming increasingly difficult, or even impossible, to hold public office and espouse religious beliefs?
Well, it goes up and down. If you think, here we are standing on the terrace of Parliament. If you think back 200 years, there was a young man who was the youngest member of the House of Commons, who was criticised for trying to impose his Christian views on the House of Commons. His name was William Wilberforce. He was opposed to slavery. It took him 40 years to challenge people's belief that it was their right to choose to own another human being as a slave, merely because of the colour of their skin. If he had accepted the criticism that he had no right to argue his beliefs in our House of Commons, we would probably have slavery with us to this very day.

So in every generation you have to be willing to take a hit. People don't like what you have to say, that doesn't mean it is wrong. The beauty of democracy is that you have to win the argument. Why are they so frightened of even hearing the arguments? Why are they saying that someone like Tim Farron shouldn't be able to lead a political party because of his Christian Faith? Why are they saying that someone like Jacob Rees-Mogg shouldn't be a Conservative member of Parliament because he opposes abortion? If they are in favour of choice, let them also be in favour of also hearing alternative views, and let people then choose which one they happen to want to support. It shows a fear, I think, on the part of people who are opposed to things that men like Tim Farron and Jacob Rees-Mogg stand for.

In terms of conscience protection and traditional values, is Brussels an obstacle or a help in this situation?
I think it very much depends on the issue. You take an issue like human embryology, our laws, which permit the destruction of human embryos over the first 14 days of their life, has led to the destruction of 2 million human embryos. We've even permitted the creation of animal human hybrid embryos. This is something that is prohibited in most EU countries and not facilitated by the EU.

Take things like the abortion laws. We allow abortion up to and even during birth, on a baby with a disability, and up to 24 weeks gestation in other circumstances. The EU average term limit is around 12 weeks. So who'se laws are more liberal, and who's are more conservative? But take euthanasia, and in Holland and in Belgium they have permissive euthanasia laws. In Holland more than 4000 people die every year from Euthanasia, 1.000 of which are without the consent of the patient. In this country, the UK, we have prohibited that. So this is a debate which is running at different levels in different jurisdictions. This isn't about left or right, its about right or wrong. Its not about being European or British, its about standing four square in the belief that every human being is made in the image of God, that they are therefore unique and worthy of our protection.

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