Wednesday, 21 July 2010


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Treat everyone equally
I found the Bishop of Leicester's article "Ban on religious symbols is not the way forward" (First Person, July 17) rather confused.
He states that "in secular societies religious symbols are increasingly seen as dangerous and problematic" and "in secular societies there is always a tendency to get anxious about expressions of religion".
I would suggest that it has nothing to do with whether or not a society is secular, but on whether the constituent parts of that society are comfortable with each other. Indeed, I think the Bishop would probably find a high proportion of his own congregation would advocate banning full face veils.
As a member of Leicester Secular Society, I can say that we are certainly not unanimous in our approach to this issue, but we do maintain that all must be treated equally, regardless of religion. We also believe that people should have the greatest possible freedom both in action and speech.
As a man, I find the idea that a woman wants to hide their face from me because she thinks I am a threat to her and is not prepared to allow full communication with me (of which facial expression is an important part) offensive. However, it is necessary if we are to live in a free society to tolerate both actions and speech that offend.
I suggest that in the case of the "'wooden-headed bureaucratic silliness' that stopped Christians wearing religious symbols at work" the correct solution would be to advocate getting the rules on what can be worn changed for all, rather than demanding an exception for a particular religious symbol.
People should be allowed to cover their faces where they so wish, but where this is problematic, all should have to show their faces.
Where motorcycle helmets and hoodies are not allowed, the same should apply to the full veil, with no exception on the basis of religion.
John Catt, Loughborough

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