Saturday, 3 March 2012


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Wrong about secularism
I've often wondered what it is Baroness Warsi does – and it strikes me that she must have wondered herself.
Hence how readily she embraced her chance to fly the flag for Cameron's UK vision all the way to the Vatican, where, in her Valentine's Day speech, she said militant secularism "demonstrates similar traits to totalitarian regimes."
This paranoid allying of secularism with totalitarianism was coupled with repeated reference to the Pope's state visit to Britain in 2010, and how successful and well received this was.
But she diplomatically avoided mention of the accompanying controversy and protest.
Moreover, she declined to pass judgment on instances of conflict between faith and public policy, genuflecting to someone who continues to evade the serious questions that she wouldn't dream of asking him.
It's not "aggressive secularism by stealth" the religious need fear, it's religious conservative authoritarians.
There were important matters to discuss with Vatican officials the following day: climate change, international aid, Somalia. This did yield a joint declaration calling for an "immediate end" to violence in Syria, which I imagine will make all the difference.
When Warsi says: "For me, one of the most worrying aspects about this militant secularisation is that at its core and in its instincts it is deeply intolerant", this exposes her ignorance of what secularism is.
She further misrepresents secularists as, "... the anti-religionists, the faith deniers... attempting to remove all trace of religion from culture, history and public discourse".
Secularism is not intolerant of any faith; but it rejects that privileged place, and automatic unqualified respect, that religious leaders and lobby groups carry in our political decision-making bodies.
Warsi has embarrassingly let down her country.
Lee Turnpenny, Southampton

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