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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Roman Catholic Church Demonstrates Its Unsuitability for Faith Based Welfare

The statement by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor on the Radio 4 Today programme today was dismissed as “an attempt to place churches above the law” say the National Secular Society.

Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society, said: “The Cardinal claimed in his interview this morning that the Government was stopping the Church from continuing with its adoption agencies. This is simply not true; they can continue, but without public money. What the Cardinal is demanding is that the Government continue to subsidise discrimination in a way that will be against the law for everyone else and that the vast majority of the public — including many Catholics in the pews — find abhorrent.

“The churches are making a bid to be above the law that everyone else must obey. They are demanding that they be given taxpayers’ money to act in a way that Parliament forbids, simply because they consider it is against their ‘conscience’. What the Cardinal calls ‘conscience’, others would call ‘bigotry’. And if they are not allowed to do just as they please, they have once more made threats to withdraw charitable services under their control.

“The Cardinal could not have demonstrated to the nation more clearly the danger of handing over welfare to religious bodies. This should be a wake up call to the Government on faith based welfare, which is slated to be a massive growth area under both New Labour and the Conservatives. If the churches are happy to openly blackmail the Government on this issue, when there are only a few small adoption agencies involved, imagine the pressure religious bodies will be able to exert when they have a significant proportion of the welfare system under their control.

“The Cardinal is keen to say how important the ‘complementarity’ of heterosexuals are to be parents, but what he declines to say is that even if gay parents were available and the best parents available, he would prefer the children were left in care. The Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols, admitted recently on Newsnight that Catholic adoption agencies sometimes select gay single parent adopters. Taking the Church’s argument to its illogical conclusion, if such a single foster parent entered into a civil partnership, and form a potentially stable relationship, s/he would have to give up the child back into care.

“Claims by the Cardinal that religion is being disadvantaged in this country are patently ridiculous. Churches: receive hundreds of millions of pounds of state money each year; have representation in the House of Lords as of right; run a third of the education system; have hundreds of representatives in hospitals, armed forces, colleges and prisons paid from the public purse; and receive huge tax advantages, such as VAT concessions and tax subsidies on collections. How any faith leader can argue that they are disadvantaged is beyond me. What they object to is being required to follow the same anti-discrimination requirement as everyone else.”

The Church of England is taking a similar line. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishop of Durham have supported the dogmatic Roman Catholic line.


Published Tue, 30 Jan 2007