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Religion is no absolute guarantee of good behaviour

By Liam Clarke

Published 03/06/2011

David McIlveen, the DUP MLA, is clearly wrong when he says that a return to traditional religion observance is a way to end educational under-achievement among working-class Protestants.

Religion can undoubtedly give people a focus which inspires acts of charity, but it is no absolute guarantee of good behaviour.

On Tuesday - the very day Mr McIlveen made his 'broken Ulster' speech at Stormont - a church youth leader (and theology student to boot) was convicted of having sex with underage girls. Unfortunately, religion is often a cover for wrongdoing. We need only think of Colin Howell, the born-again Christian dentist who sexually assaulted his patients and murdered his wife and his lover's husband.

Then there is the Kincora child-abuse scandal, where the main perpetrators were professing Christians, and the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandals.

The fruits of faith are often positive.

But presenting a religious revival as a panacea comes perilously close to saying that the disadvantaged are in a mess because they are bad people.

Our politicians are paid handsomely to legislate to help the deprived - not to upbraid them for any alleged lack of moral fibre.

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