Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Caleb and its links to Stormont power

In any other part of the UK, the Caleb Foundation would be regarded as what it is - a tiny fundamentalist Christian organisation whose views on creationism are at odds with science and whose stance on many moral issues are out of step with that of the general population.

That said, this newspaper supports the right of everyone to hold their own moral and philosophical viewpoints and uphold their religious beliefs. The foundation has an absolute right to lobby to have its views on creationism, abortion or any other issue taken seriously by those in power.

However, this is not any other part of the UK and the foundation seems to have substantial support in the corridors of power at Stormont, in particular among the ranks of the largest party, the DUP - including some of its senior members. Again we uphold the right of politicians, just like anyone else, to engage with any legal organisation.

Furthermore, we would argue that there needs to be a full, open debate about the influence of all organisations in the drafting of public policy.

Personal religious and moral positions, particularly those which may not be shared by the majority of the population, should be made clear by legislators so that people can judge on how policies are arrived at.

There is no suggestion that the Caleb Foundation, for example, is engaged in any untoward behaviour, but this newspaper feels our revelations on its links with DUP members, which we publish today, is a matter of public interest.

In areas where personal and moral stances could conflict with general public feeling, we would expect all ministers and, indeed, all politicians to strive for objectivity in deliberations and to base policy on factual evidence, not personal desire.

That could pose a dilemma for someone with deeply held views which are contrary to mainstream opinion, but it is the duty of politicians, particularly those who make policy, to represent a rounded view of society.

To do otherwise would be an abuse of power.

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