Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Secular state would offer freedom to all of us

David Quinn (November 9) thinks that Europe is becoming a cold house for Christians.

But it is clear that his complaints refer to the loss of certain peripheral privileges by religious groups, such as bans on crucifixes in state schools or on adverts for the sale of rosary beads.

What he completely overlooks are the countervailing influences that maintain religious power over more important areas of life, not least on the island of Ireland.

Nowhere does he mention that the Republic has just seriously curtailed freedom of speech and given special protection to religious beliefs by introducing a blasphemy law, a year after the UK abolished it.

Nor does Mr Quinn mention education, where the main Christian churches have had a stranglehold for more than a century, and continue to do so through the indoctrination of an overwhelming majority of children in a particular Christian faith.

Nor does he mention abortion. Opponents of free choice stress that Ireland is a Christian society, which seems to imply that Christians have a right to impose their values on non-Christians.

So there is no choice in this crucial matter, even though 14% in Northern Ireland and a quarter of a million in the Republic say they have no religion and non-Christian denominations are growing.

Contrary to David Quinn's assumption, a secular state is not a godless state. Secularists and Humanists believe in freedom of opinion, and it would be anathema for us to compel others to agree with us.

BRIAN McCLINTON

Director, Humanist Association of Northern Ireland

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