Religion and human rights: safe in the hands of HMG?

Two snippets from speeches by Cabinet Ministers at this week’s Conservative Party conference:

Eric Pickles:

“This Government has backed British values, having pride in our nation and our flags, supporting our united identity and our common English language.

We have stood up for the role of Christianity and faith in public life. And protected councils’ right to hold prayers at meetings, if they wish. Upholding values of tolerance and freedom of religion. They’re not human rights. They’re British rights. Rights that existed long before European Judges came into existence.”

Teresa May:

“Last year, for example, I came to conference and I said ‘enough is enough’ on the misuse of human rights laws. You might remember the speech – Ken Clarke and I spent the next few days arguing about a cat. I said we’d change the immigration rules to end the abuse of Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights.  One year later, the new rules are in place and ready to be tested by the courts.

I still believe we should scrap the Human Rights Act altogether – but for now, we’re doing everything we can to stop human rights laws getting in the way of immigration controls.” [emphasis added].

Comment: is superfluous, except perhaps the thought that what Eric Pickles almost certainly meant to say was “unelected European Judges”.

3 thoughts on “Religion and human rights: safe in the hands of HMG?

  1. It’s obvious, even to a moron in a hurry, that despite all those church schools, the bishops in the House of Lords and the Head of State being Head of the state church, that Britain isn’t actually a “Christian country” any more. Praise be. “Freedom of religion” means freedom from religion.

    There was a fundamental category error made in the writing of the ECHR in that religion should never have been in there in the first place – any more than the cat fancy.

  2. Well, category mistake or not, the ECHR is as it is. I assume that you would no more wish to see the HRA 1998 repealed than I would – even if you object so strongly to the existence of Article 9 ECHR.

  3. I would never categorize Simon Gardner, or anyone else, as ‘a moron in a hurry’, good sound bite though it may be. However, as a canon lawyer I would note that in Johns and Johns v Derby City Council, Mumby LJ stated that ‘since the decision of the House of Lords in Bowman v Secular Society Limited [in 1917] it has been impossible to contend that “Christianity is part of the common law of England”. This view is not contested by the Church, which in its own document Working as One Body, asserts that this was the position even earlier, citing R v Ramsay and Foote in 1883.
    I would also note, this time as a lobbyist, that only within the confines of Party Conference could a Minister allude to an issue on which she was blatantly wrong, i.e. ‘Catgate’.

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