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The Great Re-Set: Freedom of Religion and the Law

Above: the Middlesex Guildhall which houses the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

The Catholic Church has a long and honourable tradition of recognising freedom of religion and conscience for minorities provided they do not threaten the safety and security of the State.[1]

Paragraphs 2108 and 2109, of the Catechism of the Catholic Church of 1994, state as follows:

2108 The right to religious liberty is neither a moral license to adhere to error, nor a supposed right to error, but rather a natural right of the human person to civil liberty, i.e., immunity, within just limits, from external constraint in religious matters by political authorities. This natural right ought to be acknowledged in the juridical order of society in such a way that it constitutes a civil right.

2109 The right to religious liberty can of itself be neither unlimited nor limited only by a ‘public order’ conceived in a positivist or naturalist manner. The ‘due limits’ which are inherent in it must be determined for each social situation by political prudence, according to the requirements of the common good, and ratified by the civil authority in accordance with ‘legal principles which are in conformity with the objective moral order’.

Modern treaties and conventions claim to do something not dissimilar.

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, states:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship or observance.

Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, entered into in 1953 by members states of the Council of Europe, states:

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching practice and observance.

2. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

But to what extent are these provisions being honoured in civil society, today?

The answer is, regrettably, not well and, in some places, less and less.

Of all the world’s religions, Christianity is the most persecuted as has been shown by numerous studies. Other religions are also being persecuted such as, for example, the Muslim Uyghurs and the Falun Gong in China and the Muslim Rohingya people in Myanmar.

In China, prisoners of consciences, mostly religious, and mostly Christian or Muslim, are even subject to non-voluntary harvesting of organs from live patients.

The independent China Tribunal is an independent body established to inquire into forced organ harvesting from prisoners of religious conscience.

The body was headed by English barrister and judge, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC.

The tribunal’s judgment stated:

The Tribunal’s members are certain – unanimously, and sure beyond reasonable doubt – that in China forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience has been practiced for a substantial period of time involving a very substantial number of victims.

Accordingly, they found that:

Governments, and any who interact in any substantial way with the PRC… should now recognise that they are, to the extent revealed… interacting with a criminal state.

Nevertheless, taking a rather different view, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, declared in 2018, that:

Right now, those who are best implementing the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese…[China] is assuming a moral leadership that others have abandoned…

He was widely criticised as “naive” for making these comments but has not, so far as I am aware, withdrawn them.

OIDCE: “the most striking intolerance and discrimination is against Christians”

Christians face “the most striking cases of intolerance and discrimination throughout Europe”, according to a European think tank.

In its 2011 review, the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe (OIDCE) claimed that 85 per cent of hate crimes in Europe were perpetrated against Christians.

OIDCE director, Dr Gudrun Kugler, said:

We also notice professional restrictions for Christians: a restrictive application of freedom of conscience leads to professions such as magistrates, doctors, nurses and midwives as well as pharmacists slowly closing for Christians.

Professor Roger Trigg, a leading figure at Oxford University’s philosophy and theology faculties, also identified a trend towards curtailing religious freedom in favour of other social priorities and discrimination on other grounds.

Legal situation in the UK

The situation in the UK is one showing significantly increasing signs and examples of intolerance against religion in general, but, in particular, against Christianity despite the fact that Britain remains a nominally Christian union with a Christian head of state, established Christian Churches and a legal, social, political, economic and constitutional system historically based upon a Christian foundation.

The areas in which Christians may be discriminated against, has so far extended into at least the following areas:

  • So-called “British values” in schools,
  • Anti-social behaviour and so-called “Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance” injunctions and “Extreme Disruption orders” against “harmful activities of individuals who spread hate but do not break laws” on the grounds of that person’s (or group’s) disability, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and/or transgender identity, including a requirement for the police to vet anything posted on the internet or on social media
  • So-called Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
  • So-called Community Protection Notices (CPNs)
  • Assisted suicide
  • Abortion
  • Christian heritage (disparaged not protected)
  • Education (increasing secularisation as if secularism were neutral, rather than a belief system of its own)
  • Euthanasia and mercy killing (cases such as cases like RS, Alfie Evans, Charlie Gard &c)
  • The Equality Act 2010 (and its 7 arbitrary protected characteristics: age, disability, gender re-assignment, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation)
  • The ill-fated Named Person scheme (Scotland), a scheme by which the state appoints a named person to “give support” to children and young persons which meant, in effect, to spy on the parents and report them if a child or young person complains.
  • No-fault divorce (Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, in force in Autumn 2021). Contrary to popular belief, no fault divorce has existed in Britain since 1969. Although it was still possible to oppose a divorce petition, it was virtually impossible to succeed. Now even that tiny protection has been removed.
  • OFSTED inspections of churches (aimed at closing Sunday schools deemed “intolerant”) or public schools like Ampleforth College on the basis of flawed OFSTED reports (the latest such report continues allegations against the school which the school says are provably and demonstrably false)
  • Reasonable chastisement (to criminalise parents who smack their children by equating it with abuse)
  • Redefinition of marriage (same sex marriage legislation of 2013-14 and pressure upon churches to comply in marrying those of the same sex)
  • Relationships and sex education (compulsory teaching of transgenderism and same-sex marriage and sexualising children by inappropriate teaching on “sex, sexual health and sexuality”)
  • Section 5 of the Public Order Act, although it has been amended by section 57 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 which came into force on 1 February 2014 (it removed the word “insulting” from the public order acts which had been used to persecute religion)
  • The “Prevent” strategy (aimed at preventing “radicalisation” but all too often used to persecute Christians and free speech)
  • Transgender ideology (e.g. the Tavistock and Portman Clinic trans-gendering children – now illegal following a Supreme Court decision)
  • The use of COVID protection legislation to close down churches wholesale
  • In Scotland, the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021, of which more shortly

The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 purported to consolidate much discrimination legislation and did so by creating 7 protected characteristics and made it illegal to discriminate against (i.e. treat differently) anyone with any one or more of such characteristics.

By s.13, a person (A) discriminates directly against another (B) if, because of a protected characteristic, A treats B less favourably than A treats or would treat others.

By s.19, a person (A) discriminates indirectly against another (B) if A applies to B a provision, criterion or practice which is discriminatory in relation to a relevant protected characteristic of B’s.

Now let us pause for a moment and consider what it means to single out 7 characteristics for protection.

What if one is discriminated against but on the basis of a characteristic that is not protected by the Act?

For instance, what if one is discriminated against for having red hair? Or bald? Or for being of a certain nationality which is not also a race? Or any other unprotected characteristic?

To select 7 characteristics for protection and not others looks, indeed, like discrimination in itself. It looks like discrimination, moreover, in favour of the fashionable, and against the unfashionable, which, in turn, seems to be an inversion of the whole idea of discrimination which is usually aimed at the unpopular or unfashionable.

There is, in any case, something odd about an anti-discrimination law that, in itself, discriminates. It seems self-contradictory.

Then there is the question of what happens when 2 or more characteristics clash. Which one is to prevail? In theory it should be neither but, as we shall see, that has simply not been the case.

But to give more favour to one characteristic over another is yet another example of self-contradictory discrimination and unequal treatment yet when it is done by the law itself, that, apparently, is permissible.

The law is then effectively saying “do as I say, not as I do” which is usually the hallmark of injustice and iniquity.

Religious Freedom Cases in the UK

There is an increasing array of legal cases in the UK that demonstrate the uncertainty around the state of freedom of conscience in Britain and similar developments are reflected across the common law world..

I will give some illustrative case examples.

Peter & Hazelmary Bull (2008-13)

A same-sex couple sued Mr and Mrs Bull because the Bulls’ B&B – which was their own home – allowed only married couples to share a double bedroom. The Bulls based the policy upon their Christian beliefs about marriage and applied it equally to heterosexuals and homosexuals.

The County Court ruled against the Bulls and ordered them to pay damages of £3,600. Appeals to the Court of Appeal and the UK Supreme Court were unsuccessful.

Peter and Hazelmary were left with a very uncertain future financially. Peter Bull died in 2016.

The same sex couple who brought the claim later said that they had been put up to whole affair by campaigners as a test case and now regretted it.

Lillian Ladele

Lillian Ladele was a civil marriage registrar at Islington Borough Council. She was forced out of her job because of her Christian beliefs about marriage and her conscientious objection to same-sex civil partnerships.

There were more than enough registrars to meet any demand for the same sex service and no danger of anyone being denied a service. However, Islington Council decided to discipline Lillian rather than respect and accommodate her conscientious beliefs.

She brought a claim of discrimination in the workplace. She won her original employment tribunal case, making national headlines, but her victory was overturned on appeal.

She appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg who also refused her appeal.

Dale McAlpine

Dale McAlpine was paid £4,000 plus costs from Cumbria Police in November 2019 in settlement after pursuing a claim for being wrongfully arrested and detained for six hours in July 2018.

Dale, from Workington, Cumbria, had been a street preacher for 15 years. He was approached by three police officers in Kendal town centre in July 2018 who arrested him and took him to Kendal Police Station, where he was held for questioning.

After being released without bail he was left in limbo for 6 months until the police eventually notified him that he would not be prosecuted.

Dale sued Cumbria Police for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment. Cumbria opted to settle his claim without going to court.

To complicate matters the police officer concerned had arrested Dale for a “racially aggravated public order offence” when the incident had, in fact, nothing whatever to do with race, demonstrating the confusion that exists even within the arresting police forces.

In 2010 Dale was involved in a similar case in which he was arrested and detained for almost eight hours after preaching in Workington town centre.

He again sued.

On that occasion he was awarded £7,000 plus costs from Cumbria Police following a claim for wrongful arrest, unlawful imprisonment and breach of his human rights.

This also shows that police forces do not learn from their mistakes but carry on persecuting Christians because they think they can get away with it. And, often enough, they can!

Bideford Council (2012)

In 2012, the National Secular Society and a local atheist ex-councillor, Clive Bone, sued Bideford Town Council in Devon over its ancient and long-standing practice of praying at the start of council meetings – a practice dating back over 500 years at least.

They claimed that the prayers were discriminatory against atheist councillors, were a breach of human rights laws, and that the Council had no lawful authority to hold prayers as part of its formal meetings.

Individual councillors were free to take part in the prayers if they wished, or not, and the register of attendance was only taken after the prayers had finished.

The case went to the High Court.

Mr Justice Ouseley ruled that local councils have no lawful power to hold prayers during official business. He reviewed all the relevant human rights cases under the Human Rights Act, and the European Convention on Human Rights, but found there was no breach of human rights.

However, he then, bizarrely, ruled that, as prayer was not included in the “powers” section of the Local Government Act 1972, it was illegal under the statute.

Fortunately, within days of the court’s decision, the Government fast-tracked the commencement of new laws that overtook the court’s ruling and restored councils’ right to hold prayers at council meetings in England.

However, the case, not having been appealed, still stands as an unhealthy precedent. It also demonstrates the increasing secularism of British courts and their increasing hostility toward Christianity.

Ashers Baking Company (2015-18)

The McArthur family own and run Ashers bakery in Northern Ireland. They were pursued through the courts by the taxpayer-funded Equality Commission for Northern Ireland when they turned down an order for a same-sex marriage campaign cake in which the words “support gay marriage” were to be piped onto the cake. They did so because it conflicted with their Christian beliefs about marriage.

The courts found against them at High court and Court of Appeal level, both courts holding that they had directly discriminated against the claimants.

The curious twist in this case was that the family were being required to say something they did not believe rather than being prevented from saying something they did believe.

However, on 10 October 2018, they had a surprise unanimous win in the UK Supreme Court and the lower court rulings were over-turned. Common sense was at last restored.

However, this came only after protracted and costly legal action which the family had had to fund themselves, whilst, on the other hand, the claimants were funded by the Equality Commission which is government-funded.

How balanced, fair and non-discriminatory was that? I leave you to judge.

Richard Page

Richard Page was dismissed as a magistrate and blocked from returning to an NHS directorship role after he expressed, entirely privately, his belief that children do best with a mum and a dad.

Richard had served as a magistrate in Kent for 15 years. He also had served as a non-executive director of an NHS Trust.

Then, whilst deliberating on an adoption case with two other magistrates behind closed doors, Richard expressed his belief that a child’s best interests are served best by being placed with a mother and a father, wherever possible.

Richard was removed from the magistracy and blocked from returning to his role at the NHS Trust.

Richard took his case to court and it went to the Court of Appeal who over-ruled him and said that his human rights had not been breached. He intended to petition the Supreme Court but, alas, died before he could do so.


“RS”, a middle-aged disabled Polish Catholic, died after being deprived of fluids and nutrition, doctors having petitioned for a court order to allow it.

Despite an ongoing legal battle, RS was showing promising signs of recovery, having been taken off ventilation and now only requiring a feeding tube.

Meanwhile, the Polish government sought for RS to be kept alive, arranging for him to be transported back to Poland to be cared for and even giving him full diplomatic status to facilitate the same.

Nevertheless, the UK court ruled he should remain in the UK and die, despite his foreign citizenship, his Catholic faith and his diplomatic status.

I appeared on his behalf, before the Court of Protection and the Court of Appeal but the latter decided that “allowing” him to die of dehydration, a very unpleasant way to die, was not contrary to his human rights.

RS then died on the afternoon of 26 January 2021.

I should add that there have been many such cases and I have appeared in some as has my friend and colleague, Bruno di Quintavalle who cannot be here this week as he is appearing in another such case, the Archie Battersbee case which you may have seen reported in the media. Bruno had a success in the Court of Appeal but the case was sent back to the High Court before Mr Justice Hayden, the judge who decided that little Alfie Evans should die by court order.

[Unsurprisingly, Mr Justice Hayden has ruled that Archie should now die, also.]

Dr Richard Scott (2012 & 2019)

Dr Richard Scott, a Christian GP from Margate, Kent, has faced investigations from the General Medical Council simply for praying for a patient.

Richard, a GP with 28 years’ experience as a doctor, faced an official complaint in 2011 after discussing matters of faith with a patient, with the latter’s consent.

Despite Richard following the General Medical Council’s own guidelines, he was given an official warning in 2012.

Then, in 2019, another complaint was lodged by the National Secular Society after Richard prayed for a patient during a consultation, again entirely with the patient’s consent.

He was given a further warning by the GMC.

Dr David Mackereth

Dr David Mackereth, a Christian who had been an A&E doctor for 26 years, lost his job as an assessor for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after declining to identify clients by their chosen gender pronoun instead of their biological sex.

David said that using “transgender pronouns” went against his conscience as a doctor and Bible-believing Christian.

An Employment Tribunal has ruled that his belief in Genesis 1:27 is “incompatible with human dignity”.

He is appealing the decision.

Rev Professor Patrick Pullicino

Professor Pullicino is a consultant neurologist and traditionalist Catholic priest. He was reported to the GMC, by a Lesbian sociologist who favours assisted dying, because she disliked the way he gave expert evidence in a case.

As I am representing him I can say no more than what is a matter of public record, namely that, before the Interim Orders Tribunal, no conditions were placed upon his practising certificate which was a significant success.

Gary McFarlane

Gary McFarlane, a relationship counsellor from Bristol, was dismissed for “gross misconduct” by Relate after he refused, due to his religious beliefs, to confirm that he would provide directive sex therapy to homosexual couples.

He pursed a case in the Employment Tribunal, which ruled against him, and he then appealed.

The appeal court found against him as, later, did the ECtHR.

The late Mr Justice Laws, giving the lead judgment against him, said that if he had found in favour of Mr McFarlane he would have “introduced theocracy into this country”, a claim that has since been ridiculed in the media.

Apparently, Mr Justice Laws thought that allowing a counsellor freedom to follow his Christian conscience was “imposing” a theocratic form of government upon the entire country.

Shirley Chaplin

Shirley Chaplin, an NHS nurse, was faced with disciplinary action after being told that, on health and safety grounds, she was no longer permitted to wear her cross while at work.

The NHS Trust indicated that they would permit exemptions in their uniform policy for religious and cultural symbols that were “mandatory” within any religion, but that a cross was not mandatory for Christians.

This view was upheld by the tribunal and later by the ECtHR.

Compare this with the case of Nadia Eweida.

Nadia Eweida

Nadia was a British Airways’ worker, from an ethnic minority background, who wanted to wear a cross while at work. She took her case to Europe. The ECtHR found that the UK had failed to protect her freedom of conscience and religion. Nadia was thus permitted to wear her cross at work.

The UK Government had asserted that the wearing of the cross was not intimately connected to core Christian identity and therefore not protected. The Government also suggested that the freedom to resign and find another job automatically secured her freedom of religion and conscience.

The Court rejected these assertions.

Compare this with the case of Sakira Singh.

Sakira Singh

In this case, a school was told that it must allow a Sikh schoolgirl Sakira Singh to wear a Kara bracelet even though the court, in that case, accepted that:

[although] the claimant is not obliged by her religion to wear a Kara, it is clearly in her case [an] extremely important indication of her faith…

The logic of the decision in Eweida and Chaplin does not seem to run in accord with the Singh decision.

As with the case of Lillian Ladele, the Courts were assuming the right to allocate levels of seriousness to religious belief and practice.

Compare Singh with the case of Shabina Begum.

Shabina Begum

The first major test of Article 9 of the Convention came with the case of Begum where schoolgirl Shabina Begum wanted to wear the Islamic Jilbab in school, the Jilbab being contrary to the school rules.

The Judicial Committee of the House of Lords (now replaced by the UK Supreme Court) ruled against her, holding that the rules of the school were justified under Article 9.2 of the European Convention.

The Catholic Adoption Agency case

The case of the Catholic adoption agencies involved the application of the Sexual Orientation Regulations (SORs) to Catholic adoption agencies.

There were over 20 Catholic charitable agencies attached to various dioceses, many of which had operated for over 100 years providing a variety of social services including adoption services.

They did not themselves arrange adoptions which remained the responsibility of local authorities, but their services were employed by local authorities to find prospective adoptive parents.

Under the SORs, the agencies appeared to be obliged to accept same sex couples as potential adoptive parents, even when contrary to Catholic teaching.[2]

Most of the Catholic agencies simply capitulated and secularised themselves, separating from the Church.

However, two of them tried to carry on as Catholic charities by amending their constitutions to state specifically that adoption services would only be provided to heterosexual couples. Having such a clause would allow them to take advantage of a specific provision in the SORs which permits charities to discriminate if that is set out in their constitution.

This exemption is standard in all UK anti-discrimination legislation and, for example, permits charities to be formed which provide services only for women, people from a particular country or persons suffering from a specific disability.

The Charity Commission refused to allow the adoption agencies to change their constitutions on the basis that “discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation is a serious matter” as if, by contrast, discrimination on the ground of religion somehow is not.

The two agencies decided not to challenge the decision in court, despite the fact that they might well have succeeded if they had done so.

More recent cases

More recent cases include Forstater v CGD Europe in which the appellant appealed against a decision that her belief that biological sex was immutable and not to be conflated with gender identity, was not a “philosophical belief” protected under the Equality Act 2010 Pt 2 s.10(2). The Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld her appeal.

In the case of Miller v College of Policing, the Court of Appeal held that the College of Policing’s 2014 Hate Crime Operational Guidance, which required police to record non-crime hate incidents against individuals, regardless of whether there was evidence of hostility, was in breach of ECHR art.10.

The court held that, whilst the Guidance pursued the legitimate aims of preventing crime and protecting the rights of others, those aims could have been achieved by less intrusive means.

A revised version of the Guidance, published in 2020, did not go far enough in addressing the chilling effect of such perception-based recording on freedom of speech.

In Mba v LB Merton, the Court of Appeal held, in determining a Christian care worker’s claim alleging indirect religious discrimination arising from her obligation to work on Sundays, that the Employment Tribunal had erred in placing weight on its finding that her belief that Sunday should be a day of rest and worship was not a core component of the Christian faith.

However, it went on to hold that the conclusion that the imposition of Sunday working was a proportionate means of achieving the legitimate aim of running a care home effectively was manifestly correct.

In the case of Ngole v University of Sheffield, the Court of Appeal held that a university had not acted in accordance with the relevant professional regulations and guidance during disciplinary proceedings brought against a student social worker for expressing religious views on social media concerning same-sex marriage and homosexuality.

It held that the university had in effect imposed a blanket ban on the public expression of comments on sexual morals. Removal of the student from the course was also a disproportionate sanction.

The way that laws have been framed, and the Convention is worded, has given considerable power to judges which can lead to inconsistent results.

Ideologically-minded judges may not always arrive at fair decisions and fair-minded judges may find themselves over-turned on appeal.

Other developments

Hate crime provisions built into the Equality Act 2010 can sometimes cause problems. In general, particular problems come from police investigations being easily triggered and then being conducted in a heavy-handed manner (cf. the investigations against Cliff Richard, Lord Brammall, and other public figures, vigorously pursued and then later dropped after much damaging publicity).

A Baptist Church in Norfolk who showed a poster depicting the flames of Hell was required by police to take it down as being “hate speech”. In fact, there is no free-standing crime of “hate speech” but police guidelines seemed to require them to investigate such “non-crimes” nonetheless. Such guidance has been found unlawful in the case of Miller but is still in place in many police districts.

Recently, Oluwole Ilesanmi was arrested by Met police for alleged hate speech but released and awarded £2500 for false arrest, rather like Dale McAlpine, the street preacher.

A hate crime is defined by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in the following way:

The term ‘hate crime’ can be used to describe a range of criminal behaviour where the perpetrator is motivated by hostility or demonstrates hostility towards the victim’s disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or trans-gender identity … A hate crime can include verbal abuse, intimidation, threats, harassment, assault and bullying, as well as damage to property.

Nevertheless, there is no free-standing offence of “hate speech” and the CPS and police do not tell the public this. That can have a stifling and chilling effect upon freedom of conscience and religion and upon free speech.


The cancelling of a Visiting Fellowship in the Faculty of Divinity at the University of Cambridge for the internationally well-known academic, Professor Jordan Peterson, after protests from students and staff, caused controversy.

The University’s behaviour, prima facie, does not seem to be consistent with the Vice-Chancellor’s expressed aspiration that: “Cambridge is the natural home for all those who want to challenge ideas, and are prepared to have their ideas challenged”.

Some universities have “no platform” policies which also seem clearly to run counter to free speech. Prima facie, having a “no platform” policy seems to be the very negation of free speech and freedom of conscience.

Scotland – the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021

This Act abolished the blasphemy laws and increased yet further the laws against so-called “hate crimes”, as if merely hating anyone could ever be a crime.

In fact, what the Scottish Parliament did in this Act was to increase significantly the penalty for any offence where it is “aggravated by prejudice”, i.e. where the offender demonstrates malice and ill-will towards the victim, and the malice and ill-will is based on the victim’s membership or presumed membership of a group defined by reference to a characteristic mentioned in subsection (2) which are the usual 7 fashionable protected characteristics.

The Act also creates an offence of “stirring up hatred” but does not define what “stir up hatred” means and a single act is sufficient to be a crime. The maximum penalty, upon indictment, is 7 years imprisonment and/or a fine and police will have power, with a warrant, to break into and enter premises.

In the present climate of the law, this is potentially a very illiberal piece of legislation and, in the wrong illiberal hands, could prepare the way for the kind of state control of our lives that is normally associated with authoritarian states and regimes.

Conversion Therapy (Prohibition) Bill

This Bill is aimed at prohibiting conversion therapy aimed at sexual orientation and gender identity, although gender identity appears to have been dropped from the proposed Bill.

It is also a badly drafted Bill with many undefined, novel expressions, not least the term “conversion therapy” which itself is undefined. However, the government is supporting it.

The hidden assumption is that sexual orientation and gender identity are given at or before birth and are immutable, a proposition for which there is little or no conclusive scientific evidence.

This is another piece of potentially very illiberal legislation being advanced by those who call themselves “liberals”.

What do the trends signify?

On the one hand, it is said that ours is a secular society, which, given that we have a State Church, and a Christian head of state is, at best, debatable, and at the same time it is said that we are a multi-faith society.

Well, which of the three is it – secular, Christian or multi-faith? Or none of the above?

Toleration of minority religions has always been part of the teaching of the Catholic Church since its beginning. The principle was also enshrined in English law long ago but has, at various times, been departed from, particularly after the Protestant Reformation.

The principle was re-iterated, with some force, by the Declaration of Indulgence of our last Catholic monarch, King James II & VII, as long ago as 1687. In his Declarations, he gave religious liberty to all, including Jews, Muslims and even pagans.[3]

However, King James was ousted by a revolution, and an invasion by the Dutch Prince of Orange, and his religious liberty laws were repealed and replaced by the most oppressively restrictive, intolerant and punitive codes of law ever seen in this country and in Christian Europe.

They were codes effectively forbidding all religions save the Church of England (and Presbyterianism in Scotland) on pain of the most draconian infringements of human rights and even, in certain circumstances, upon pain of capital punishment, and that, often enough, of a peculiarly brutal kind (e.g. hanging, drawing and quartering, a punishment only finally removed from the Scottish statute book as late as 1928).

On the other hand, there have always been laws specifically protecting and upholding the official religion of Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales, namely the Christian religion.

Such has been the case in all the countries of what was once Christendom since the time of Emperor Theodosius when he made Catholicism the state religion of the Roman Empire on 27 February 380, in particular protecting the Christian religion from virulent attack, mocking, abusing and insulting, and outlawing the destruction of Christian churches and artefacts, all grouped together under the heading of “blasphemy”.

What we are seeing is not only an increasing abolition of such blasphemy laws but their replacement with a new set of laws outlining a kind of novel “blasphemy”, as it were, that being now called “hate speech” or “hate crimes”.

This is, and will be, very much part of the “Great Re-set” agenda, not only in Britain but across the Western world.

This, we are told, is meant to be an attempt to apply protections to all persons, whether holding any religious belief, or none. However, that is a misleading statement, since it favours a particular belief system, namely secularism, and particularly so given the current progress of case law as I touched upon it above.

First, such laws do not protect “all persons” but only those with certain “protected characteristics” and those with UN-protected characteristics may apparently be freely abused, insulted or threatened, provided no other laws are thereby infringed.

In addition, religion is the poor relation characteristic compared with, say, sexual orientation, sex, gender re-assignment and race.

Given that these new laws were made to prevent discrimination and inequality (e.g. the Equality Act 2010), how is it “equal” if it fails to protect all equally?

Unbalanced court decisions have further added to that inequality, protecting some characteristics more than others, creating imbalance, uncertainty and even confusion and muddle.

In short, we are beginning to see, and indeed, are some way along the path of seeing, the replacement of laws protecting Christian belief and practice with laws protecting secularist values, even though there has never been any real democratic consent or consensus that such a replacement should occur.

In tandem therewith, we see less and less protection for Christian religious belief and practice generally, the corollary being that the Christian religion is in danger of increasingly becoming fair game for abuse, insult, threats and outright attacks.

This is not confined merely to the UK.

In deeply secularist France, there has been what some have described as an “epidemic” of attacks upon Christian churches but very little has been done to protect Christians and their property.

There were more than 800 anti-Christian incidents in France in 2021 and the Catholic News Agency reports that one religious building is disappearing in France every 2 weeks, this being the conclusion of Edouard de Lamaze, president of the Observatory of Religious heritage (Observatoire du Patrimoine Religieux) in Paris.

This is in addition to incidents such as the mysterious fire at the Cathedral of ND de Paris, whose origin is still unknown.

Part of the problem is that, by virtue of the French law on the separation of Church and State, introduced in 1905 by anti-Catholic secularists, France’s religious buildings were simply seized, annexed and expropriated by the State and given over to ownership by municipalities. However, in many cases, lacking sufficient funds, they have been unable to meet the costs of maintaining these religious sites so that many churches are now falling into disrepair and decay.

State Socialism entailed expropriation (for which read “theft”) of religious properties but makes little or no provision for their upkeep and maintenance.

The other part of the problem in France, of course, is the increase in deliberate attacks upon Christian churches by anti-Christian groups, and by Islamic groups, acts which are less and less being properly investigated by police.

Similar incidents are now becoming acute in countries like Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Austria.

It remains to be seen where trends will go in the future but, on present indications, the auspices for the protection of Christian faith and practice, not to mention property and persons, look bleak.

And we may be sure that the “Great Re-set” will entail more, not less, of the same.


[1] The teaching and practice of Catholic states and the Catholic Church regarding minority religions is the subject of a great deal of ill-informed prejudice. Non-Catholic religions were exempt the religious rules applied to Catholics and were granted religious liberty to practice their own faiths so long as they did not seek to imperil the safety and security of the State. Blood-curdling tales of popes forcing Jews into ghettos or compelling Muslims to convert are inaccurate and such practices would directly defy Catholic teaching on religious liberty. Jews chose to dwell in walled off sections of cities as part of their own religious requirement to separate from gentiles during sacred times and they paid Christians to lock the gates thereof at the start of each Shabbat (Sabbath). When Pope Pius IX ascended the Pontifical throne in 1846, he sent his soldiers to remove the gates of the Jewish quarter so as to “liberate” the Jews. They resented his doing so and the Pope was obliged to restore the gates so that they could be shut at the beginning of each Shabbat in accordance with Jewish law.

[2] There is a great deal of ill-informed prejudice about the Church’s teaching on sexual “orientation”, so called. The Church has never taught that a mere inclination is immoral but only that certain acts are morally, physically, medically and spiritually unhealthy. The practice of Catholic states and the Catholic Church was to refer such cases to the Church courts who always prescribed spiritual penance and remedies for such acts, not physical, let alone draconian, penalties, since the Church courts did not have power to impose such physical penalties. In England, physical and draconian punishments were introduced only at the Protestant Reformation when Sir Thomas Cromwell, the chief minister of King Henry VIII, and a famously great persecutor of Catholics, sending many to be hanged, drawn and quartered solely for their faith, introduced, through Parliament, the Buggery Act of 1533. This Act made, for the first time, sodomy and buggery capital offences, punishable by death. The Act defined buggery as an unnatural sexual act against the will of God and man. This was later defined by the courts to include only sodomy and bestiality. The Act remained in force until it was repealed and replaced by the Offences against the Person Act 1828, and buggery remained a capital offence in the UK until 1861. The United Kingdom Parliament repealed buggery laws for England and Wales in 1967 (in so far as they related to consensual homosexual acts in private), 10 years after the Wolfenden report.

[3] In his Declaration of Indulgence of 1687, our last Catholic King, King James II & VIII, after promising and declaring protection of the Church of England, decreed in favour of religious liberty as follows:

“We do likewise declare, that it is our royal will and pleasure, that from henceforth the execution of all and all manner of penal laws in matters ecclesiastical, for not coming to church, or not receiving the Sacrament, or for any other nonconformity to the religion established, or for or by reason of the exercise of religion in any manner whatsoever, be immediately suspended; and the further execution of the said penal laws and every of them is hereby suspended.

And to the end that by the liberty hereby granted, the peace and security of our government in the practice thereof may not be endangered, we have thought fit, and do hereby straitly charge and command all our loving subjects, that as we do freely give them leave to meet and serve God after their own way and manner, be it in private houses or in places purposely hired or built for that use, so that they take especial care, that nothing be preached or taught amongst them which may any ways tend to alienate the hearts of our people from us or our government; and that their meetings and assemblies be peaceably, openly, and publicly held, and all persons freely admitted to them….

…, we do hereby further declare, that it is our royal will and pleasure, that the oaths commonly called, The Oaths of Supremacy and Allegiance, and also the several tests and declarations mentioned in the Acts of Parliament made in the 25th and 30th years of the reign of our late royal brother, King Charles the Second, shall not at any time hereafter be required to be taken, declared, or subscribed by any person or persons whatsoever, who is, or shall be, employed in any office or place of trust either civil or military, under us or under our government.”

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