Archbishop Nichols delivers lecture at LSE chaired by Professor Conor Gearty (left)
Archbishop Vincent Nichols spoke out yesterday over the recent court case in which some media reported that a Christian couple had been banned from fostering children, because of their religious convictions concerning homosexuality. Speaking during a question and answer session after his lecture on religious freedom last night at the London School of Economics, (see below), Archbishop Nichols told the audience that the press had not reported the entire text of the judge's final statement, and that couple have not been 'banned'. He went on to read out the judge's statement in full - as follows:
"It is hard to know where to start with this travesty of the reality. All we can do is to state, with all the power at our command, that the views that Mr Diamond seeks to impute to others have no part in the thinking of either the defendant or the court. We are simply not here concerned with the grant or denial of State 'benefits' to the claimants.
"No one is asserting that Christians (or, for that matter, Jews or Muslims) are not 'fit and proper' persons to foster or adopt. No one is contending for a blanket ban. No one is seeking to de-legitimise Christianity or any other faith or belief. No one is seeking to force Christians or adherents of other faiths into the closet. No one is asserting that the claimants are bigots. No one is seeking to give Christians, Jews or Muslims or, indeed, peoples of any faith, a second class status. On the contrary, it is fundamental to our law, to our polity and to our way of life, that everyone is equal: equal before the law and equal as a human being endowed with reason and entitled to dignity and respect."
During his lecture, Archbishop Nichols said that religious freedom was not divisive, but rather necessary for building the common good.
The lecture entitled ‘Good Life in Hard Times’ put forward three arguments for promoting religious freedom in society.
Archbishop Nichols firstly explored the understanding of what it is to be fully human that religious freedom expresses, saying that the current project of human rights has much in common with a religious understanding of what it is to be human. “This is understanding of person that the project of human rights actually seeks to promote today: an individual, certainly, but one whose personhood depends on connections with others. Such a person flourishes in his or her relationality, not living alone in his or her castle, but mixing freely in society, a human being composed never of oneself alone but always through connections with others as well.”
Secondly the archbishop highlighted the ‘powerfully positive’ contribution religion can make to building a stronger civil society saying that: “religion actually and demonstrably contributes to social goods – to neighbourliness, volunteering and philanthropy.” Speaking about the renewal of society, Archbishop Nichols said “I think that the religious contribution to the renewal of civil society is perhaps more significant than we might think. Although it is now tangled up with a political argument about expenditure cuts, how we achieve this renewal is a good moral question at the heart of the idea of the “Big Society.”
Thirdly Archbishop Nichols said that a rich understanding of religious freedom could help secure a viable pluralism in secular society saying that “what guarantees the freedom of all, and which at its best religious freedom itself promotes and defends, is respect for human dignity.... In our society today there is unease about identity and culture, and the extent to which there is a need for assimilation and integration of minority communities. What focussing on human dignity does is to shift the perspective away from all our differences - the fact that we each have multiple identities in terms of our ethnic origin, our faith, our language, our place of birth, and so on - and instead concentrate our attention on the unique value each person has simply in virtue of our common humanity.”
The full text and audio of the lecture can be found at this link: http://www.rcdow.org.uk/archbishop/default.asp?library_ref=35&content_ref=3267
See also: ICN - Pentecostal couple banned from fostering over homosexuality views http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=17754