Interfaith Alliance statement on Archbishop of Canterbury's lecture

 The Archbishop of Canterbury's recent lecture, Civil & Religious Law in England: A Religious Perspective, was a legitimate attempt to consider how the legal codes governing the internal structures of various faith communities might engage with civil law and vice versa. As Trustees of the Interfaith Alliance UK, we reject the unfounded interpretations placed upon the Archbishop's lecture but welcome the ensuing debate, including his further clarifications. The Interfaith Alliance UK is committed to expressing liberal and progressive views, rooted in the diversity of Abrahamic faith traditions, on a range of contemporary social justice and ethical issues. We regret that the questions raised by Dr. Williams' Lecture might suggest that those seeking exemptions for faith groups from equality legislation and other Government guidelines have a legitimate basis for their woeful strategies. A false opposition has been stated between the rights of faith communities to order their internal policies and procedures and the promotion of 'the common good'. The Archbishop's reflections should not be used to advance a reactionary agenda, seeking 'opt-outs' on matters which do not relate to central tenets of Abrahamic faith. Vital to the well-being of human society is that it should hear and give voice to those who are frequently marginalised in the corridors of both religious and political power, including vulnerable children, oppressed women, and those subject to prejudice on grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity or race. Misogyny and homophobia should no more be institutionalised than should racism. The principles of mercy, compassion and justice are as paramount to secular law as they are to the internal ordering of faith communities, and are not the sole preserve of the religious. Many people of faith see hopeful and joyful signs of the times in political commitment to civil rights which are entirely consistent with the values of our faith traditions, and are often more obvious in secular realities than within faith groups. Let the leadership of our faith communities listen first to the voice of the voiceless, both in their midst as well as in wider society, seeking any structural integration of their juridical principles and codes in secular frameworks only where secular law fails in its commitment to the dispossessed. Rabbi Rebecca Qassim Birk - Richard Kirker - Martin Pendergast - Rabbi Mark Solomon - Tamsila Tauqir

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