Monday 12 April 2010

Carey fears that judges could ban Christians from workplace; wants special panel to hear religious rights cases

The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey is calling for judges who he believes show a lack of understanding of Christian faith to stand down from future Court of Appeal hearings involving religious rights, according to a Sunday Telegraph report.

Carey will also back calls for a specialist panel of judges - from different faith backgrounds, who have an 'understanding of religious issues' - to be established to hear such cases, the newspaper says.

Carey goes as far as to make the eye-catching but surely hyperbolic claim that the reasoning behind recent rulings could lead to Christians being banned from the workplace.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury is to submit a witness statement in support of lawyers arguing, as part of an appeal case, that the Master of the Rolls, Britain's second most senior judge in charge of the court of appeals, should recuse himself because the lawyers making the appeal allege that his judgments show that he disparages Christianity. (The letter to the newspaper mentioned in the report does not appear to be published on the Telegraph website).

The Sunday Telegraph reports:

The Sunday Telegraph understands that Lord Carey has already prepared a lengthy witness statement in support of Mr McFarlane ... [and] will use his statement to accuse the Court of Appeal of making a series of "disturbing" judgements and being responsible for some "dangerous" reasoning which could, if taken to extremes, lead to Christians being banned from the workplace.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, from 1991 to 2002, believes that court rulings on the wearing of religious crucifixes show a lack of understanding of Christian beliefs – he argues most wear crosses as a sign of their fidelity to Jesus.

In the long term, Lord Carey and others believe that there is a need to appoint a panel of judges – of all religious faiths – to hear sensitive religious rights cases.

Daily Mail commentator Melanie Phillips believes Carey's intervention amounts to a "declaration of war" between the Church and the judiciary - and one which she very much approves. A recent judgement - "the latest of several final straws" - raises the threat that Christianity will be outlawed, the columnist claims:

Indeed, such a ruling comes very close indeed to criminalising Christianity. For if putting Christian belief into practice is outlawed, it won't be long before Christian believers find themselves outlawed.

Phillips attacks Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop of Canterbury, for failing to back his predecessor Carey, and so "positively embracing his faith's destruction".

The Press Association reports a Church of England statement that t was not formally involved in or backing the challenge to the judiciary.

A spokesman said: "This action is not being organised by the national bodies of the Church of England and we are not aware of which bishops, if any, plan to express such concerns about recent rulings by the Court of Appeal."

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