Secular Politics

Interesting case. I don’t know any more than this piece and what I’ve seen tweeted about it (*), but it seems clear religious communities, press and individuals put pressure on voters. How much that was active (or passive) “corruption” by the candidate and their campaign is hard to tell from the reporting, but at least the vote was voided.

It says two things to me.

It shows the basic secular drive to separate religious faith from institutional legal governance, but there are a couple of corollaries that are harder to handle. It’s hard to imagine how religion-based opinion within any given community could be legislated against amongst the electorate.

The formal segregation is one thing – disestablishment of any one church – but mixed community religious values are another. Any vacuum of values is going to be filled by competing values from the community, religious or otherwise. It’s time the knotty topic of “national values” was taken seriously. National means adopted and valued by the nation; it says nothing about exclusive origination or ownership, nor whether  previously adopted by religions. The more widely they’re shared with humanity and valued in historical experience the better in fact. It’s about choosing colours and nailing them to a mast. Counter-intuitively, to nail something down is core to freedom.

Secondly, in this particular case, it shows why this kind of Islam – Islamism – is dangerous and unacceptable. The kind that says Islam is above temporal human legal governance arrangements, and that to participate in them is to be apostate, making individual free secret ballot subject to cultural block coercion. That is not just un-democratic, it is anti-democratic. That kind of preaching is unacceptable, though again, difficult to see exactly where legislation would counter this in a free society. It certainly means that individual free voting is part of those national values to be upheld in law, and one of the reasons “private” religious belief and “organised” religion are treated differently. Private beliefs and values are a matter of education and culturally shared values, which are protected by freedom of thought and expression.

Whilst we reject religiously imposed rules, especially those based on superstition or otherwise considered irrational, some values must carry the authority of our established culture. Always open to question, sure, but something to believe in, something more conservative than the next calculation or poll.

[(*) Hat tip to @jeremyr1 Full judgement here and Nick Cohen in The Grauniad. So yes, the original case actively corrupt, and yes, no surprise, political correctness as the passive corruption that drives failure to speak against cases where Islam is part of the problem.]

[Post notes on my secular values point:

Jonathan Hodgson’s AEON Video on what comes after religion.
Rory Fenton’s New Humanist piece on humanist codes for living.
Nat Sec Soc’s piece on UKIP’s call for valuing Christian heritage.

All in one day, 28th April, via Twitter. In rejecting religion,
we need to care what gets thrown out with the bathwater,
what the vacuum might fill with, what the gaps should be filled with


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