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Pickles is Britain’s new Faith Head

Pickles is Britain’s new Faith Head

Tory Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, has been given the task of injecting more piety into the UK.

His appointment as new “head of faith” was announced after Lady Warsi stepped down from her roles as a Minister of State at the Foreign Office and Faith Minister in protest at the Government’s position on the Gaza conflict.

In a speech last year the grotesque Pickles warned that traditional religious freedoms were under assault from the:

Intolerance of aggressive secularism.

He said:

Faith provides a clear moral compass and a call to action that benefits society as a whole. At a time when Christians are under attack for their beliefs in different parts of the world, I am proud of the freedom of belief that exists in Britain.

But in recent years long-standing British liberties of freedom of religion have been undermined by the intolerance of aggressive secularism: taking people to task for wearing a cross or a rosary, beginning costly legal actions against council prayers – as if they had nothing better to do.

In her resignation letter Baroness Warsi praised Mr Pickles as supporting her “tirelessly” in the work of combating hate crime and challenging anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia.

The comments were seen as a boost for Mr Pickles who had been widely tipped to be sacked in the reshuffle.

Update: The National Secular Society’s Stephen Evans has attacked Pickles’ appointment, saying:

Many secularists may be glad to see the back of Sayeeda Warsi, but regretfully, rather than using this opportunity to abolish her unnecessary and deeply anti-secular ministerial position, David Cameron has shifted the responsibility over to the evangelically Christian Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles.

This role of ‘minister for faith was specifically created for Baroness Warsi. Its remit was to work with ‘religious and community leaders’ to ‘promote faith, religious tolerance and stronger communities within the UK’.

The promotion of religious tolerance and stronger communities are noble and legitimate aims, but these objectives are fundamentally undermined by the part of the brief that creates a ministerial responsibility to promote religion and ‘celebrate faith’.

But this is a clearly a brief that suited Baroness Warsi’s, and now Eric Pickles’ personal predilections.

Upon her appointment Warsi was quick to declare that faith was ‘back at the heart of Government’.

Baroness Warsi made it her mission to misrepresent secularism and use every opportunity to deride secular principles.

With no apparent sense of irony, she used a sickeningly sycophantic visit to the Vatican, Europe’s last remaining theocracy, to equate secularism with totalitarianism. She warned of a ‘militant secularisation’ which ‘at its core and in its instincts it is deeply intolerant’ which was attempting to ‘remove all trace of religion from culture, history and public discourse’.

Her successor, Eric Pickles, is also guilty of wilfully misrepresenting secularism.

In 2012, when the National Secular Society obtained a legal ruling from the High Court that local authorities had no statutory power permitting them to impose prayers on elected councillors, Mr Pickles blustered about the ‘intolerance of aggressive secularism’ vowed to enact legislation to reverse the High Court decision.

All the ruling confirmed, was that prayers shouldn’t form part of the official business of a council meeting. As one would expect in an open and free society, councillors were still at liberty to partake in optional prayers before the formal start of council meetings, if they so chose.

But Mr Pickles wasn’t satisfied and later went on to disingenuously claim that his Localism Act had reversed the High Court decision, which he said represented a “victory for freedom to worship over intolerant secularism”.

In April 2013, Mr Pickles also suggested that “militant atheists” should accept that Britain is a Christian country – despite the steadily rising proportion of minority religions in the UK, and the fact that the non-religious now constitute a majority.

One major objective of secularism is to balance everyone’s religious rights and freedoms fairly. This naturally includes the rights and freedoms of the non-religious and those of minority religions. Yet Mr Pickles chooses to portray this as secularists trying to ‘impose’ their ‘politically correct intolerance’ on others.

It is this lack of even-handedness that is most troubling about the role of the minister for faith, and those that have been chosen to fill it.

The existence of such a post simply entrenches religious privilege by giving the religious, or perhaps their self-appointed ‘faith leaders’, undue voice and influence in public policy. Such a post also feeds sectarianism and leaves citizens without a religious faith left feeling alienated, less valued, and somewhat disenfranchised.

Instead of prioritising religious identities, Mr Pickles should be trying to bring people from all sections of society together to foster cohesion and create stronger communities. The current obsession with relying on faith communities to help build the ‘big society’ is both lazy and misguided. The Government would do better to focus their energies on promoting the shared values we have as citizens, rather than playing divisive identity politics.

We do however live in a world where religious freedoms are undermined in a myriad of ways. The threats are not coming from the secularists that Mr Pickles denounces, however, but from those that wish to impose their beliefs on others, an aspect he seems markedly less keen to highlight.

Heiner Bieleveldt, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief told an audience at the LSE in March 2012 that state religions, whatever religion they may be, are a potential threat to the freedom of religion of those who do not belong to the dominant sect.

So rather than a ‘minister for faith’, perhaps we need a minister for freedom of belief?

The brief for such a post could be to objectively identify and assess threats to religious and belief freedoms at home and overseas, and propose strategies to maximise freedom of religious and other belief, insofar as it does not impinge on the rights and freedoms of others and of course, subject to the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure.

But such an approach wouldn’t fit it with Mr Cameron’s electorally opportunistic (or so he believes) narrative of ‘Christian Britain’ where even-handedness makes way for special treatment, and his Ministers are encouraged to peddle their divisive rhetoric, regardless of the negative consequences for our politics and wider society.

27 responses to “Pickles is Britain’s new Faith Head”

  1. barriejohn says:

    Faith Head = Hi, Fathead

  2. barriejohn says:

    I simply must link again to Stephen Green’s post about Baroness Warsi’s resignation:

    http://newsletteruk.damart.com/a/?F=kp8wcnnqvl8d9rxe94r5k6ylshvlm35tvxmsgs7stqe4pp4fp66ft8q-5326477

    Baroness Warsi was also Minister for Faith and Communities. In 2012 she spoke against militant secularism said that Europe needs to be “more confident and more comfortable in its Christianity.” At the same time she has been an advocate for Islamic banking in the UK.

    In the only time she ran for office, for the seat of Dewsbury in 2005, she distributed leaflets arguing that Labour’s lowering of the homosexual age of consent from 18 to 16 (under the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000) was “allowing schoolchildren to be propositioned for homosexual relationships”, and that homosexuality was being “peddled” to children as young as seven in schools. She backtracked by apologising for her leaflets last year, and said she was ‘on the wrong side of history’ and ‘on a journey’ on gay rights. Baroness Warsi abstained on ‘gay marriage’.

    She has shown she can flip-flop as well as the historical Vicar of Bray ( – sung here), but on Gaza Sayeeda Warsi has returned to her Muslim roots.

    Please pray for a Godly appointment to be made in Baroness Warsi’s place.

    Well, his payers were very soon answered, but don’t miss the staggeringly loony comments being appended to that thread!

  3. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    Just why does the present government think that we need a minister of faith in the first place? We used to manage quite well without one in the past.

  4. Norman Paterson says:

    Not sure if Pickles knows about piety, but he would seem to know about pies.

  5. Alan says:

    Pickles has always been a dim, loudmouth bigot. Seems he has the right qualifications for this job.

  6. MaryD says:

    “the grotesque Pickles”

    “Faith Head = Hi, Fathead”

    “Not sure if Pickles knows about piety, but he would seem to know about pies.”

    ‘Freethinking’ in action – not.

  7. Barry Duke says:

    BarrieJohn, a link to Damart???? How did that happen? I think this is the one:

    http://www.christianvoice.org.uk/index.php/baroness-warsi-resigns-gaza/

  8. Matt Westwood says:

    MaryD: We are indulging in the great British tradition of the ridicule of someone ridiculous. The most worthy thing of ridicule, of course, is that your braindead Godheads have no sense of humour.

  9. Matt Westwood says:

    For all her misguided pomposity and religious nutcasery, I’m still convinced that Warsi is not at heart a bad person. I continue to wish her well.

  10. AgentCormac says:

    It just had to be Pickles , didn’t it? The man epitomises everything that is wrong with ‘public’ religion – he is an arrogant, loudmouthed, bigoted and above all stupefyingly unimaginative boor. I’m sure he’ll be feeling all smug and self-important this evening as, over a large plate of quail’s eggs in aspic, washed down with a sensational bottle of claret, he pens his first missive to the nation denouncing secularism and extolling the virtues of every aspect of his own particular brand of know-all. And at least in that resect I suspect he will be incapable of following Wasri’s outward show of eulogising about all faiths. For Pickles there clearly is only religion that’s worth bothering with and personally I am rather looking forward to hearing him trying to be nice to all those ‘impostor’ brands.

    One more wafer-thin mint, sir?

  11. barriejohn says:

    Barry: I’m on a percentage!

    MaryD: Sorry, but “fathead” has nothing to do with a person’s girth, which is an irrelevance to me here. Get an education.

    Fathead: Unintelligent, thoughtless person: an offensive term for somebody who is considered foolish or stupid. (Bing Dictionary)
    .

  12. Broga says:

    If Pickles had the courage of his Christian convictions he could make an honest attempt “to inject more piety” into the UK. To do this he could open up the debate so that Christians, in discussion with atheists, could explain each other’s thinking. Why not? I’m an atheist and the way Christians manage to believe is outside my understanding. Why not explain this?

    In turn, Christians say that atheists are mistaken, fail to understand and wrongly interpret the bible. OK, explain to us in discussion. The one sided preaching from the pulpits and on the BBC does not enlighten. It entrenches the different opinions.

    Pickles, if he had the courage, could make a contribution to changing attitudes. Even if atheists did not accept the Christian (or Muslim or whatever) position, and the Christians baulked at the atheists some understanding of each side for the other might be achieved.

    This will not, of course, happen because the Christian case is weak and they know it. They cling to the option of delivering their sermons and censoring any rebuttal. They fantasise about being persecuted while enjoying privileges denied to the rest of society. I expect Pickles to continue in the same stale, self righteous and self defeating way. The name of the religious game is to avoid any stimulation of thinking. Pickles seems to be able to do that effectively on himself.

  13. Stonyground says:

    “But in recent years long-standing British liberties of freedom of religion have been undermined by the intolerance of aggressive secularism: taking people to task for wearing a cross or a rosary, beginning costly legal actions against council prayers – as if they had nothing better to do.”

    It has been repeatedly pointed out to him that none of this is actually true and that he has swallowed whole the distorted version of events as presented by the dead tree press. Lying for Jesus again Eric?

    Still, I think that this is great news, the clown is likely to provide us with endless entertainment.

  14. remigius says:

    Barry, it was an easy mistake for barriejohn to make. One is a website selling a load of pants – the other is a French underwear company.

  15. AgentCormac says:

    MaryD confused and missing the point? Well, who’d have thought?!

  16. Broga says:

    @Stonyground: I wonder if Dave is a crypto atheist. Pickles, like the bible, is as powerful an encouragement towards atheism as we are likely to get. Hope he gets a slot on TfTD. Or perhaps not. He could make some of that lot look like philosophers.

  17. Paul Cook says:

    @Graham Martin-Royle

    I agree.
    Why does Britain need this idiotic position of faith minister?
    What on earth is this for?
    We need a minister for science, logic, free thought and reason.
    Faith is for fools.

  18. Mephisto says:

    Dont worry, he’ll be dead soon, carrying all that weight.

  19. Canada Dave says:

    @ Mary D
    If you do like the heat in this kitchen you had best stay out it.

    Or better still do what Broga asked.
    Quote ….”In turn, Christians say that atheists are mistaken, fail to understand and wrongly interpret the bible. ”

    Kindly explain what we are missing in this document prepared by an all seeing all knowing god that created a universe…..yet the text he/she/it composes baffles even the most learned of minds..
    One would “logically” think that the easier you make a subject to understand ….the greater the number of adherents you will create.
    But no ….the bible is a mystery…..and full fairy tales and bullshit!!

  20. Norman Paterson says:

    MaryD – Nice to see you back, and I hope you are able to contribute. My comment about pies was indeed a feeble attempt at humour, but it was definitely an ad hominem. Though it was not actually attacking any of Eric’s arguments, so it was not a logical fallacy – there was no logic involved, either from me or from Eric, because I was not responding to anything he said.

    It’s just that when I see a picture of him, my first impression is that he is seriously overweight, and frankly not long for this world. So far, that’s the only impression he has made on me. When he actually says something in his new job, I will address the content of the message, not the messenger. OK?

  21. Canada Dave says:

    And another thing Mary.

    Your ilk gets a free 25 seats in the house of lords in Britain as I understand it….do you not think that given that they need a minister of faith?
    25 free seats is not large enough of a soap box from which to trumpet the
    Christian faith??
    And are all 25 of these seats Christian or are other flavours permitted….say Islam as an example……Hindu or perhaps the secular point of view from a few atheists from this site?

    You have had it all your way for a very long time my dear…..time for a change to …..common sense.

  22. Trevor Blake says:

    The Holy See is Europe’s last theocracy? Did England get rid of the Queen or the Church of England that Her Majesty leads? If not one or the other or both, England is still a theocracy.

    That having been said, sorry to hear you have such a parasite on the public payroll.

  23. Robster says:

    So, faith in Britain is about to be Pickled. I recon it’s an underhanded plan to preserve faith, in pickles. To pickle something is to preserve it, given the loss of faith so ably demonstrated in the statistics, pickling the nonsense might be a good idea for those seeking to maintain a semblance of belief in an increasingly secular society, like in the UK. So Mr. Pickles, a solid gherkin to you.

  24. Paul Cook says:

    OT

    Isn’t this just fantastic!
    Rosetta probe gets to the Comet 67P.
    This is what out tax money ought to be spent on not that facile idiot.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-28659783

  25. John C says:

    A sinecure position ,created purely so the government could place a female muslim in parliament ,one more carriage hitched onto the gravy train, Truly, Pickles is worthy of this appointment,we stand to see some spectacularly amusing drivel from the bufoon.

  26. Brian Jordan says:

    It’ll be communion champagne all round in Ongar on Sunday, now that the Peniel Porker has become Religion Supremo.
    Although Google seems ambiguous as to whether or not he was or is actually a member of the Peniel Pentecostal Church that infiltrated his constituency party and provoked Martin Bell into standing against him in 2001.
    http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2000/dec/31/johnsweeney.theobserver