Written by Sherry
Monday, 10 August 2009 07:12
From the Telegraph. In a comment that is sure to get a lot of play, Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of Britain, told Premier Christian Radio, that Britain is still a "Christian nation" and that
"I think the role of religion and faith in what people sometimes call the public square is incredibly important.
"In Britain we are not a secular state as France is, or some other countries. It's true that the role of official institutions changes from time to time, but I would submit that the values that all of us think important – if you held a survey around the country of what people thought was important, what it is they really believed in, these would come back to Judeo-Christian values, and the values that underpin all the faiths that diverse groups in our society feel part of."
Asked if he thought it would be better if Christianity were "privatised", he replied: "I think it's impossible because when we talk about faith, we are talking about what people believe in, we are talking about the values that underpin what they do, we are talking about the convictions that they have about how you can make for a better society.
"So I don't accept this idea of privatisation – I think what people want to do is to make their views current.
"There is a moral sense that people have, perhaps 50 years ago the rules were more detailed and intrusive, perhaps now what we're talking about is boundaries, beyond which people should not go.
"And I think that's where it's important that we have the views of all religions and all faiths, and it's important particularly that we're clear about what kind of society we want to be.
"So I think the idea that you can say: 'What I do in my own life is privatised and I'm not going to try to suggest that these are values that can bind your society together', would be wrong."
For readers, who might not be familiar with French ecclesiastical history:
In France, the final, absolute break between the Church and the State happened in 1905 and was precipitated in part by Pius X's demand that the French President not visit the reigning King of Italy. The President refused and France recalled its ambassador to the Vatican. The Pope disciplined two French bishops who had republican sympathies. This was seen by France as a violation of the Concordat of 1801 which had recognized 4 "official religions" of which Catholicism was one. France broke diplomatic relations with Vatican.
(The Vatican had not recognized the Italian state since it was set up in 1870 and took the papal states away upon which the Pope declared himself the "prisoner of the Vatican". Italian Catholics were told they could not vote or participate in the Italian government although that began to change after 1905)
The 1905 Law of Separation instituted complete separation of religion and state in France The Church was no longer funded by the state. One immediate impact: the number of seminarians dropped 50% until after World War I, largely because they lost some of their privileges such as immunity from the draft.
Laicite is a core concept in the French constitution, which defines France as a secular republic. Laicite relies on the division between private life - where religion belongs - and the public sphere, in which each individual is a simple citizen equal to all other citizens, devoid of ethnic, religious or other particularities. As a result, many see being discreet with one's religion as a necessary part of being French.
The de facto spread of similar ideas in Britain is what prompted the Prime Minister, who was raised in a Presbyterian manse, to make his comments.