England Moves Toward Ban on Official Prayers, Opposed by a 'Small Fringe' on the 'Far Right'

The Washington Post has a funny headline from England on its front page Friday. "Public prayer stirs culture war in Britain." Notice that secular liberals like the Posties always blame the "culture war" on the religious, not on the secularizers. The more accurate headline is "Public prayer ban stirs culture war in Britain." In Bideford, reporter Anthony Faiola writes, a town council stocked with "a practicing pagan, a staunch atheist, and an agnostic former stripper" wants to scrap the council's opening prayer.

Faiola's story properly notes the move to "ban public prayers in tiny Bideford" erupted into a national controversy. But a few paragraphs later, Faiola breaks out the labels for whatever boomlet of conservative Christians might lobby prime minister David Cameron on this subject. Unlike America, there is only a "small fringe" on the "far right" that supports Christianity and opposes abortion:  

The parameters of discussion in Britain remain sharply different from those in the United States. Though a small fringe here still argues against legal abortion and publicly funded contraception, such issues were considered settled even by many Conservatives long ago. And Prime Minister David Cameron, though not without pushback from his far right, has gone further than President Obama by openly backing same-sex marriage, arguing that equal rights are a fundamental facet of Christian values. 

But Christians here maintain that their traditions are under assault, citing, for example, allegations that liberal city officials have discriminated against devout Christian parents in adoption cases. They see the potential ban on public prayer as the last straw. 

That's a very strange claim, that Christians merely "maintain that their traditions are under assault" when prayer bans are proposed, as if there is any factual doubt. Faiola never makes any mention of religious facts like the rise of Islam in Great Britain. Overall, the story is balanced between public-prayer supporters (including Cameron and a hinting Queen Elizabeth) and opponents, but the Post's assumption is public religiosity is going the way of the dodo and it's a political loser. That's where American comparisons pop up:

It is extraordinary to me to see a modern British government promoting religion,” said Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society. “It’s an indication that the Conservatives are flying a kite to see whether the tactics of the American Republicans might fly here. I have a strong suspicion they won’t. Britain is not America, and in trying to establish a religious right, Cameron will find himself shot in the foot.” 

Tim Graham's picture

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