Defeat for imposed prayer

Bideford - Devon

Non-consensual religious ceremony has always offended me so I am pleased to see this victory for human rights  – unfortunately, in the UK, not NZ. But the case is relevant. The UK National Secular Society (NSS) challenged prayers in local council meetings in December 2010. The case in the High Court was taken against the Bideford Town council – Mr Clive Bone, a former councillor who objected to these imposed prayers was also a claimant. (See British Humanists welcome High Court ruling against council prayers).

Although this was a limited case the ruling will apply to the formal meetings of all councils in England and Wales, the majority of which are thought to conduct prayers as part of their meetings. Furthermore, the Judge recognised that there could be even wider implications and for this reason granted the defendants right of appeal.

No disadvantage to religious belief

The NSS welcomed the verdict –  executive director Keith Porteous Wood said prayers had been “the cause of tension in a number of local councils”. He added:

“This judgment is an important victory for everyone who wants a secular society, one that neither advantages nor disadvantages people because of their religion or lack of it.”

And:

“The NSS is not seeking to deprive those who wish to pray the opportunity to do so; indeed, we fight to retain freedom of religion and belief. The judgement clearly states that religious freedoms are not hindered, as councillors who wish to do so are free to say prayers before council meetings.”

The judge made the same point. But once the meeting had become official one group could not impose its ceremonies on all:

“I do not think the 1972 Act […] should be interpreted as permitting the religious views of one group of councillors, however sincere or large in number, to exclude, or even to a modest extent, to impose burdens on or even to mark out those who do not share their views and do not wish to participate in their expression of them. They are all equally elected councillors”.

He compared the imposition of prayers to bringing a  “potentially divisive ceremony, such as the singing of a political party’s song into a meeting.”

Whining by the privileged

On the other hand former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey interpreted the result as “the gradual marginalisation of the Christian faith, being pushed to the outskirts.”

He said religious freedom no longer seemed to be a priority: “Equalities seem to trump all other kinds of freedom. This is a time for Christians to stand up and be counted.”

And:

“These legal rulings may also mean army chaplains could no longer serve, and that the Coronation Oath, in which the King or Queen pledges to maintain the laws of God and the lessons contained in the Gospels, would need to be abolished.

“This is a truly terrifying prospect.”

Critics of the ruling are painting themselves out as the victims. One blogger claimed : “here is a concentrated drive by progressive secularists to drive Christianity from the public square, and especially the body politic.”

This is the same attitude as the expressed by conservative religionists who have been opposing anti-discrimination laws. They see them as a violation of religious freedom because it prevents them from discriminating in the business and jobs on religious grounds.

So, the snuggle for human rights in a pluralist society continues.

Whanganui City Council

The Bideford situation closely parallels the local situation where the Whanganui City Council has rejected Councillor Clive Solomon’s complaint about imposed prayers at Council meetings.

Perhaps local secular organisations should consider taking similar action against the Whanganui City Councillor. After all one cannot over-ride legal human rights by a majority vote within a group. As Mr Justice Ouseley said in the Bideford case such votes by a council “does not give it power to do what it has no power to do.”

On the way to theocracy?

I really loved this section of the High Court ruling because it does sum up the situation we face with such imposed religious ceremonies. It’s a quote from a previous judgement and says:

“The precepts of any one religion, and belief system, cannot, by force of their religious origins, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of another. If they did, those out in the cold would be less than citizens and our constitution would be on the way to a theocracy, which is of necessity autocratic. The law of a theocracy is dictated without option to the people, not made by their judges and governments. The individual conscience is free to accept such dictated law, but the State, if its people are to be free, has the burdensome duty of thinking for itself.

So it is that the law must firmly safeguard the right to hold and express religious beliefs. Equally firmly, it must eschew any protection for such a belief’s content in the name only of its religious credentials. Both principles are necessary conditions for a free and rational regime.”

 

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94 responses to “Defeat for imposed prayer

  1. What does the present Archbishop say… te opinion of a *former* archbishop is probly of less interest.

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  2. Haven’t heard anything from the current incumbent. Mind you, isn’t he debating with Dawkins at Oxford about now – he might comment there. Richard seems to have said some kind things about him – as being poetic. Quite charitable I thought. Will probably be quite a gentlemans affair.

    I think the comments from the old guy are quite relevant as they are cmonly used. Particularly his characterization of being asked to leave his religion at the door as repression.

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  3. True. I suspect the ABC has more pressing issues on his mind at the moment anyway.

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  4. There seems to be this presumption in these sorts of debates that not having something which a group want is the “neutral” position, whereas having something that people don’t want is an imposition.

    So in this case “not having a prayer” which most (?) people want is a “neutral” stance. But “having a prayer” is seen as a non-neutral action.

    I don’t buy this assumption.

    There are two types of meeting possible – the prayer-initiated-meeting, and the non-prayer-initiated-meeting, and to my mind neither is more inherently “neutral” than the other.

    What is the basis of this assumption in your opinion Ken can you explain? I would be interested.

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  5. In this case it was not a matter of Christians on the council deciding to have a prayer before the meeting. It was their arrogant demand that their sectarian ceremony be imposed on everyone at the meeting. It was demanded as part of the official meeting.

    Cary’s complaint that Christians are being expected to “leave their beliefs at the door” when they engage in public activity is a very narcissistic way of rejecting the rights of others. It’s demanding the I as a non-religious person, or may mates as Muslims and Buddhist, leave their beliefs a the door and have Christian beliefs imposed on us.

    The solution in a secular society is to either not have a sectarian ceremony or have provision for all groups (and this may be via a secular ceremony – I have experienced such as karakia).

    Often Christians who cannot see this point suddenly feel enlightened when they are asked to consider how they would feel if they had a Muslim prayer or a partisan political song imposed on them.

    I think this is an important issue – because it involves current violations of the rights of some people and also because it involves the education of people who in the past have held a dominant role in society which has since disappeared.

    If you are by chance going to the Interfaith Forum in Hamilton this week come along to my talk (Accepting Pluralism in a Secular Society) and get stuck into me on this.

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  6. I would do but I am unlikely to travel to Hamilton. Let me know if you will be in Dunedin.

    I still don’t see a “secular ceremony” as a more neutral stance. I suppose I would want to see a simple vote on the issue. If the majority vote to have a prayer then the others will just have to grit their teeth and put up with something they don’t believe in. Similarly, if the majority vote to not have a prayer, then the rest will have to grit THEIR teeth and put up with something THEY don’t believe in (either some secular ceremony, or a meeting with no prayer)

    Again, I don’t see either group as standing on some sort of objectively neutral ground, and nothing you have said has made me change my position on that.

    And yes – if the majority of the people at a meeting were Muslim and wanted to have a Muslim prayer at the beginning… I guess the secularists and the Christians would have to grit their teeth.

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  7. The judge dealt with the majority vote concept. He point out that councils do not have the power to decide by voting things they have no power over.

    Its equivalent to a council deciding to use words like “nigger”, or make decisions about the status of ethnic minorities, when they do not have that power. these decisions are made by human rights legislation and other bodies are required to carry them out.

    I should not have to “grit my teeth” if the law already guarantees freedom of religion and belief. Nor should a Christians have to grit their teeth while a Muslim prayer or an atheist declaration or song is imposed on them.

    Beware of the tyranny of the majority – Christians in New Zealand are now a minority.

    However, I don’t see any move by the non-Christians to prevent Christians from carrying out their ceremonies. Just asking them not to impose them on us.

    It’s a question of acceptance of pluralism – or not.

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  8. Yes. I understand your point of view (and the present law may well support it), but I still don’t accept that non-prayer-including meeting is in some way more neutral than prayer-including-meeting.

    To make a claim that all meetings must be of one sort of the other would be imposing a certain set of beliefs on the other group. This is inevitable, and if Christians are the minority then perhaps this is what will happen – but we should not pretend that this is the “neural” stance.

    This I suppose is the point I would have to be convinced on.

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  9. A non-prayer meeting is a secular meeting. It corresponds to the fact that such meetings are dealing with world matters – not so-called “sacred” matters. It is also democratic in the sense it recognises the pluralist nature of the organisations and the people they represent.

    I don’t know why you want to bring in the word neutral. It’s more a matter of human rights and human respect. There is no need of compulsion in today’s situations. Nor is their any need for denial of rights. Christians clan pray as much as they like – they should just not impose their private activity on others.

    Just imagine people talking about neutrality when it comes to respecting and protecting the rights of women, as well as men; blacks, as well as whites, homosexuals, as well as heterosexuals, etc. etc.

    I can just image slave owners using the word “neutral’ against those campaigning against slavery.

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  10. Not what I meant. I said (or meant if I made a typo anywhere) “non-prayer-including meeting” not “non-prayer”.

    I am not sure that it is “democratic” to recognize pluralism. It is certainly not democratic to impose a pluralist approach in a society which is non-pluralistic.

    It is also interesting that you see prayer as a “private activity”. Why do you say this?

    You will also have to spell out your analogy with slavery, homosexuals etc. a bit more clearly. I am not sure what point you are trying to make, or what parallels you see.

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  11. Imposing a “pluralist” approach in a non-pluralist society would be the same as imposing a “non-pluralist” approach, surely.

    I guess you must be a supporter of FPP. Personally, I think our society has become more democratic, and accepting of human rights, since we switched to MMP.

    I like this little poster – and it may answer your question. if not one can still appreciate it.

    RELIGION IS LIKE A PENIS
    It’s fine to have one
    It’s fine to be proud of it
    But please don’t whip it out in public and start waving it around
    And PLEASE don’t try to shove it down my children’s throats.

    My comments on “slavery” etc., related to your introduction of the word “neutral.” We just aren’t “neutral” about being human and respecting human rights. it is wrong for the majority to impose on the minority – and vice versa.

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  12. Richard Christie

    <non-prayer-including meeting

    prayer-including-meeting.

    Max, this sounds suspiciously like obfuscation.
    Your turns of phrase have lost me, I can’t figure out what your objections, if any, are.

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  13. Sorry it sounded like that Richard. Let me clarify. A prayer meeting I saw as a meeting whose primary purpose was to pray. I was referring to a meeting called for another reason where a prayer was said at the start. Hope this clarifies it for you.

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  14. It is also interesting that you see prayer as a “private activity”. Why do you say this?

    Well, one could point out the bits in the bible about prayer being a very private affair and how to keep it private but let’s not get into that.
    Tim Tebow and his critics have done that to death on the Intertubes.

    A local council meeting is not a time for prayer.
    It’s supposed to be a meeting about council affairs and serving the business of the local community.
    If even only one person at the meeting has to “grit their teeth” because of some religious ceremony then that alienates that person.
    It doesn’t work in the opposite way.

    Nobody grits their teeth when the local traffic warden doesn’t pray over your parking ticket.
    Nobody grits their teeth when the garbo doesn’t spray chicken blood over your trash bin before picking it up.

    If you want to serve on your local council, then you should not have to put up with any religious ritual imposed on you by the will of the majority.
    People have this blind spot when it comes to religious traditions that they grew up with but the squawking begins the instant the local demographics change.
    Imagine a massive change in the local population represented by the council brought on by immigration or economic circumstances.
    Suddenly the neighbourhood you once knew is transformed in to Little Bombay or Little Islamabad or Little Jamaica.
    Given that majority rules on what goes on in council meetings, you are now in for a lot of teeth gritting.
    Nobody likes to have to grind their teeth. It’s an imposition.
    You should be able to attend council meetings without having to worry about being compelled to attend some dopey religious ceremony.

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  15. “I guess you must be a supporter of FPP.”
    Nope. Wrong.

    Yes – but to do Cedrics trick of replacing words:

    PLURALISM IS LIKE A PENIS
    It’s fine to have one
    It’s fine to be proud of it
    But please don’t whip it out in public and start waving it around
    And PLEASE don’t try to shove it down my children’s throats.

    I am still not getting your point about slavery. You will have to spell out what parallel you think exists.

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  16. Cedric: When you have a rational response to anything I actually said I will be happy to reply.

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  17. Max – you are resorting to Matt’s old trick – treating concepts like secularism and pluralism as ideologies. They just aren’t ideologies, let alone the sort of ideologies Matt claims.

    Secularism and pluralism are descriptions of society. Pluralism is just stating a fact – that society is diverse (And is inevitable in this global day and age).
    Secularism refers to our ability, and need, to deal with wordily matters despite our different religious and non-religious views on the “sacred.”

    Both believer and non-believers are involved in secular activity (and may belong to secular organisations).

    Matt’s trick was dishonest because he attempt to describe democracy as an ideology – one that he opposed.

    But good to hear you do not support FPP. There is hope for you yet.

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  18. …I will be happy to reply.

    You did.
    Here’s the time stamp.

    February 13, 2012 at 12:56 pm

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  19. I thought I was just making a joke… but OK😉

    But to get back to the other question. I suppose the analogy you are trying to make is that saying a prayer before a meeting is as morally corrupt in the same way that slavery, racism, and sexism are (I am surprised you did not bring Hitler into it somehow!)

    I am still not seeing this however. Having to listen to someone rabbit on about something you think is rubbish for a couple of minutes may be a minor annoyance but it is hardly some huge denial of human rights!

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  20. Cedric: When you have a rational response to anything I actually said I will be happy to reply.

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  21. PLURALISM IS LIKE A PENIS
    It’s fine to have one

    Yep, it doesn’t work.
    Pluralism is not a “one”.
    Doesn’t work with secularism either.

    “Secuarlism IS LIKE A PENIS
    It’s fine to have one”

    Nope. Still doesn’t work. Secularism isn’t something you “have”. There is not “one” as opposed to others.
    Hey let’s try it with atheism?

    “Atheism IS LIKE A PENIS
    It’s fine to have one”

    Nope, doesn’t work it either. Again, it’s not a “one”. Atheism is the absence of a belief, not the presence of one.
    Atheism is a religion like health is a disease.

    Yes – but to do Cedrics trick of replacing words:

    If only you could.
    (sigh)
    However, I can. I don’t have to change a thing. I can even keep the grammar perfectly intact.

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  22. ….I actually said I will be happy to reply.

    You did.
    Here’s the time stamp.

    February 13, 2012 at 1:55 pm

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  23. Max – you are of course coming from the perspective of those doing the rabbiting. But humans actually do have the ability to see things, to some extent, from the perspective of others. To be empathetic.

    There is something inhumane, lacking respect, to assume everyone in the room thinks the same way as you and that it is OK to impose ones own rubbish.

    It is rude, and offensive. It’s often intimidating and for young children can be scary.

    I would never seek to impose my atheist homilies or singing of the red flag on a pluralist group. If I wanted to do that I would do it with my comrades before the meeting.

    If people want some sort of ceremonial introduction to a meeting (and I can understand that) then there is plenty which can be used which is secular and far more meaningful that these rubbishy prayers that are used.

    In a few limited situations where more is required – let’s make it inclusive. Let the ceremony be made up for all the cultures and outlooks present.

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  24. Yes indeed. Seeing things from the viewpoint of other people is essential. That is why one has to realize that what they think of as the “balanced” or “neutral” viewpoint may in fact just be their own preference.

    it is indeed inhumane to think everyone thinks the same way – and so both sides of any such debate need to look at their impact on the other side. To simply declare that secularism/pluralism is right with no consideration of the impact this has on other people does lack empathy. And indeed this would be rude and offensive (as indicated by people being offended).

    Now you seem to grasp this until you state: “If people want some sort of ceremonial introduction to a meeting (and I can understand that) then there is plenty which can be used which is secular and far more meaningful that these rubbishy prayers that are used.”

    You don’t seem to grasp that all you are suggesting is replacing one sort of ceremony with another. Whatever ceremony is placed before a meeting (or even the absence of a ceremony) is going to offend someone. So what to do? Make a legal ruling that one group is always right? Or try to show some respect, sensitivity, and empathy?

    The idea of an “inclusive” prayer is a nice one in theory – but in practice it tends to again just be the preference of members of one particular viewpoint.

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  25. I don’t see how a prayer can ever be inclusive!

    No one is after a balanced or neutral situation – these are your words, Max and I don’t think them appropriate.

    It is a question of respect and human rights. That’s why I don’t go around imposing my ceremonies on others.

    Pluralism is a fact of life – I can’t see how anyone in their right minds could be “offended” by that. They should seek help if they are.

    Secularism is not an ideology to be imposed – it is a social function enabling human respect and functioning in a democratic pluralist society.

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  26. To simply declare that secularism/pluralism is right with no consideration of the impact…

    Meaningless babble.
    What “impact”?

    A council meeting without a the spraying of chicken blood.
    There doesn’t seem to be much “impact’ there.

    A traffic warden give you a parking ticket and yet does not fondle his rosaries while doing so? Where’s the “impact” there?

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  27. “I don’t see how a prayer can ever be inclusive!”

    You were the one to mention this word! But yes you said inclusive ceremony now I look. But I think the same point applies.

    “No one is after a balanced or neutral situation ”

    Yes – and this is the point. What is sought is in fact an unbalanced and biased situation😉

    “It is a question of respect and human rights. That’s why I don’t go around imposing my ceremonies on others.”

    Good. However it must be remembered that a secular ceremony replacing a religious one is just as much an imposition. That is the problem that many secularists do not acknowledge.

    “Pluralism is a fact of life – I can’t see how anyone in their right minds could be “offended” by that. They should seek help if they are.”

    Odd statement.

    “Secularism is not an ideology to be imposed”

    I agree. Which is why we need to be careful about blindly throwing out one sort of ceremony and importing another.

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  28. Cedric: When you have any response to anything I actually said I will be happy to reply.

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  29. Max, you are being contrarian to claim a secular arrangement is unbalanced and biased. Those words simply are inappropriate.

    However, there are arguments you use which are increasingly being used by Christian leaders, particularly those of conservative persuasions, who argue against secularism and consideration of the rights of others. I think it is important to debate those out for that reason. I will be intrigues to see the response to my presentation on Saturday – I hope such attitudes are not as prevalent in the interfaith community. But we will see.

    You don’t understand “pluralism” do you? It’s simply stating a fact. Eg that our population has so many people of European origins, so many Maori, So many Asian, etc. Who can be offended by a simple statement of the facts. (Yes I know the creationists are).

    You misunderstand my statement that “Secularism is not an ideology to be imposed” – let’s repeat the important bit: “secularism is not an ideology.”

    Why import a ceremony.? Why even have one? Why should city and town councils require a ceremony – particularly that of a monitory group?

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  30. Richard Christie

    Would Max suoport a compulsory prayer to Beelzebub?

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  31. He’d have to.
    Consider the “impact” of not having a prayer to Beelzebub!

    …I actually said I will be happy to reply.

    You did.
    Here’s the time stamp.

    “February 13, 2012 at 2:38 pm”

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  32. Richard: If there was a society of people who worshiped Beelzebub, and as a group they decided to have a prayer before their meetings, and I was a minority who was not part of their religion then I would not try to get a court to stop them praying… that was easy. Next question?

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  33. You don’t understand “pluralism” do you? It’s simply stating a fact. Eg that our population has so many people of European origins, so many Maori, So many Asian, etc. Who can be offended by a simple statement of the facts. (Yes I know the creationists are).

    The problem with the word “pluralism” is that it is used in two ways. The way you use it (which is obviously true) but also as a philosophy that makes the claim that there are multiple “truths” or ways of gaining truth. Perhaps you are not aware of the other use of this word.

    Similarly “secularism” is used in more than one sense.

    “Why import a ceremony.? Why even have one? Why should city and town councils require a ceremony – particularly that of a monitory group?”

    Well you suggested this yourself. And if it IS a minority group then I think it would be odd to impose their ceremony upon everyone else. I have said this all along. But I think that if 95% of the people in a group want to have a little bit of a prayer first then the 5% would be a little churlish to deny them this opportunity. I don’t know why atheists are so bothered by it to be honest… it is just people babbling and talking to an imaginary friend for a couple of minutes. They could use it to check their email or something. No biggy.

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  34. If there was a society of people who worshiped Beelzebub, and as a group they decided to have a prayer before their meetings…

    You just revealed your blind spot.
    It’s not “their” meetings.
    It’s at a local council.
    Could be your local council or it could be anybody’s.
    Heck, you might even serve on that council.

    It’s not happening in their place of worship, tucked away where nobody gives a damn.

    Compare the subject :The UK National Secular Society (NSS) challenged prayers in local council meetings…

    … to your creative re-interpretation of events.

    If there was a society of people who worshiped Beelzebub, and as a group they decided to have a prayer before their meetings…

    You just created a strawman.

    The “Straw Man” Fallacy

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  35. Cedric: When you have a response to anything I actually said I will be happy to reply.

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  36. Max, the context makes very clear what meaning of pluralism I intend and I am sure you understand that. Why the hell try diverting the discussion?

    Yes, secularism is used in different senses – often dishonestly and meanings are switched for ideological motives. The discussion with Matt and Madeleine is a prime example.

    I have always made clear I use Holyoake’s definition of dealing with the worldly rather than the sacred irrespective of religious belief. And the NSS involved in this legal action includes believers as well as non-believers.

    In that sense clearly secularism is not an ideology or belief and to claim such is dishonest – as Matt and Madeleine were.

    Your concept of the right of a majority imposing a ceremony on a minority is naive. Just imagine a group of KKK feeling they has the right to impose lynching because of a democratic decision. Only the single black in the group voted against it.

    Of course I think prayers are really silly and that’s not what concerns me. You can be as silly as you want as long as it diesnt involve me. It is the imposition and the assumption that I have the same ideology as them. It is the unwarranted assumption that offends me in the same way that a group of racists who use abusive terms in my presence offends because of the assumption I agree.

    The imposition of smokers who light up assuming everyone present loves the smoke is similar. I find that offensive.

    Racists can say what they want amongst themselves when I am not there to be offended. Smokers can continue to smoke as long as I am not there to suffer their smoke. Christians can pray till their cows come home as long as they don’t offend by including me or imposing it on me.

    I personally feel that what motivates supporters of non-consensual prayer is not the desire to pray but the desire to offend. And that comes through with their justifications and whining about being repressed.

    They choose to think that no one can have freedom from religion.

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  37. …I actually said I will be happy to reply.

    You did.
    Here’s the time stamp.

    February 13, 2012 at 9:39 pm

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  38. Richard Christie

    “If there was a society of people who worshiped Beelzebub, and as a group they decided to have a prayer before their meetings…”

    You just revealed your blind spot.
    It’s not “their” meetings.
    It’s at a local council.
    Could be your local council or it could be anybody’s.
    Heck, you might even serve on that council.

    Quite right.

    Max, I’ll just have to repeat Cedric’s points, since you’re refusing to address them.

    We’re not talking about attending a weekly meeting of the Beelzebub Appreciation Soc.

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  39. Beelzebub Appreciation Soc.

    Like it.
    In fact, I will steal it and use it myself.🙂

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  40. GODWINS LAW!

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  41. Yes Richard. I am aware of that. So?

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  42. Atheists seek to deny the existence of gods. Christians wish to confirm the existence of gods. Secularists think it is not the business of government to either confirm or deny. Surely secularism is the neutral or balance dposition?

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  43. No Des, because a secularist can be a believer or a non believer. It’s just that they recognize that when dealing with worldly matters the methosd have to be appropriate. Accountants don’t invoke miracles (although financial managers are probably prone to prayer). Scientists deal with the rational and detectable. Both accountants and scientists can be believers or not. But their work is secular.

    It’s not a matter of bring neutral to the existence of gods. It’s a matter of that question not being relevant when involved in worldly matters.

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  44. Richard Christie

    So?

    I’ll type slowly.

    If you found yourself on a community committee, say for example perhaps you like books and volunteered to serve on a committee managing the local library, would you be happy to indulge in two minutes of devil worship every time the committee met, or maybe two minutes of compulsory ritual praise of Ricard Dawkin’s books.

    Or would you regard such practices as arrogant impositions?

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  45. You can retype the question as slowly as you like – take all day if you like – but I have already answered this question.

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  46. Let me cut and paste if for you to save you some effort:

    Richard: If there was a society of people who worshiped Beelzebub, and as a group they decided to have a prayer before their meetings, and I was a minority who was not part of their religion then I would not try to get a court to stop them praying… that was easy. Next question?

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  47. Richard Christie

    Max, are you being deliberately thick?

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  48. No. But if you want to explain something to me you think I misunderstood it I am sure you have the ability to do it without resorting to insults. The ability – but perhaps not the character.

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  49. Actually, Richard, I think being deliberately thick may be one of the tactics theologians learn in theology school.

    Which does suggest there is only so much that can be gained by Internet debate across theological lines on these sort of issues.

    I would like to see someone take the Whanganui Council case to court in the same way done for Bideford. I don’t know if we have the same details in our laws (Bideoird was won because it violated law on local body work not on human rights).

    One advantage of a legal case is that being deliberately thick usually backfires.

    Just wish we had something like the UK Secular Society here to support a challenge. And good legal advice to suss out the best approach.

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  50. In what way have I not answered your question Richard. You may disagree with my answer and play the Godwin trick like Ken does and say it will lead to lynching in the street (why not Nazis Ken?) – but I answered the question you asked.

    Who is being thick?

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  51. Richard Christie

    Max, please answer my question, not the question you construct to answer by yourself. Both Cedric and I have clearly illustrated what you are doing with my question.

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  52. Well ask it clearly now and I will do my best:

    Go:

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  53. Richard Christie

    Max, If you found yourself on a committee of public body, whose activity was secular in nature, would you be happy to indulge in compulsory praise and worship of an entity that you didn’t believe in?

    A simple enough question, easily inferred from my earlier questions.

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  54. Well the short answer is no. But then no one has been asked to do this.

    People are being asked to sit by while others indulge in praise and worship.

    If someone tried to force me to say words that I did not agree with I would find that somewhat offensive.

    However perhaps what you actually meant was would I be happy to sit silently while others indulged in prayer and worship of an entity I don’t believe in.

    The answer to this is yes I would happily let others pray if they wanted to, and if that was what the majority wanted to do.

    Does this answer your question?

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  55. Richard Christie

    In answer I can only shake my head

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  56. Fair enough. It is fine to disagree, but I think that my answer has been pretty consistent. I am perhaps more tolerant of others beliefs than many people and willing to be a little uncomfortable myself if this makes a larger number of people happy.

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  57. Hey, Max. Calm down. No one has invoked a Godwin trick. You are just avoiding the argument by avoiding the illustrations which put it starkly.

    The fact remains that the UK has a law which requires the business and meetings of it’s local bodies to be appropriate and consequential to the body involved. The judge found that imposed Christian prayers during official meetings violated that law. As would have the community singing of the Red Flag. This ruling effects all the English and Welsh councils. In some of these Christian Councillors have said they will hold prayer meetings before official meetings . No one is objecting to that. I guess others may want to sing the Red Flag.

    If Christisn dogmatists want to preserve their privelige they should campaign for a law change to allow such inconsequential activity. They won’t of course – they will just sit back and whine – arguing falsely that they are bring repressed by secularism.

    Extremely dishonest.

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  58. Richard Christie

    However perhaps what you actually meant was would I be happy to sit silently while others indulged in prayer and worship of an entity I don’t believe in.

    No, we’re discussing objection to compulsory handwaving on a secular meeting’s official agenda.

    I find your position extremely arrogant.

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  59. It is a Godwin type tactic because you are saying: If you accept that the majority can choose whether to have a 2 minute prayer then why not accept that the majority can order lynching! (and thereby conclude that all majority decisions are dangerous)

    This is just silly as you well know.

    I may as well reply: If you can accept that a court can decide against prayers, why not accept a court ruling that people can be lynched! (and thereby conclude that all court decisions are dangerous)

    Ridiculous and not worth answering. and a classic KKK-Godwin example.

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  60. Its just about tolerance Richard. Sometimes it is better to let people be happy than to impose the “truth” on them.

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  61. Richard Christie

    Its just about tolerance Richard. Sometimes it is better to let people be happy than to impose the “truth” on them.

    I don’t think you fully realise the implications of this statement and the position you are choosing to champion.

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  62. What always astounds me is how seriously atheists take prayers. If you regarded them as you claimed to – as mere babble and talking to imaginary friends – then they are not really anything offensive at all. It is just two minutes wasted before a meeting (which would probably happen anyway with people talking about the rugby game the night before or what happened on shorthand street etc.)

    The reaction shows that atheists are actually taking the prayers very seriously and giving them a lot of credence – and why this should be I am not sure. Perhaps an atheist can tell me.

    I recently had a run-in with someone like this. I had put an icon on my door, and my neighbor was irate because me putting something on my own door was an invasion of here rights! She came over to shout at me first and then and even phoned the landlord to complain. But when I looked at the icon all it was in objective reality was a small medieval painitng of woman holding a baby. All of the extra baggage about how it was offensive was in her own mind. She had attached a disproportionate amount of significance to the little painting. If she really believed religion is nonsense then why does a paining of a woman with her baby have so much power over her that it was making her so angry than she came over to shout at me?

    Odd.

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  63. “I don’t think you fully realise the implications of this statement and the position you are choosing to champion.”

    OK. Fair enough. Would you like to unpack that?

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  64. Max – when you put up the proposition “If you can accept that a court can decide against prayers,” you are demonstrating that for some reason you have been unable to consider my post, or the arguments presented. (one can speculate on the reason).

    The court definitely did NOT “decide against prayers.” The news reports and the judges ruling make that extremely clear.

    I suggest you calm down, take a deep breath and when your heart rate is slowed actually read what I wrote above. Maybe even read the Judgement – which is available online.

    All the arguments you present were also presented by the Bideford Council and considered/analysed by the judge. He ruled against them.

    Have a read of the material – then tell us if you think the judges ruling was faulty.

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  65. Richard Christie

    it’s not difficult to unpack.

    You are intolerant of the right and desires of others to a religion free agenda during secular activity.

    And as for your comment on how seriously prayer is taken by atheists…”you wish” is the vernacular phrase.

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  66. Max – it seems you didn’t take in what I said last night. I will repeat:

    “Of course I think prayers are really silly and that’s not what concerns me. You can be as silly as you want as long as it doesnt involve me. It is the imposition and the assumption that I have the same ideology as them. It is the unwarranted assumption that offends me in the same way that a group of racists who use abusive terms in my presence offends because of the assumption I agree. “

    No, I don’t take religious prayers seriously. But I do take human rights and the respect of person very seriously.

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  67. Fair enough. I just don’t think that “not having to listen to people babble nonsense” is a serious human right. If it was then I would be demanding that people in the pub not go on about rugby.

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  68. Richard. No idea what you are on about. If you want to seriously address the issue of what the implications of what I said are then i am very interested. If you want to throw insults around I will toss you in the same bucket as your mate Cedric.

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  69. I suspect this judge would have also ruled that consumption of alcoholic beverages during an official council meeting also violated the law as being behaviour outside the proper business of the council.

    You should read the judgement, Max.

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  70. POP QUIZ!

    Find the odd one out:

    (i) My family was butchered because of our ethnicity
    (ii) Our people were sold into slavery for generations
    (iii) Women have been forced into marriage and beaten for generations
    (iv) We had to listen to a two minute prayer before our lattes arrived at the meeting.

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  71. I guess if the Bideford council had resorted to such a silly comparison, Max, they may have been done for contempt of court.

    However, it is more applicable to those Christians in that their whinge is that the law required that their prayers not be imposed on others or the official business. They were so hard done by they couldn’t do the manly thing and say their prayers 5 minutes earlier before the meeting started.

    Indicates the real issue is not prayers – but their “right” to impose them on others.

    Imposition is the word you need to look up and think about.

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  72. Easy Max. They are all acts done by religious organisations – but only the last survives in New Zealand. Unfortunately the 3rd remains in the UK – and I suspect in NZ among certain groups.

    And again you misrepresent the real situation. read the bloody judgement.

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  73. It was YOUR silly comparison which I was mocking ken!

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  74. And it backfired beautifully.

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  75. Why is imposition such an evil in your mind Ken?

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  76. Oh well. A great victory I guess.

    *shrug*

    Well done to them.

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  77. I can’t understand how people can criticise a guy for exercising his legal rights through a successful legal challenge. I saw the same thing with Jessica Ahlquist – it sucked then, and it sucks now. Nor do I get how people can claim that a legal prohibition on prayers in a meeting is imposing beliefs on them. That’s like saying that when the speaker calls for order in parliament, he’s promoting a political ideology.

    My favourite part of this case is the way the council’s defence was so elegantly self-defeating. Their justification that Cllr Bone was permitted to leave the meeting while the prayers were going on was the best evidence there could be that the prayers weren’t a necessary part of the meeting to fulfil the functions of the council under s.111 of the 1972 Local Government Act, and were therefore illegal. Simply beautiful.

    It’s sad that the ruling was on such a narrow point of law – with the new Localism Act on its way, it may be that this precedent will be obsolete by Easter.

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  78. Richard Christie

    Richard. No idea what you are on about. If you want to seriously address the issue of what the implications of what I said are then i am very interested. If you want to throw insults around I will toss you in the same bucket as your mate Cedric.

    You are being a hypocrite. Yor position is internally inconsistent. I have brought this to your attention and now find myself, along with Cedric, kill-filed.

    At least I’m in intelligent company.

    Like

  79. Go on. Explain what I have said which is internally inconsistent. Easy to state this.

    Evidence?

    Go:

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  80. Max still clings to his blind spot. He can’t walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

    We had to listen to a two minute prayer…

    Why should someone have to?
    That’s an imposition.
    Someone is attending a council meeting (presumably to to do council business or propose a motion or something) and now they have to put up with someone’s magical incantations. You are included whether you want to or not.
    Nobody asked you.
    Nobody gave you equal time for your prayer.
    You could leave or switch off…but you shouldn’t have to.
    That’s unreasonable.
    That’s not the business of a council.

    Even you instinctively reach for a strawman because there’s a part of you that finds the real situation to be distasteful.

    If there was a society of people who worshiped Beelzebub, and as a group they decided to have a prayer before their meetings…

    This is not what we are talking about. You haven’t addressed the real situation. You are avoiding it even when it’s been pointed out to you which is why you come across as being deliberately thick. It’s dishonest.

    You may disagree with my answer and play the Godwin trick like Ken does and say it will lead to lynching in the street…

    No.
    Nobody said this or even suggested this.
    Again you are shamefully erecting a strawman.
    All this comes from your fevered imagination.
    Focus on the real conversation.

    Well the short answer is no. But then no one has been asked to do this.

    Yes, they have. Read your own words.

    People are being asked to sit by while others indulge in praise and worship.

    See?
    At a council meeting. Not at the Beelzebub Appreciation Soc.
    Nor are they being “asked”.
    They have to. They don’t have a choice in the matter. That’s how the magical babblers start the council meeting.

    If someone tried to force me to say words….

    Strawman. Nobody said that this was the case. Focus on the real situation and stop being deliberately thick.

    …would I be happy to sit silently while others indulged in prayer and worship of an entity I don’t believe in.
    The answer to this is yes I would happily let others pray if they wanted to, and if that was what the majority wanted to do.

    Liar.
    You would not be “happy” about it at all.
    Read your own words.

    And yes – if the majority of the people at a meeting were Muslim and wanted to have a Muslim prayer at the beginning… I guess the secularists and the Christians would have to grit their teeth.

    Gritting one’s teeth is not known as being a sign of happiness.
    You would naturally resent it and you would be right to do so.

    You are not gritting your teeth at a Mosque.
    That’s a totally different situation and you know it.

    You are gritting your teeth at your local council.
    Your council.
    As in, it’s your council just as much as it is anybody’s.

    Nobody has the right to alienate you at a council meeting where you feel you must grit your teeth or walk out or try and block it out with checking your internet and hoping they will finish soon.
    It’s an imposition.

    What always astounds me is how seriously atheists take prayers.

    Again you are erecting a strawman.
    It’s not just atheists who object to council prayers.
    Jews don’t appreciate it either. Nor do Catholics. Nobody outside of the group that is imposing their brand name prayer on others appreciates it.

    Pray as much as you like.
    Only pray on your own time and on your own dime.
    That’s what your basement is for.

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  81. Richard Christie

    its just about tolerance Richard.

    Yet you are intolerant of the right and desires of others to a religion-free agenda during secular activity.

    Instead, as Ken observed you insist your brand name dogma is included and join the whingers when that’s rejected.

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  82. I have never said anything of the sort. You will have to do better than that.

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  83. Cedric. You know I don’t read your screeds!

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  84. (I doubt anyone does which makes it rather sad that he takes so long to write them really. I assume they are just random insults as normal)

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  85. Just to make it clear – not that i think anyone really reads my responses either by the silly responses:

    I think that if there is a society which largely consists of people with one belief system (whatever it is) and a group of them gather for a meeting, then if the vast majority agree to some ceremony which comes from their culture before the meeting they should be free to do so. If one person in the meeting does not like the ceremony then most reasonable people would just shrug and let it go.

    I at no point said this applied to only one culture – and certainly did not say that it applied to only my own dogma.

    Resorting to lies like this does you no credit.

    respond to what I actually say or the conversation is kind of pointless. If you disagree with my actual points I am interested to know why – but NOT things I never said!

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  86. Cedric. You know I don’t read your screeds!

    Oh Max, you are such a shameful, silly little liar.
    When I post something, you don’t say that you don’t read it.
    You say that Cedric: When you have a response to anything I actually said I will be happy to reply.

    We here on planet Earth can only tell if somebody wrote a response to anything they actually said…by reading it!
    Duh.🙂
    So you read what I write. All the time. Otherwise you couldn’t make a judgement call whether or not you’d be happy to reply. In fact, without reading it, you would have no idea if I was addressing your comments or someone else’s altogether.

    I think that if there is a society which largely consists of people with one belief system (whatever it is) and a group of them gather for a meeting, then if…

    Strawman. That’s not what we have been arguing about. Focus on the real conversation around you and ignore the voices in you head. Anything else is a tacit admission of surrender.

    respond to what I actually say

    We do. That’s why we quote you all the time.
    On the other hand, you can’t do that so you just have to make stuff up by yourself.

    (So boys and girls. Will Max read this one and pretend that he did not? Let’s wait and see.)

    Like

  87. Cedric: When you have any – response to anything I actually said I will be happy to reply.

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  88. Richard Christie

    then if the vast majority agree to some ceremony

    You’re making stuff up.

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  89. What am I making up. Notice the “if” in that sentence. Do you understand the nature of a conditional statement or do you want me to explain it to you?

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  90. I’m sorry. I should not be so patronizing. It is just frustrating that people won’t engage in any real conversation.

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  91. Richard Christie

    “If” is not the reality we are talking about.
    Why bring any “if”s into it?

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  92. Because you asked me what my stance was on the situation so I answered you. Not complicated. Nothing hidden.

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  93. I think this discussion has deteriorated. It needs refreshing. So I have a new post on the subject: Priviliged whinging?.

    Like

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