Below is a letter the elders submitted to our local MP Luke Hall expressing our concern about current proposed legislation that we, along with many other UK Christians, believe will be harmful to the freedom of religion in the UK and may put Christians under great pressure. To read more information posted by the Christian Institute click here.
Luke Hall MP,
30 High Street,
Dear Mr. Luke Hall (MP for Thornbury and Yate)
As a local Christian chapel, concerned with the affairs of this nation, especially when discussing laws that will have a direct impact upon faith communities, we wanted to write to you, our MP, to express some concerns over proposed legislation dealing with granting OFSTED powers to censure faith communities for extremism and adherence to British values. While we support the need to deal with Islamic extremism, we wish to express some concerns as to this legislation that we hope you will take into consideration on our behalf as Parliament debates it. We are supportive of addressing root issues but not of seeking to combat them at superficial levels where the religious freedom that may be jeopardized may not be equal to the limited gains achieved.
Our first concern centres around the term “extremism” which is very subjective. Without a clearer definition, yourself or even ourselves, could easily be classed as an extremist if there is no objective standard by which to measure this. We are concerned that loyal Christian citizens may in time be targeted under this legislation as extremists, holding beliefs and values that are different from secular society when in fact respect for government lies at the heart of the Christian faith (Rom 13:1-7).
Our second concern is similar to the first and centres around the subjective nature of “British values.” The values that schools are being urged to promote as fundamental to British society include the value of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. All these values and the many more that could have been included in such a list find their roots in our common Christian heritage as a country. While we support these at face value, because of the subjective nature of some of these terms and their changing definitions we have concerns that the very things we stand in favour of may be used against us as Christians. For example, Christians ardently support the rule of law (1 Pet 2:13) but cannot in good conscience do so when earthly laws violate God’s laws (Mark 12:13-17; Acts 5:29). Likewise we would want to affirm any wholesome rights of the individual but have reservations when individuals come to have rights above the group and also when so called “ individual rights” simply represent a justification for licentiousness rather than that which is good for the individual or society as a whole. Lastly, we recognize the wisdom in freedom of religion and stress that Christians seek to live in peace with their neighbours who may hold very different views (Matt 5:43-47). That said, Christians also believe that the claims of Jesus are exclusive, representing “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). While we value tolerance in the traditional sense, we would not do so in the Post-Modern inclusivist sense, and would hope this would not jeopardize our support for British values.
Lastly is the matter of freedom of religion that seems to be at stake in this legislation. Is it necessary or even wise to police the religious beliefs of society through the means of government agents? We have peaceably existed as a chapel since 1813 and as Christians have been amongst successive governments most loyal citizens. We are all too aware of the State organized religious intolerance against Dissenters during the years 1662- 89. We pray the government will be discerning in bringing in new legislation so the State and Secularism do not enact similar laws to that of the seventeenth century.
Please be assured that we regularly keep her Majesty, Prime Minister David Cameron, his cabinet, this Parliament, and yourself in our chapel prayers (2 Tim 2:1-2).
Do not hesitate to contact us if you wish to dialogue further on this point.
Sincerely and with the warmest Christian blessings,
Mr. David Shawe,
on behalf of the Elders of the Cromhall Chapel:
Rev. Christopher W. Crocker