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Prime Minister's Dissembling, Hypocritical and Dishonest Speech to Religious Leaders

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The Prime Minister, David Cameron, gave an Easter reception for Christian leaders at Downing Street this week at which he delivered an unctuous speech of such dishonesty and hypocrisy that it almost takes the breath away.

He starts by saying he welcomes the Easter message as being one of hope, but at the same time admits that he has problems believing a word of it - particularly the resurrection! Even so, he welcomes what he calls the 'Christian fightback' in Britain.

It is not clear what this 'fightback' is against but he measures it in "the enormous reception of the Pope's visit."

However, the Pope's visit - as the Catholic Church's own research showed - was a comprehensive flop.

Cameron says "we've won the argument over Bideford Council and the fact that if councils want to say prayers before council meetings they should."

They have 'won' by declaring that a High Court judgment is, in their opinion, wrong and have unilaterally over-ruled it. Isn't that the sort of thing that dictators do - particularly theocratic dictators? The interpretation that Mr Pickles has put on the Localism Act is highly suspect and untested in court, yet he blithely announces that it means whatever he says it means.

Then Mr Cameron says: "I think we see the fight-back in this very strong stance that I've taken and others have taken in terms of the right to wear a crucifix. I think this is important. People should be able to express their faith."

But when did people not have the right to wear a crucifix or express their faith? This is a fantasy propagated by Christian extremists in this country and one that the Prime Minister has embraced either through cynicism or gullibility.

He also failed to mention that his own government's legal arguments in the European Court say that employers have the right to restrict the wearing of jewellery (not crosses -but any jewellery) in the workplace if it is necessary. I think he is hoping nobody notices that.

The Prime Minister's promotion of what appears to be some kind of Christian theocracy for Britain sits uneasily with his advocacy of secularism for the Arab world where, he says, there is an "enormous danger in terms of the persecution of minorities and particularly the persecution of Christians."

Perhaps the most telling part of the speech is about his conflict with religion over gay marriage. He hopes that the religious leaders he is addressing will not be too harsh. And just in case they won't let up in their relentless and unpleasant campaigning against gay rights, he throws out a hope to them that he might give in to their bullying. "If this doesn't go ahead, to those of us who'd like it to go ahead, there will still be civil partnerships, so gay people will be able to form a partnership that gives them many of the advantages of marriage," he says.

It is at this point that gay couples who had hoped to tie the knot can start to take down the bunting and cancel the wedding cake order.

It is the first inkling that the promises he made to the gay community are very likely to be betrayed.

He doesn't want to lock horns with the churches on this because he needs them on board for his Big Society project.

Ah yes, the Big Society, the idea that "faith-based" organisations are somehow going to run our social services without any extra money from the government.

Britain is one of the most secularised countries in the world. Even on a conservative estimate a third of population has no religion (with about 20% being outright atheists). What is the place of this gigantic minority? Are we supposed to just fall in line behind our 'faith leader'? Are we supposed to stand by as they take over the education system for their own propaganda purposes; usurp secular social services and religionise them; and bring their small-minded illiberal teachings into our bedrooms and even our health care?

Mr Cameron's craven speech in which he promises religion the key to the country is a gross insult to those of us who don't have religion and don't want religion. It is a warning to gay people that the tables are turning and that "religious rights" will soon pull ahead of everybody else's rights - particularly theirs.

This courting of religion by politicians has sinister echoes of the American approach. But the Prime Minister should recognise that Britain is not America - and even in America he should heed the fate of Rick Santorum, who has taken this idea of theocratising a secular nation to its logical conclusion. The people have roundly rejected him.

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