Religious orthodoxy versus liberal values
Michael Buerk, Matthew Taylor, Claire Fox, Giles Fraser and Anne McElvoy discuss the prospect of more faith schools and the removal of the requirement to take in non-believers.
Orthodox faith schools have long been crucibles in which enlightenment values and religious freedoms have simmered uncomfortably. The bubbling grew fiercer this week with the prospect of more faith schools and the scrapping of the rule that they have to take in non-believers. The concern among many about what religious conservatives are teaching children has hardly been assuaged by a group of ultra-orthodox rabbis in Hackney, who are urging their schools not to accept government funding for teaching the 'lie' that the Earth is more than 6,000 years old. The influence of religious conservatism, of course, extends beyond the education system. Halal slaughter, considered cruel by many outside the Muslim faith, is on the rise and we're increasingly and unwittingly eating the product of it, according to Lord Trees, former president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Many believe that such orthodox beliefs and practices have no place in modern society; Iceland, for example is proposing to criminalise male circumcision. Yet, conservative adherents of minority faiths believe such interference displays religious illiteracy. The attempt to snuff out thousands of years of tradition in the name of recently acquired 'liberal' values is, they say, ignorant, arrogant and oppressive, because truly liberal values should respect cultural and religious diversity, not flatten beliefs into state-sanctioned uniformity. Their opponents draw the line when they perceive harm to others - children, animals or society. Can we - should we - live in a society that accepts religious orthodoxy?
Witnesses are Dr Susan Blackmore, Prof Philip Booth, Stephen Evans, and Jonathan Arkush.
Producer: Dan Tierney.