Catherine Bennett gets herself worked up into a lather over at THE GUARDIAN this weekend in an article entitled, "It's time to kick the clerics off the moral high ground" and subtitled, "We should drop our assumption that churchmen have an automatic right to be heard in this secular age."

She has a go at the bishops in our House of Lords, of course, and, although she says nothing new, she does have a valid point to make here, it does seem unfair. But then the bishops are just one of many unfair elements in the our second chamber.

However, the rest of what she says is just antitheist propaganda in which she employs such sloppy journalistic techniques that she would have trouble convincing a Sun reader who is just spent the whole of Saturday in the pub of the logic of her argument.

I left her a comment:

"Your comments about bishops in the House of Lords are perfectly valid. But claiming that clerics have an automatic right to be heard is just silly sour grapes on your part. You state yourself that the media go looking for bishops to get soundbites. The media are not forced to do this. Nor are the media, including The Guardian, forced to report something a bishop says and it rarely does unless what the bishop says might sell more newspapers. At the end of the day access to the media is all down to public demand. I think what you are really upset about is that there are still people who do want to hear what clerics say. I can understand your gripe as it's a hobby horse of yours. What I can't understand is why an Observer columnist would lower herself and use Daily Mail tactics to appeal to prejudice."

There is, in fact, something very sinister in what Bennett is campaigning for, and this was picked up by other commenters on the article's thread. In our country the media decides who to interview and quote. The only piece of legislation that I know of that overrules this is the law that states that each political party must be allowed a certain amount of media time during the year and especially before an election (this is carefully worked out with reference to the number of seats a party holds or is competing for). But Bennett seems to want Parliament to legislate against the media deciding for itself whose words it reports.

One of the accusations that the right wing is always flinging out is that liberals can be more fascist than they are. So it's bloody annoying when the Bennetts and Toynbees of the English liberal press prove that the right wing may actually be right about something for a change.

PTL I'm not a liberal.



  1. MP, I am just a silly know-nothing American but what I got out of the “sermon” was keep religion out of politics. I have to second that notion.

  2. The problem with keeping religion out of politics is that you can end up like the United States which has more religion in its politics than the whole of Europe put together (including Ireland). Why this should be the case I do not know.

  3. Isn’t there a mention of God in the all the US federal constitutions? One cannot ignore the influence of religion on politics because much of the basic traits of a democracy like ‘no man is above the law’ comes from the equality teachings of the bible. The church may not be a part of the organs of the state but the influence is still there. MP, you are so right about America. The Republican party quotes God all the time.

  4. There is no mention of God at all in the U.S. Constitution with the single exception (if you could call it that) of the document being formally dated (as was the custom for legal documents at that time) “in the year of Our Lord 1787”.

  5. The problem with keeping religion out of politics is that you can end up like the United States….

    MadPriest, you can end up like the US, but does it necessarily follow that you will, in a cause/effect way?

    I realize that there is no possibility of completely separating religion and politics, but I wish we’d try harder over here.

    Sharia law comes to mind. Which religion will make the rules?

  6. Nope. I do not ever want religion to be a part of my politics (unless I am the person getting to interpret the religion). And yes, the Republicans THINK they are having an influence but they are about to find out just howw errant their thinking is.

  7. Fred and Mimi, if you two would talk to each other as you seem to be on the same thread. The rest of you just ignore them or it will only confuse you.

  8. The First Amendment in the US Bill of Rights states that Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of a religion nor the free exercise thereof. That’s it, as far as the US Constitution is concerned. Others, with varying agendas, have run with the ball out of the end zone…..

    wv = urightsa (guess I am on to something…..)

  9. Count me in with Fred and Mimi. I’m all for the “wall of separation”. Passionately so, in fact.

    Oh, and Strangelove, there’s the bit about no religious test for holding office.

  10. MadPriest, where did I go wrong?

    Is it the poor sick creature that should be put out of its misery that you want to be part of the state? The Church of England? It already is.

  11. Oh, for goodness sake!!!

    Me and Cheliah just made the observation that the USA has more religion in its politic with the separation of church and state, than European nations have even when there is an established church. Nobody, as far as I can see has suggested the USA gets itself an established church.

    Right, it is now midnight in the UK which means it’s my birthday, and that means that you have to behave yourselves for 24 hours. I deserve one hassle free day a year.

  12. I haven’t fecking suggested that any fecking church should be fecking part of the fecking state. You lot have just done the usual fecking thing you always fecking do which is to see one of your fecking buzz words and then fecking rant on without any fecking regard for the fecking post or any fecking thing anyone has fecking said or not.

  13. Happy Birthday, MadPriest!!

    For he’s a jolly good fellow,
    For he’s a jolly good fellow,
    For he’s a jolly good fellow —
    And so say all of us!!!!

    (Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap…)

  14. I’m going to bed now because I have to get up early or Mrs MP will clear off to work without giving me my present.

    Wink-wink, nudge-nudge, say n’more, say n’more!

    Felicitations on your Natal Day, Crazy @rse.

  15. “right to be heard” doesn’t refer to media reporting but to the automatic right of having ones view heard in the House of Lords and recorded in Hansard.
    She’s right – there should be no automatic right for bishops to be heard, not unless that same right is given to representatives of other faiths too.

  16. “Nowhere more so than in the House of Lords, where lay legislators must be quiet if a bishop wants to speak, a compliment the right reverend prelates happily accept.”

  17. Yes. Which is probably why I wrote ” she does have a valid point to make here, it does seem unfair,” in the second paragraph of my post.

  18. I try not to comment on the British political system. Most of my bachelor’s work was done in political theory and philosophy so I know the system is unintelligible to a yank. 😉

    That said, a few observations on the “system” we use. First it is relelvant to remember that the rule cited above did not apply to States which in fact had established churches until the mid-nineteenth century. The Congregational Church was established in Massachusetts until the 1880’s.

    The impact of the War Between the States and the three constitutional amendments that came from it cannot be over estimated. It has been observed that it actually changed our grammar. Before the war, one would say, “The United States are…,” which was both grammatically and politically correct. After the war we say, “The United States is..,” which is grammatically incorrect but reflects the post-war political reality. Americans use this language generally without thinking about it.

    I agree with MP that there are now two threads here and I shall bow out of both now. 🙂

    Happy Birthday!