UK elected officials characterised by “religious illiteracy”
During an interview with the Christian Institute, Dr. James Holt, Chair of the Freedom Declared Foundation, said that there is a lack of religious literacy among some elected officials in the UK.
He noted that at the recent International Conference on Freedom of Religion and Belief in London, the issue seemed to be addressed mainly as a foreign policy issue and not a domestic concern. He considers that “much more needs to be done” to counter anti-religious hatred in the UK and secure religious freedom.
Dr James Holt is Chair of the Freedom Declared Foundation and an Associate Professor of Religious Education at the University of Chester. After the ministerial conference on Freedom of Religion and Belief in London, he wrote a commentary on The Herald Scotland, where he noted that while the UK is rightly advocating “for change and for rights to be respected by people around the world”, he says that if the country wishes to be effective at promoting freedom abroad, it must fist get the “own house in order”.
He also mentions that, although the Equality Act 2010 lists religious belief as a protected characteristic, “there are elements of legislation, and the implementation of laws, that would suggest that we have a way to go as a country”.
As an example, he highlighted the enforced closure of churches in Scottland during the pandemic, which was later declared unlawful. He believes that “there is a lack of religious and belief literacy among some of our elected officials”.
The judge in that ruling, Lord Braid, stated: “It is not clear that the respondents (the Scottish Government) have fully appreciated the importance of article nine (Freedom of Religion or Belief) rights. They have admittedly paid lip service to article nine by referring to it, but there is no evidence that they have accorded it the importance which such a fundamental right deserves.”
According to Dr Holt, there is a rise in anti-religious hatred in the UK: “Much more needs to be done to challenge behaviour that creates an environment where people do not feel safe or protected because of their religion and belief. For many people, religion and belief is a core aspect of their identity, not something that can be taken on and off.”