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Grassroots Lib Dems warn government about faith groups and the Big Society

We’ve been concerned that the Conservatives’ ‘Big Society‘ idea offers a lot of encouragement for faith organisations to provide public services, yet faith-based welfare is fraught with problems. Now former MP Dr Evan Harris and grassroots Lib Dems are warning the Government that it shouldn’t press ahead with this policy without ensuring that strict rules are in place to prevent proselytising, among other things. Today’s Guardian quotes Harris as saying,

Any increased use of faith-based organisations delivering essential public services will need stricter safeguards to prevent discrimination against vulnerable and captive populations on the basis of religion or sexuality, as well as to prevent employees needing to pass ‘faith tests’.

The Lib Dems have made clear that religious organisations have as much right as anyone else to provide services, but until legal loop-holes are closed we expect the Government to ensure that contracts contain non-discrimination clauses.

Bill to curb sharia courts

Baroness CoxThe Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill, has been introduced into the House of Lords by Baroness Caroline Cox (independent), with the support of the One Law for All campaign. The bill doesn’t aim to interfere with religious freedom, but does aim to stop the discrimination against women under the sharia law system. Read the National Secular Society’s report on their website. Currently, many British Muslim women suffer unequal access to divorce, domestic violence and general injustice, while their rights aren’t recognised by sharia courts. The bill makes it clear that British people, regardless of their religion, must accept British law, which always takes precedence over sharia law.

Website gremlins

Our website, powered by a free content management system called Drupal, has been updated recently. Since then we’ve noticed that some punctuation marks have been replaced by odd symbols. We’re fixing them when we can, but if you’d like to draw our attention to any, please click here to contact us. Thanks.

6 months in Ghana


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Our webmaster, Nathan Nelson, is flying out to Kumasi in Ghana for 6 months on the 8th June, where his other half, Harriet, is being sponsored to work with an organisation called Millennium Villages, while Nathan finds some other ways to make himself useful. You can follow their adventures on their blog, Ghana 180.

Professor Edzard Ernst retiring as Director of the Complementary Medicine Research Group

Professor Edzard Ernst, who was a guest speaker at a recent Ipswich Science in the Pub meeting, has announced his retirement as Director of the Complementary Medicine Research Group. We’re hoping that he’ll come and talk to us soon.

Zeno, aka Alan Henness, has published an interview with Prof. Ernst on his blog. He ended by asking what Edzard would do when he fully retires, and the professor replied:

Become really outspoken about quackery and charlatans. I look forward to that. Hopefully, UK libel law has changed by then.

Multiple choice answers

The Big Questions on BBC TV on Sunday was amusing. It was supposed to be about “The future of British Islam”. Nicky Campbell lost control of a bunch of Muslims all shouting at one another, while Dame Anne Leslie kept chipping in with comments prefaced with “When I was in Pakistan/Iran/Afghanistan…”, etc. When she referred to the burqa as a “bin bag”, that really fanned the flames of indignation.

I had to Google Dr Taj Hargey, whose posture indicated his contempt for most of the opinions being expressed by sitting right back in his chair, while others leant forward as they tried to outshout one another. He’s described as “the imam who took on the ‘Muslim McCarthyists'”.