Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Protecting the (Arch)bishop

I don't usually listen to the Today Programme on a Saturday, but I was at the gym early this morning, so I plugged my earphones in on the treadmill and found Radio 4.

I heard someone from the General Synod on saying that Rowan Williams should resign following his comments about Sharia Law. The speaker is not alone, by all accounts; there have been numerous calls for Dr Williams to step down. Having broached a highly controversial subject earlier in the week, he is now fighting a grim rearguard to keep his job.

I don't agree with what the guy said. As I wrote a couple of days ago, I personally think it's highly dangerous for people to be treated differently in law on account of their religion. And for a change, I'm in the majority, it seems. Most people didn't much care for what the Archbishop said. But does that mean he should have to resign ?

People in positions of responsibility should be able to challenge mainstream thinking without fear of losing their job. It's a mark of good leadership sometimes to be capable of breaking new ground or forwarding unconventional or unusual ideas. If humans never thought of anything new, we'd still be pratting about with the horse and cart, or maybe not even that advanced.

I think we have to be a little more grown up about people expressing a point of view in this country. People should feel able to contribute to debate, to say something controversial or unpopular, without worrying that it might cost them their job. It's not as if Dr Williams has said anything that is not compatible with Christian thinking, quite the opposite. Indeed he was venturing a perfectly valid line of thinking about the relationship between religion and State, and that's absoutely one of the things he's paid to do. The idiot who was saying on the same programme that he'd be better off in academia where he can "kick these ideas" around misunderstands (perhaps deliberately) what it is, or should be, to hold a position in public life. Why the hell should someone have to work in a university before they can try to start a debate in this country ?

In some ways this reminds me of the time when Glenn Hoddle was disgracefully sacked as England football manager for expressing an opinion about reincarnation. We should be able to accept other people's ideas and simultaneously accept that they can still do a job of work.

I didn't much care for what Williams said but I believe passionately that we should defend the right of those who have the courage to "run something up a flagpole to see if anything salutes it" as my mother used to say. As Voltaire might have put it, I disagree with what you say but I defend your right to say it and keep your job.

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