Monday, August 06, 2018

Making windows into men's (and women's) souls.

Emphasising her wish to move away from the religious tyranny in which most religious viewpoints in her era had participated and from which all had suffered, Queen Elizabeth the First promised

"I have no desire to make windows into men's souls."

Alas, many who call themselves liberals do not share that view today.

The political hostility that has been aimed at some politicians in various different parts of the political spectrum, not for their political beliefs but for their actual or supposed religious ones is a matter of concern.

To be clear, if a politician who holds a particular religious view also says that if elected to a position of power which enables them to do so they will use the law to impose that religious view by law on everyone else, that is absolutely a matter for legitimate political debate.

In a democracy how you propose to use the authority you are asking the electorate to give you is something which you can and should be asked to explain and those who take a different view are fully entitled to argue against you.

However, if someone holds a particular religious or moral view but does not want to use their position to pass laws which would impose it on everyone else, then in my humble opinion that is a horse of an entirely different colour.

It is, therefore, not unreasonable to ask a candidate for office if they would try to change the law on abortion or gay marriage, and if they would, to have further discussion on the subject.

But once a candidate has said that they will not try to impose their views on others, interrogating them further or attacking them about those views is coming close to the sort of behaviour which Queen Elizabeth I described as "making windows into men's souls." Taking over the throne after her sister, brother, and father's reigns had all seen far too many people beheaded or burned at the stake for holding the wrong religious opinions, she was only too aware of the horrors  to which such behaviour could lead.

I don't, incidentally, pretend that Queen Elizabeth the first succeeded in ruling with complete religious toleration - for starters, a Pope who urged her catholic subjects to overthrow her and thereby put them in the position of facing the block in this world should they rebel and hellfire in the next if they did not, made that impossible. But unlike her three predecessors, she made the attempt and was right to do so.

James Bundy, who is Chairman of Conservative Future Scotland, has written a good piece about illiberal liberals which you can read here.

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