The need to Reaffirm Traditional British Values

By Rabbi Mordechai Rose

Modern liberal society has created a new system of values which it believes are superior to those of any society that has existed up until now. The primary principle of this system is that the individual should have the freedom to do whatever he or she wants — as long as it does not limit the freedom of another individual. Almost the only yardstick to judge the rightness or wrongness of any action is — “does it respect the freedom of the individual?” If it does then it is good; if it does not, then it is bad. Intolerance of the freedom of individuals to do whatever they want is to be abhorred; such intolerance contradicts the primary value of neo-liberal thinking. In this worldview, there are no ultimate rules of what is right or wrong. In fact, the belief that certain actions are inherently bad, even if they are freely chosen, is unacceptable because it is inherently intolerant.

All this puts modern liberal ideology on a collision course with traditional religious belief. Religion says that there are certain actions that are inherently wrong even if they are freely chosen and even if they may give the individuals personal satisfaction. Pre-marital relations and promiscuity in general would be examples of this, since traditional religions encourage only committed marriage relationships. Yet to the modern liberal way of thinking, the concept that certain freely chosen actions are inherently wrong clashes with the fundamental freedom of the individual to choose.

The recent proposal that RSE (Relationships and Sex Education) should become compulsory in all schools has inevitably become a battleground where the liberal and religious ideologies clash head-on. The liberal ideology demands that children are presented with all the possibilities of relationships so that they can choose which one they want. It would still be permissible to teach that religion does not allow certain types of relationships — as long as educators present the child with all the alternative views as well. The child must know that it is also possible to choose a promiscuous life-style if he or she wants. He or she must know that there are alternative same-sex relationships as well. Only in this way will the child or young adult be able to choose freely what he or she wants. Not to present all the possible choices would be an infringement on the freedom of the individual to choose.

The religious view wants to teach that only committed male-female marriages are permitted and any other type of physical relationship is undesirable and wrong. This is part of the absolute value system of religion. But from the secular liberal point of view, to teach the child that certain actions are wrong, even though they are freely chosen, is in total contradiction to the ultimate value of life — that the individual should be free to choose. According to this way of thinking, deeply held religious ideas of absolute right and wrong are inherently intolerant and are therefore unacceptable.

Modern liberal ideology presents itself well. It is the defender of human liberty, the promoter of tolerance and equality. Yet it does not seem to produce a stable and successful society. Before our eyes, we see a breakdown in values. Youth gangs, muggings, robbery, sexual and racial abuse seem to be on the rise. Respect for authority and the rule of law is waning. Why should this be when the aims of liberal society seem so positive and praiseworthy? The answer may become clear if we try and define some of the essential elements necessary for the existence of a harmonious and successful society.

If a group of a thousand people suddenly found themselves washed up on a desert island without communication with the rest of the world, what type of rules would they need to establish in order to survive, succeed and prosper? It is clear that if each person were only to think about his or her own survival on that island, about his or her freedom to do what he or she wants, there would be nothing to bind the group together and there would inevitably be conflict. They would have to put the value of the common good as their first priority. Each individual would have to work out what part he or she could play in helping the entire group. The members of the group must say to themselves, “If we are to survive, we cannot afford to think only about ourselves but about what is good for everybody — even if this is not what each one of us might want individually.”

Herein lies the fundamental flaw of modern neo-liberal thinking. If the overriding value is that all individuals should be free to do what they want and enjoy themselves as much as they can, this will create a society of individuals where each person seeks their own personal pleasure. There will be nothing to bind them together into a cohesive group. Our children are being educated to know all the choices and to see the world as not much more than an arena to fulfil their desires. We are producing a society of self-seeking individuals where the major value is to tolerate all types of life-choices and the major enemy is the intolerance of alternative life-choices.

Going back to our desert island scenario, another factor that would have to be considered would be the creation of stable family units. Human physical relationships are inherently volatile. If every individual will feel free to indulge his every transient feeling of attraction and desire for another individual, this will be a recipe for disaster. There will be conflict and jealousy. Once again the individuals will have to subordinate their transient desires for self-satisfaction for their own good and for the good of society. Every successful value system in the history of the world has come to the conclusion that stable relationships of fidelity and total commitment of one partner to the other are an essential requirement for the long-term survival of society. Sexual promiscuity and the breakdown of the family unit have always been the first signs of the collapse of society. Furthermore, children ideally need to be brought up with the security of having two committed parents who are a constant presence in their lives. This involves the parents committing themselves not to have physical relationships with others even if they might be tempted to do so. This is not a moral judgement, but a practical analysis of what makes society work.

Contrast this with the nature of modern liberal society where promiscuity is rampant and long-term sexual fidelity is extremely rare. But this is inevitable when the overriding value is the freedom to seek pleasure in this world. That individuals should freely choose to be intimate with whatever partners they may choose is seen as a fundamental value of modern liberal society. To discourage such an approach is considered oppressive and the result antiquated and backward belief systems. This may sound logical, but does it not threaten the essential building block of a stable society — the traditional family unit as outlined in the previous paragraph?

A society of free-thinking individuals, aware of all the choices, tolerant of every lifestyle, living for the moment may sound appealing but it is antithetical to the basic requirements of a functioning society. Does such a society have a future?

Another vital requirement for our friends on the desert island is to have some sort of higher ideals beyond just living for the moment and tolerating every lifestyle. If life has no ultimate meaning and we are no more than the most advanced animal on earth, we will not have the motivation to look beyond ourselves towards the needs of others and the benefit of society at large. But if we believe that we are on this earth for a purpose and that our every action is intrinsically meaningful for all of humanity, we will be roused to become better people and to rise above the quagmire of self-seeking desires. We may often be faced with a clash between the indulgence of an immediate intense pleasure and the knowledge that this indulgence might upset or cause harm to another. If life is ultimately meaningless, just a pattern of chance events, why should I forego the immediate pleasure? The challenge will be extremely hard to overcome.

For most of human history, this belief in a higher purpose has been provided by religion in one form or another. The common element of major religions in their refined form is that life has ultimate meaning and that we are here for a purpose and that everything we do is tremendously important. But now neo-liberal ideology has used science as a tool to prove to every sensible individual that all religions simply consist of nice stories that have no scientific basis in reality. They have a role as romantic folklore and no more. But to the serious scientist, it not so clear that we can explain the world without a first cause. The serious scientist knows that scientific theories about the nature and origin of the universe are no more than the theories based on the evidence we can presently observe. Science has not solved the mystery of the origin of life. A person is not a superstitious fool for believing that there is a first cause and that life has ultimate meaning and that there is a purpose and direction to human history. Yet to many neo-liberals, all deeply religious individuals are relics of the past living in a fantasy world. They are the only group of people that are not to be tolerated in a tolerant society — since religious individuals are inherently intolerant!

For centuries Great Britain has developed a stable and ever-more prosperous society based on values that have been developed carefully and gradually over the course of time. These traditional ideas emphasise the importance of marriage, family, honesty, hard work, loyalty and patriotic belief in the role of this country in the development of the world. This was all underpinned by a religious belief based on the Christian tradition. In a very short space of time these inherited ideas have been thrown by the wayside and replaced by a new worldview. In this new worldview all deeper meaning has been removed from life and nothing has ultimate meaning. The much touted “Fundamental British Values” that must now be taught in schools have virtually no connection with the inherited British values that gave this country stability and greatness and brought it to a position of moral leadership amongst the family of nations. They are a strange new hybrid creation that threatens the stability of this great country.

It is the belief of The Values Foundation that we need to return to the treasury of our inherited British values and rebuild the ambitions and aspirations of our society. We need to look once more for a vision which will unite us a country, built on a belief in the carefully nurtured values of British tradition — the importance of stable families, the importance of community and the belief in an ultimate purpose in life. If we fail to do this, who knows what the future will bring?

Rabbi Mordechai Rose is an author of works on classical Jewish thought, academic and lecturer on subjects of Jewish interest.

The Public Benefit of Belief

Why policies should favour education that respects families with faith backgrounds

By Roger Kiska

Introduction

Thou shall love thy neighbours as thyself” embodies the Judeo-Christian principle commonly known as the ‘Golden Rule’. Immanuel Kant notes that this external commandment to further your neighbour’s welfare from good-will that is immediate and not derived from motives of self-advantage, is premised on the internal commandment to love God above all.[1]

While the ‘Golden Rule’ can certainly be applied as a secular truth, forgetting its faith-based origins and creating educational policies which focus on values that are hostile or indifferent to faith becomes self-negating and does not guarantee full respect for others.[2]

Respect and promotion of faith-based values provide a conceptual underpinning for loving your proverbial neighbor. Moral relativism and secular humanism on the other hand do not have a moral anchor, providing no core source from which true equality based on equal dignity can be sustained. Rather than being a shield to defend the principle of equality, moral relativism often can be a sword which inspires division and the denial of dignity for all.

The fact is that Parliament, and by extension the Department of Education and Ofsted, have a compelling state interest in promoting and guaranteeing values-based education which respects families with faith backgrounds.

Parental rights

As detailed in the next section, there are quantifiable evidence-based reasons to promote education which respects parents who are people of faith, but for now let us now turn to the legal obligations, both positive and negative, which sustain why policy must do so.

Protocol 1, Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights, as transposed into our domestic law through the Human Rights Act 1998, states: “In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions”.[3] It is therefore a legal requirement that schools in England respect, and neither undermine nor interfere with, the ability of parents to bring up their children in accordance with their own religious or philosophical worldview. This same requirement, in nearly identical language, has also been ratified by the United Kingdom in no less than 5 other international treaties.[4]

The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly held that “it is in the discharge of a natural duty towards their children – parents being primarily responsible for the ‘education and teaching’ of their children – that parents may require the State to respect their religious and philosophical convictions. This right thus corresponds to a responsibility closely linked to the enjoyment and the exercise of the right to education.[5] The Court has also held that “a balance must be achieved which ensures the fair and proper treatment of minorities and avoids any abuse of a dominant position.[6] The State, and by extension its schools, being the organiser of educational curriculum, must therefore not abuse its dominant position to force onto parents and their children views and positions about sexuality or other intimate moral matters, which many parents may find harmful to the development of their children. Universal values, on the other hand, like the ‘Golden Rule’, the promotion of individual and collective human dignity, prudence, charity, and temperance are all actualised in a values based education.

Again, as the Court has laid out: “The second sentence of Article 2 (P1-2) implies on the other hand that the State, in fulfilling the functions assumed by it in regard to education and teaching, must take care that information or knowledge included in the curriculum is conveyed in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner. The State is forbidden to pursue an aim of indoctrination that might be considered as not respecting parents’ religious and philosophical convictions. That is the limit that must not be exceeded.[7] Unfortunately, experience shows that some schools are going well beyond their statutory equality duty and promoting ideas and behaviour which is antithetical to the beliefs of many families with religious backgrounds in a manner which sometimes aggressively undermines parental rights. Rather than promoting tolerance, this style of education calls upon students to go much further and celebrate certain protected characteristics. In doing so, traditional values and faith-based beliefs are often discarded as antiquated and bigoted.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, at Article 14, is another legally binding instrument which clearly states that in the provision of education schools must respect the right of parents to raise their children, commensurate with their evolving capacities, in accordance with the parents’ religious convictions.[8] The Convention also requires, pursuant to Article 18, that parents, being the ones who love their children the most, have the primary role in deciding on the education of their children. The job of a school is not to usurp this role, but to assist parents in their task.[9] Policy which promotes a values based approach to education which respects parental rights provides the best vehicle for maximising the public benefit of faith and minimising interference with parental rights.

The public benefit of promoting values based education

Kathryn Chan, in the Oxford Journal of Law and Religion, provides an illuminative definition of what is sometimes referred to as the ‘wellspring’ argument supporting the advancement of faith and religion as a public benefit: “The advancement of religion is for the public benefit because persons who ‘have and practice a religion’ contribute disproportionately to the general ‘redistributive’ project of charity law – namely, the transfer of resources from persons to charitable purposes without the direct coercion of the state.[10]

She notes that evidence to substantiate the ‘wellspring’ argument is readily available, citing a Canadian study suggesting that it is uncontroversial that religious institutions have historically played an integral role in the provision of social welfare services, caring both for their own members, and for the broader population.[11] Credible studies also evidence that faith-based organisations and churches represent physical safe spaces not only for their congregations and members, but also for the community at large through complex social networks.[12] The National Congregations Study (2006–2007), for example, found that 45% of congregations were involved in formal delivery of social services, while another 27% were involved informally.[13] Furthermore, figures from the Charities Aid Foundation have shown that people who are religious donate twice as much money to charity as those without a faith, with just under 70% going towards causes such as medical charities, overseas aid and homelessness.[14]

Studies done here in the United Kingdom have shown that children who grow up in faith-based households tend to do better academically than other children at O level, A level and at university.[15] The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion has also found that students who attended church weekly while growing up had significantly more years of total schooling by their early thirties than peers who did not attend church.[16] A Pew Research Study on religion and education also found that students of Jewish and Christian background are more likely to receive Higher Education degrees than the non-religious.[17]

A study conducted by an Australian government foundation revealed that “religiousness may protect against depression, be associated (albeit less strongly) with reduced anxiety levels, assist in psychological adjustment following trauma, protect against suicide and improve overall psychological wellbeing and life satisfaction.[18] The report also found that there is consistent evidence demonstrating that faith is associated with greater longevity, indicating that those who take part in faith-based behaviour are more likely to live longer and enjoy a better quality of life than those who do not associate with a religious tradition.[19]

The Journal of Psychology and Theology has found a correlation between regular church attendance and drug abstinence.[20] They also found that those with a higher religious involvement are less likely to abuse alcohol. Further studies have concurred with these findings, adding that this is likely to be due to a combination of faith doctrines guiding people how to live, as well as positive life satisfaction resulting from religious resources for coping with stress.[21] American studies have demonstrated a negative relationship between religious activity and delinquency, particularly in young people, as well as a negative correlation between religion and crime.[22]  This indicates that young people who receive a values based education are more likely to grow up to become law-abiding citizens and positively contribute to society.

Conclusion

Children who grow up within a framework where faith and values are sincere and dynamic have been shown to do better academically and on average, achieve greater success in higher education. Studies also show that having faith-based values leads to lower rates of alcoholism, drug use and other delinquent behaviour. As adults, studies prove that people of faith provide a disproportionate benefit to society by way of charitable giving and social outreach when compared to those who do not regularly attend a place of worship. Given the legal obligations surrounding parental rights in education, it would be sound policy and legally advisable to support the promotion of values which are in harmony with and respect the rights of families with faith backgrounds.

Roger Kiska is legal counsel with the Christian Legal Centre. He was a contracted legal consultant for a Member of European Parliament on legal and legislative matters and previously served as vice-president and senior counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom International. He has also served on the Advisory Panel of the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency.

 

Endnotes

 

[1] Immanuel Kant, Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, Book IV, Part 1, Section 1.Cf. Matthew 22:38.

[2] See e.g.: Message of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, 1 January 2011, §3.

[3] Council of Europe, European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as amended by Protocols Nos. 11 and 14, 4 November 1950, ETS 5.

[4] Convention against Discrimination in Education, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), 14 December 1960, Article 5(1)(b); International Covenant on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 993, p. 3, 16 December 1966, Article 13; Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations, UN General Assembly, 10 December 1948, 217 A (III), Article 26(3); International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, UN General Assembly, 16 December 1966, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 999, p. 171 Article 18(4); and Convention on the Rights of the Child, UN General Assembly, 20 November 1989, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1577, p. 3, Articles 14 and 18.

[5] ECHR, Kjeldsen, Busk Madsen and Pedersen v Denmark, Judgment, Merits, App No 5095/71 (A/23), [1976] ECHR 6, IHRL 15 (ECHR 1976), 7th December 1976, European Court of Human Rights [ECtHR], § 52.

[6] ECHR, Chassagnou and Others v. France, 29 EHRR 615, 28331/95, § 112.

[7] Kjeldsen, Busk Madsen and Pedersen v Denmark, op.cit., § 53.

[8] UN General Assembly, Convention on the Rights of the Child, 20 November 1989, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1577, p. 3.

[9] Id.

[10] Kathryn Chan, The Advancement of Religion as a Charitable Purpose in an Age of Religious Neutrality, vol. 6 Oxford Journal of Law and Religion 112, 127 (2017).

[11] Paul Bramadat and David Seljak (eds), Christianity and Ethnicity in Canada (University of Toronto Press 2008)(as cited in Chan, 2017).

[12] Dr. Chisara N. Asomugha et al., Faith-Based Organisations, Science and the Pursuit of Health, vol. 22, no. 1 Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Undeserved, 50, 50-51(2011).

[13] M Chaves, SL Anderson, Continuity and Change in American Congregations: Introducing the Second Wave of the National Congregations Study, Sociol Relig. 2008; 69: 415–40 (as cited in Asomugha, 2011).

[14] CAF, Religious donors give more than double those of no faith (21 Feb 2012) https://www.cafonline.org/about-us/media-office/media-office-archive-article/religious-donors-give-more.

[15]Alice Sullivan, Samantha Parsons, Francis Green, Richard D. Wiggins, George Ploubidis & Timmy Huynh, Educational attainment in the short and long term: was there an advantage to attending faith, private, and selective schools for pupils in the 1980s?, vol 44, no. 6 Oxford Review of Education, 806, 818 (2018).

[16] L.D. Loury, Does Church Attendance Really Increase Schooling?, 43 Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 119-127 (2004).

[17] Pew Research Center, “Religion and Education Around the World” (December 2016), available at http://www.pewforum.org/2016/12/13/religion-and-education-around-the-world/.

[18] VicHealth, How does freedom of religion and belief affect health and wellbeing? (2011) p.28.

[19] Id p.29.

[20] John Gartner, Dave B. Larson & George D. Allen, Religious Commitment and Mental Health: A Review of the Empirical Literature, Journal of Psychology and Theology (1991) vol 19(1), p.6-25.

[21] Harold G. Koenig, Religion, Spirituality, and Health: The Research and Clinical Implications, ISRN Psychiatry (December 2012), available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3671693/#.

[22] Jeffery T. Ulmer & Casey T. Harris, Race and the Religious Contexts of Violence: Linking Religion and White, Black, and Latino Violent Crime, The Sociological Quarterly (September 2013) vol. 54(4), p.610-646.

The Meaning of Values

By Timothy Vince

November 2018 marked the 100th anniversary of the Armistice following the War to end all wars, when there was – and still is – a consensus that Britain and her allies were fighting for the preservation of shared values in the face of tyranny. During the Second World War, the Directorate of Army Education published a book entitled The British Way and Purpose (B.W.P.). This publication set out respectfully and thoughtfully the importance of faith, acknowledging that although our soldiers had a broad outline of what they were fighting against, there was a shortfall in understanding what they were fighting for.

In a similar vein the secular UK government of today, faced with real and perceived dangers of religious fundamentalism, have attempted to draw up a secular code to which every citizen can/must subscribe. This has variously been described as ‘modern’ values, ‘democratic’ values and more pointedly ‘British’ values, but the meaning has become confused even in the title. Adding the epithet ‘fundamental’ hasn’t added clarity. The wording used in legislation can often be clumsy. The advent of the term ‘Fundamental British Values’ (FBV) is a classic example. Leaving aside confusion of what British represents in a devolved UK (and notwithstanding the observation of C.S. Lewis, “England is wonderful but Britain is wicked!”) there is the problem of the meaning and ‘value’ of values. By definition they can change and be subject to differing interpretation depending on one’s beliefs. The fact that one of the four headline definitions of the British Values legislation contains the respect of belief gives little comfort when others contradict a particular belief. Society has moved over one hundred years from the relative comfort of a common values system – which prevailed prior to the Great War – to progressive (some would say regressive) relativism.

Situational ethics – where one person’s value system can have the opposite or inverted meaning (or value) to another person’s value system – has essentially replaced law as a concept. Laws have increasingly become honoured more in the breach than the observance and legislation has followed trends rather than uphold standards. Law making has moved from a ‘natural’ and ‘universal’ framework to the ‘progressive’ and ‘scientific’. The framework of an ordered universe created by an infinitely good transcendent lawmaker has been replaced by humankind being the masters of their own destiny. The law takers have collectively become the law makers. Values have become subject to ongoing ‘enlightenment’ based on the innate goodness of humanity and instinctive collective desire to preserve and progress the species. This increasingly prevalent belief or ‘worldview’ has become increasingly intolerant. It could be argued that the seeds of such intolerance are inherent in the worldview.

FBV has become tied up in knots trying to implement ‘equality’ values. It has extended the innate value of all humanity shared by most faiths to an innate value of all beliefs and choices and even opinions. This directly contradicts the teaching of right and wrong held by traditional beliefs. The danger of applying a secular code to values that breaks with tradition is that the definition of such values has no reference point and ultimately no meaningful definition. Since the Great War – and partly as a result of it – there has grown a lack of confidence in the fixed values/absolutes taught by traditional religions. The British Way and Purpose that protected us then should not be jettisoned as we move into more uncertain times – which it could be argued have directly resulted from the confusion of untested and unstable so-called ‘fundamental’ values.

Timothy Vince is Director of Christian Education Europe.

Religious Liberty

By Dr James Orr

We are, nowadays, predisposed to think that the language of rights and equality is synonymous with the language of justice and goodness. We who believe in a free and plural society used to think that rights were meant to protect difference and ensure equity between those of different dispositions, faiths and creeds. But a curious inversion seems to have taken place, where once rights used to defend difference and were deployed to ensure society’s plurality and diversity, now rights are utilised to erode difference and enforce a uniform and unwelcome conformity on society in general, and on religious minorities in particular. Since we live under a liberal understanding of rights, it is almost as if liberalism has moved from a modus vivendi approach in which a reasonable accommodation is made between conflicting parties to allow them all to live in peace, to a ‘be like me’ liberalism that insists that all share its world view or suffer the consequences.

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