COMMENT

Imagine, if you will, this scene. A group of fundamentalist Christian terrorists, responsible for the systematic slaughter of innocent civilians over a long period, holed up in the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. Of course you would have to stretch your imagination quite a way because there is, for doctrinal reasons, a noticeable world shortage of fundamental Christian terrorists. You would also not need to sustain the image very long. Any such invasion of one of the holy sites of Islam would not wait for its end upon the patience of the Israeli army. Nor would the pliable Western media be pleading for caution amongst the innumerable Muslims who would count it an honour to storm the shrine and remove such a blasphemous offence to their faith.

Such a scenario is, of course, in stark contrast to the shocking and disgraceful scenes that so recently engulfed the place of the Saviour's birth, the Church of the Holy Nativity, Bethlehem. While murderers and criminals profaned the holy site, the Israeli army waited outside, restrained by religious respect, infuriated by the abuse of sanctuary and in hock to fickle Western opinion.

On the Continent of Europe, which was once Christian, the churches, the governments and the media uttered scarcely a peep about this deliberate insult to Christ and his followers. Their main concern was to free the terrorists and set them up comfortably in European countries where they can refine their barbarous anti-semitism and further plot the downfall of the West and the death of our own citizens.

When the shrine was finally liberated the terrorists had left, as a sign of their respect and gratitude for our weakness, some 40 booby traps to kill and maim in this most holy site. Still churches and states and press felt unable to condemn. The whole episode revealed to the Muslim world what it has long suspected. The West has no faith, no backbone and no principles. For the first time in over 1,000 years it is there for the taking. Christian communities throughout the world that have suffered under Islamic persecution have learnt that they need not look to the West for comfort. In future, we may, with them, look back to Bethlehem and see a significant milestone on the road of appeasement.

 

The national newspapers, and not just those with a republican owner, have been very excited about the Queen Mother's will. She has left everything to her surviving daughter, the Queen, and, under an agreement with a previous government, no Inheritance Tax will be paid. This, apparently, is a scandal.

The real scandal is, of course, the tax itself.

Devised as a way of breaking up the great estates of the landed gentry, its initial effect on the unprotected or unwary was just that, so that much of rural England is depersonalized and in the hands of institutions. Latterly, as people have wised up, it has very little effect on the seriously rich, whose tax planning and family trusts ensure a very thin return to the Treasury. The main victims of this deplorable tax are ordinary people who have already paid tax on their assets several times over. Now with the ridiculous rise in house prices the tax will suddenly and shockingly affect millions of families. It will also be, effectively, a regional tax as most people's wealth is geared primarily to their property.

The passing on of assets should not simply be a privilege for the rich. Removing this immoral tax would allow people to plan more effectively for their old age and, in allowing the passage of assets across the generations, take a considerable burden off the state in its already chaotic future pension provision plans.

It was that great Christian statesman William Ewart Gladstone who said, 'Let the wealth of the nation fructify in the pockets of the people.’ It is becoming clear that the increasingly rapacious state will not be able to fulfil its obligations to the elderly and we must begin to take responsibility for ourselves. We do not need to live like kings but the government could do itself and the nation a favour by agreeing to treat us all like the Queen. Abolish the tax!

 

The appeal of Fr Sam Edwards and the Parish of Christ Church Accokeek, Maryland against the decision of the court in its case with Bishop Jane Dixon has failed. Neither Fr Sam nor the vestry is down-hearted, and there is even talk of taking the case all the way to the US Supreme Court. We can see little point in that.

The truth is that the modern secular state will defend the rights of religious minorities only when the religion is not Christianity. Whether in the United Kingdom (where the Lightman Judgment reaffirmed the supremacy of Parliament over the doctrine of the Church of England), or in the land of the free and the home of the brave (where Judge Messite affirmed the totalitarian power of the ECUSA hierarchy), the views of the liberal secular consensus do and will prevail in the courts.

In the matter of women’s ordination and homosexual rights (which were at issue in the Accokeek case and lie at the heart of the dispute between the Bishop of Pennsylvania and the parish of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont) the reason is simple. Women’s rights and gay rights are not regarded as subject to religious opinion or theological debate; they are an ethical a priori imperative. Except in the case of religions predominantly practised by ethnic minorities (where other aspects of the liberal agenda make persecution impossible) the full authority of the state will always be on the side of the religious innovators in these matters.

There are those, in our own Church, who suppose that the British Parliament may well take pity on priests who, if the present safeguards are removed as GRAS is insisting, will effectively be driven from their homes and their employment by the ordination of women to the episcopate. We doubt it.

The American precedents are clear. As long as the General Synod and the hierarchy of the Church of England act in concert with post-Enlightenment secularism they will have the full support of the State in almost any injustice they care to inflict. The ‘rights’ upheld by the liberal secular consensus are one – and perhaps the only – aspect of public life not open to judicial review.

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