Ed's response to our questions
By Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett
On 24th June, we wrote to Jo Swinson and Ed Davey asking them for their views, as candidates in the party leadership election, on a number of questions that will be of special interest to humanist and secularist members of the party.
We've now received Ed's response.
Here are our questions, and Ed's response:
"What are your views on the following existing party policies, and what priority would you give to achieving implementation of them?"
RELIGION IN STATE-FUNDED SCHOOLS:
- "Ending religious discrimination in selection of students, and in employment (except for employees mainly responsible for providing RI);
- "ensuring that all schools have non-confessional Religious Education, avoiding Religious Instruction and covering all major religious and non-religious viewpoints;
- "abolishing compulsion on schools to hold acts of collective worship;
- "allowing students and staff to opt out of RI and acts of worship and providing students with suitable alternative activities;
(GE 2015 Manifesto; The Role of Faith in State-Funded Schools, Spring 2017)"
As Party Leader I would argue for party policy, and I broadly support the party's position on this. My main caveat is the speed and process from moving from where we are now on existing faith schools and their admission policies to the party's position, as there will be significant obstacles, including legal and financial ones, and there will be significant knock-on impacts to local networks of schools which need work. Clearly we can and should stop new schools being opened with admission policies based on faith immediately and we should work collaboratively with existing faith schools on different routes to altering their admission policies.
"Strengthening local authority powers to tackle illegal, unregistered schools.
(Every Child Empowered, Spring 2018)"
Strongly support. Early implementation.
"Legal recognition of humanist weddings
(GE 2015 & 2017 Manifestos)"
Strongly support. Early implementation.
"Legalisation of assisted dying, with rigorous safeguards, to allow terminally ill people to die with dignity and at a time of their own choosing.
(Medically Assisted Dying, Autumn 2012)"
This remains a conscience issue for MPs, and I have always voted against legalising assisted dying. It is a very personal issue for me, having nursed my terminally ill mother as a teenager for 3 years, and it is worth stating clearly that my views on this do not relate to any religious belief.
"Outlawing of caste discrimination.
(Expanding Opportunity, Unlocking Potential, Autumn 2014; GE 2017 Manifesto)"
This is important and I support it. We would clearly need to be seen to consult, not least to ensure we won the argument and had a comprehensive approach.
CHURCH OF ENGLAND
"Disestablishment of the Church of England.
(most recently in 2001 General Election Manifesto, pp.37-39)"
I support this - though I'm not sure how quickly it can be brought in. Consultation would be essential .
INTERNATIONAL FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND BELIEF
"Commitment to international freedom of religion and belief, including opposition to blasphemy and apostacy laws.
(Freedom of Expression in Europe and Beyond, Spring 2016); GE 2017 Manifesto)"
"ARE THERE ANY OTHER COMMENTS YOU WOULD LIKE TO OUR MEMBERS AND SUPPORTERS?"
I am a Christian, and I attend, occasionally, my local Anglican Church. I would place my belief as somewhere between the non-Conformist traditions and the liberal wing of the Church of England.
However, my approach to policy and law-making has never been shaped by my personal religious beliefs, except insofar as my main beliefs are based primarily on Christ's teaching "Love your neighbour as yourself", which is rather close to my approach to Liberalism.
Moreover, in Kingston and Surbiton, I represent a diverse community - with active and significant Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Sikh communities. Therefore, I think it is essential that MPs try to represent people of all faiths and none, showing respect to everyone.