UPDATE: Due to demand, the debate will now take place in the larger Committee Room 10, on the main Committee Corridor.
The UK is the only Western democracy that has clerics in its Parliament as of right. With reform of the House of Lords currently a hot topic, Labour Humanists are hosting an open debate on whether it is time to evict the “Lords Spiritual.”
Is their presence in the House of Lords unsupportable in a country where less than half of the people belong to Christianity, and far fewer to the Church of England?
That’s the question Labour Humanists will seek to answer at our next event on 27th January.
Those opposed would point out these clerics are all men, they are unrepresentative and – despite their claims – they have no special insight or universally accepted morality to bring to the debate. They also point out that this is unfair on those of other faiths, and those of no faith. If we are to have religious leaders in our legislature, then should we not also have Islamic, Jewish, Sikh and Scientologist leaders in there too, by right?
Yet bishops’ supporters would say that as non-aligned members, their activities in the Upper House are not subject to a whip, and can be a force for good. Their presence in the Lords, supporters claim, is an extension of their general vocation as bishops to preach God’s word and to lead people in prayer. Bishops provide an important independent voice, and spiritual insight to the work of the Upper House; and are a voice for all people of faith, not just Christians.
Details of the event are below: please join us for a vigorous debate!
Time and date: 7:30pm, Wednesday 27 January 2010
Location: Committee Room 4, Houses of Parliament.* CHANGED: See top.
(The room is fully accessible and has suitable audio support facilities. Please use the Cromwell Green entrance (the main public entrance for Parliament) and take the public route to the Committee Corridor.
Chair: David Aaronovitch
Yes: Polly Toynbee, President of the British Humanist Association and Jonathan Bartley, Co-director, Ekklesia
No: The Rt Revd Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester and Convenor of the Lords Spiritual and Rt Hon Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss
Tickets: FREE and open to all, though you have to book here. Parliamentary Passholders still need to register.