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Clegg calls for eventual separation of church and state

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has come out in support of separating church and state in the long term, following comments from the Prime Minister that Britain is a 'Christian country'.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Britain has "an important Christian identity", but supported separate church and state Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Mr Clegg said: "Having the state and the church basically bound up with each other, as we do in this country, I think in the long run it would actually be better... if the church and state were over time to stand on their own two separate feet."

"But that's not going to happen overnight for sure."

He added: "I'm not a practising man of faith, but I don't find it an issue to say we have an important Christian identity in terms of our heritage and so on."

 Source: itv

Lawyers threaten legal action against Law Society over Sharia law

Lawyers are threatening the Law Society with possible legal action after it issued new guidance on drafting Sharia law-compliant wills. The Lawyers’ Secular Society (LSS) criticised the solicitors’ representation body for being “incredibly naive” and caving into religious lobbying groups. VoR's Tim Ecott spoke to Chris Moos, from the Lawyers' Secular Society.

The Law Society has reecently issued a practice note aimed at helping solicitors “with the intricacies of Sharia succession rules, which is the code of law derived from the Quran and from the teachings and example of Mohammed”.

A Chancery Lane statement said clients in England and Wales “can legally choose to bequeath their assets according to Sharia rules, providing the will isSharia rules are not identical in every Muslim country".

The Law Society said the practice note is intended to assist solicitors who have been instructed to prepare a valid will, which follows Sharia succession rules.

There are differences between Sunni and Shia rules, and different interpretations of Sunni law.

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Gay marriage, one year on: ‘French civilisation did not crumble’

On Tuesday, one day before the one-year anniversary of the legalisation of gay marriage and adoption in France, French politician Jean-Luc Romero tweeted: “Our civilisation did not crumble, despite the alarmist predictions.”

Indeed, the months of fierce debate and sometimes violent protests that preceded the vote last year saw right-wing deputies and senators warning that same-sex marriage and adoption would destroy French society. One MP ironically suggested “legalising three-way marriages while we’re at it”.

But, as Romero suggested, France is still standing, with roughly 7,000 same-sex couples having tied the knot here, according to the Insee statistics agency. Those unions made up around three percent of all marriages registered in France in 2013.

Despite the ferocious and well-organised opposition to the law, which was an election pledge by Socialist President François Hollande, most of those marriages took place without incident. One exception was the first same-sex marriage, on May 29 in the gay-friendly southern city of Montpellier. A heckler who hurled homophobic insults at the couple getting married is being made to pay a fine of 3,800 euros.

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Outcry against Britain's gay deportations goes global

Gay rights campaigners across the world are pilling the pressure on Theresa May to suspend deportations of gay and lesbian asylum seekers until a review into the Home Office rules is completed.

Over 162,000 people worldwide have signed an petition calling for a halt to the deportations, amid concern at the case of Nigerian lesbian asylum seeker Aderonke Adejumoke Apata, who faces being returned to her home country despite the fact homosexuality can be punished by stoning in some areas.

"The asylum system is systematically set up for people to fail," she said.

"We are treated as liars and must prove our innocence. The burden of proof is on the applicant as we are guilty from the onset because we are routinely not believed and our credibility constantly attacked."

The Home Office is currently undertaking a review of gay and lesbian asylum cases after MPs found asylum seekers were having to show officials sexually explicit photos of themselves to prove their sexuality.

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The Vatican struggles to address child abuse allegations

Last week Pope Francis asked for forgiveness for the damage done to children who have been abused by members of the clergy and asserted that sanctions must be imposed to tackle the problem of child abuse within the Church. It is the first time a pope has ever taken personal responsibility for the abuses committed by the Church’s priests.

In a speech made during a meeting with the International Catholic Child Bureau, a non-governmental child rights group, Pope Francis stated, “I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests, quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests, to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children.”

The statement is being described as Pope Francis’ strongest stance on the issue thus far. It comes after a scathing United Nations report lambasted the Vatican earlier this year for failing to protect children from child abusers within its ranks and for turning a blind eye or covering up cases of molestation and rape over the decades.

Measures taken by the Church to stop child abuse

The Vatican confirmed in January that Pope Benedict XVI had defrocked almost 400 priests in a two-year period due to child abuse allegations. Since taking over the papal office Pope Francis has vowed to continue the changes instigated by his predecessor.

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Call to cut millions spent by NHS on religion

THE NHS is spending millions of pounds a year on running ­chaplaincy services which offer spiritual care and religious support to patients.

Health boards collectively spend about £3.7m a year on the internal departments, including paying salaries of full-time "generic" NHS chaplains who are tasked with providing support to all who ask for it.

In addition, the NHS has made payments of almost £600,000 to churches to attend to the religious needs of individual patients in the past three years, figures obtained by The Herald under Freedom of Information laws revealed.

More than 85% of spending on the external bodies went to the Roman Catholic Church, largely in exchange for priests to come in to hospitals and perform sacraments such as the last rites, which NHS chaplains are not able to carry out.

Scotland's largest health board, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said its in-house chaplaincy department was allocated a budget of £632,665 in 2013/14, with the service "providing non-denominational support to our 38,000 staff and all our patients".

It also pays £75,000 per year to the Archdiocese of Glasgow and the Diocese of Paisley in exchange for "on-call" priests, "to provide the Sacramental ministry that Roman Catholic patients and families expect".

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Attorney General: Rise of fundamentalism is 'damaging' Christianity - Telegraph

Christians are increasingly reluctant to express their religious views because they are being “turned off” by the “disturbing” and “very damaging” rise of religious fundamentalism, the Attorney General has said.

Dominic Grieve said that atheists who claim that Britain is no longer a Christian nation are “deluding themselves” and must accept that faith has shaped this country’s laws and ethics.

He said that 1,500 years of Christian values are “not going to disappear overnight” and said that many people remain believers even if they choose not to go to Church.

However, he warned people are being discouraged from openly declaring their beliefs because of the “deep intolerance” of religious extremists of all faiths, including Islam and Christianity.

He told The Telegraph: “I do think that there has been a rise of an assertiveness of religious groups across the spectrum. That is why those with softer religious views find it disturbing and say they don’t want anything to do with it.”

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Cameron's Christian pledge 'could hurt thousands of British women'. Here's how

The Prime Minister hasn’t thought through the consequences of offering privileged access and public funds to Christian groups, argues Joan Smith. Many non-religious organisations helping domestic violence and sex trafficking victims will miss out

Does it matter if the Prime Minister welcomes leaders of Christian organisations into Number 10 Downing Street? He is a Christian himself and it isn’t as if he doesn’t invite other ‘faith’ groups to mark religious festivals. But wait: when David Cameron welcomed prominent Christians into his official residence, he went much further than celebrating a set of shared beliefs. He made promises which will affect the lives of people who weren’t present and don’t share those beliefs. Many of them, I’m sorry to say, are likely to be women who find themselves in dreadful circumstances.

I’m thinking about women fleeing violent marriages and victims of sex trafficking. In the recent past, a wide range of organisations existed to help them, and religious belief played a small part or none at all in the services they offered. Many of them received public funding, either from local councils or central government, but George Osborne’s austerity measures means that funding has been slashed. On a typical day in 2011, Women’s Aid was forced by lack of funds to turn away 230 women seeking refuge from a violent husband or partner.

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Tony Blair: 'West should focus on radical Islam'

Tony Blair has warned Western leaders they must put aside their differences with Russia over Ukraine to focus on the threat of Islamic extremism.

In a speech the former UK prime minister - now a Middle East envoy -said powerful nations must "take sides" and back "open-minded" groups.

Mr Blair told the BBC ahead of the speech the West would pay a "very heavy price" for not intervening in Syria.

He said the opportunity to create "an optimistic solution" had been missed.

Mr Blair gave his speech at Bloomberg in London amid high tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine.

Western leaders accuse Russia of using undercover military personnel to back separatists in eastern Ukraine - a claim Russia denies.

No-fly zones

Before the speech, the former PM - now envoy for the quartet of the UN, EU, US and Russia - spoke to the BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner.

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Irish Minister of Education 'Quinn' challenges church over patronage of schools

Minister suggests teaching of religion at either end or start of school day

Irish Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has thrown down a challenge to the Catholic Church to give concrete examples of how its schools can be “genuinely inclusive” for children of all faiths and none.

In an address to be delivered at a teacher union conference this morning, Mr Quinn says is it “disappointing” that the church has failed to provide such information to his department as had been promised in previous discussions.

He also suggests that, in developing policies on inclusivity, Catholic schools in areas where there is no alternative patronage should consider timetabling faith formation at the start or end of the day to minimise disruption to class.

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Jack Straw: 'Muslim schools must respect British values'

Muslim schools 'must respect British values' says Jack Straw as Birmingham MP admits there is a 'Trojan Horse' plot by extremists

  • Former home secretary said that extremists must accept the UK's values
  • Birmingham schools are allegedly being targeted by Muslim hardliners
  • Labour MP said determined group is trying to change schools 'by stealth'
  • 'Morality squads' of older students 'smashed pupil's Easter eggs'

Schools with large numbers of Muslim pupils must respect British values, former home secretary Jack Straw said yesterday.

He spoke as a Muslim MP said a radical ‘Trojan Horse’ plot to take over state schools was operating in Birmingham.

Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, claimed a ‘small group of individuals’ was trying to change the ethos of schools by stealth.

It was also claimed that roving 'morality squads' have been instituted at the affected schools, and would censor talk of non-Muslim festivals and smash pupils' Easter eggs.

Mr Straw said more and more schools were mostly or entirely comprised of Muslim pupils, adding: ‘We have to accept and the schools with a majority of Muslim parents have to accept – as they do if they are Hindu, Sikh, Jewish or Christian – that we also live within the United Kingdom.

‘Alongside values which are religiously based, there has to understanding that this is the UK and there is a set of values – some of which I would say are Christian based – which permeate our sense of citizenship.’

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