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Religious Tolerance

Volume 573: debated on Thursday 9 January 2014

9. What discussions the Commissioners have had with Government Departments on the promotion of religious tolerance. (901881)

I think everyone in this House would wish to see religious tolerance supported. After all, the Martyrs’ Memorial in Oxford is a daily reminder of those who were burned at the stake for their beliefs. It was not far away from here, at Tyburn, that people were hanged, drawn and quartered for their religious beliefs. Indeed, one has only to see the plaque in Westminster Hall to remember where Sir Thomas More was put on trial in part for his beliefs. In this country, we have learned through the Reformation and the counter-Reformation and beyond the essential need for religious tolerance in our nation.

As well as discussing religious intolerance with Government Departments, will my right hon. Friend discuss it with St James’ church, which has held a shockingly anti-Israel exhibition over the past couple of weeks? Far from promoting religious tolerance, it did much to undermine it.

My hon. Friend raises a conundrum: to what extent should the tolerant tolerate the intolerant? The demonstration at St James’ Piccadilly was not against Judaism or Jews but against the illegal occupation under international law in the west bank and some of the settlements. In this House, we must be careful about what is seen as religious tolerance and about not tolerating intolerance or breaches of international law.

The right hon. Gentleman may choose to prepare a detailed paper on the matter and to lodge it in the Library of the House where I feel confident it will be a well-thumbed tome.

On the subject of religious tolerance, what discussions has the Commissioner had with media outlets such as TV and radio with regard to Christian programming? Does he agree that it is important to retain a level of programming that reflects the Christian status of this nation? What can be done to promote such programming?

To be honest, I do not think that Christians do too badly. If one gets up early enough, one finds a perfectly good programme between 7 and 8 o’clock on BBC Radio 4 every Sunday. I do not think we can feel that we are in some way discriminated against by the broadcasters.