‘Religious literacy’ lacking in public life, bishop warns

Britain’s Christian heritage is no longer understood in the “corridors of power” the former Bishop of Rochester has said.

The Rt Revd Michael Nazir-Ali made the comments as he reflected on the Prime Minister’s recent speech on the place of the Bible and Christianity in national life.

While the Bishop welcomed much of what David Cameron said he cautioned that religious literacy is an issue in the Civil Service, Parliament and local authorities.


Writing in The Sunday Telegraph the Bishop said: “What Mr Cameron said about Christian ideas being embedded in our constitutional arrangements is no longer understood in the corridors of power.

“A disconnected view of history and the fog of multiculturalism have all but erased such memory from official consciousness.

“A concerted programme is needed if this literacy is to be recovered. Church leaders can help with remedial action, but this has to do with the place of Christianity in schools, and the teaching of history.”

He added: “Education on citizenship cannot ignore the fact that our cherished values have biblical roots.”


Bishop Nazir-Ali also commented on the Prime Minister’s remarks about the implications on the developments of science and bioethics.

He said: “As Mr Cameron reminded us, the value of equality comes from the biblical teaching, confirmed by science, of the common origin of all humans. This has to do with the equality of persons, not necessarily the equal value of all behaviour or relationships.

He continued: “Equality of all before the law is a development from the Judaeo-Christian influence on the law, but so is respect for conscience.”


The Bishop commented: “I would hope that legislation initiated by this Government will, increasingly, respect the consciences of believers.

“Legislation in America provides for the ‘reasonable accommodation’ of religious belief at work.

“If such a doctrine had been in place in Britain, we would not have seen the absurd dismissals – and absurd judicial decisions that upheld them – of Christians and others because they could not do certain tasks on account of their faith.”

In March Bishop Nazir-Ali warned that aggressive secularism was undermining Britain’s Christian values and could lead to “totalitarianism”.