Church warns against secular rights culture

The Church of England says the Human Rights Act is being used as a tool by secularists to advance their agenda.

Human rights are often used as a “discussion-stopper” in debates on moral issues, says the Archbishop of Canterbury in a paper published ahead of the Church’s 2009 General Synod.

The paper refers to concerns raised by the Archbishop about the use of human rights by secularists in such debates.

“The uncomfortable truth is that a purely secular account of human rights is always going to be problematic if it attempts to establish the language of rights as a supreme and non-contestable governing concept in ethics”, the Archbishop said.

However, the paper warns that Christians should think carefully before adopting the same kind of rights-based approach as secularists.

“Some Christians might defend the wearing of crosses or crucifixes in terms of human rights. We need to be careful when adopting this line of argument.

“It is undoubtedly the case that much of the secular debate is couched in human rights terms, particularly since the passage of the Human Rights Act.”

It continues: “The language of human rights, interpreted as the basis for the State’s relationship to faith, is not one with which all Christians can be comfortable.

“It is all too easy to adopt the tools of secular liberalism as if they straightforwardly reinforce our case against secularism’s deficiencies.”

The paper adds: “It is part of the calling of the Established Church never to be ‘domesticated’ by the administration of the day”.

The Christian Institute’s Mike Judge said: “I share the concern of many who are worried about a society that embraces individual rights at the expense of social responsibility.

“And there is no doubt that some have tried to use the Human Rights Act to push Christians and Christian ethics to the margins of society.

“But where the law affords Christians protection from persecution, and liberty to practice and share their faith, then a wise use of human rights laws is right and appropriate.”