The Government has dropped plans to require public office holders to swear an oath to equality.
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid MP ignored calls from former Government Integration Tsar Dame Louise Casey for all public office holders to swear an oath of allegiance to poorly defined ‘British values’.
Casey made the recommendation in her integration review in late 2016, but the Government’s response in the Integrated Communities Strategy Green Paper includes no such plans.
Three centuries of freedom
Writing for Conservative Home, Dr Martin Parsons welcomed the news, saying Javid has sifted through Casey’s proposals and ‘binned the chaff’.
He said: “Sajid Javid was absolutely right to reject a proposal from the Casey Review which would have in effect have reintroduced a ‘Test Act’ and quite literally have turned the clock back three centuries on freedom of religion”.
Parsons explained that the Test Acts required public office holders to affirm the politically correct beliefs of the time. They were abolished in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Abortion and Marriage
Parsons, a former aid worker helping persecuted Christians overseas, also commended the strategy’s commitment to freedom of religion and belief.
The Casey Review sought to redefine ‘extremism’ as including any religious views “at odds with the views of mainstream society”, implying this would include opposing abortion and same-sex marriage.
Parsons said: “Javid’s integration strategy rightly rejects this, stating: ‘The government will always protect people’s legitimate rights – for example, to free speech, to hold traditional views and to practise their religion within the law.’”
He said this was a rejection of the “disturbingly intolerant” view of those who claim “that their own partisan socially liberal values are ‘British values’ – and any disagreement with them amounts to ‘extremism’”.
Parsons concluded: “Javid has done us all a great service in this green paper, including by rejecting some of the more dangerous and intolerant proposals in the Casey review.”
He warned, however, that the document was not perfect, and that an “Ofsted power grab” over out-of-school settings should be opposed.
The Christian Institute’s Simon Calvert also expressed relief that the oath had been abandoned.
He said: “It was clear from the beginning that requiring people to pledge allegiance to equality law before taking part in public life was a terrible idea.
“The plan was widely ridiculed when it was first announced and the vast majority of people will be relieved to see the Government has ditched the idea”.
The green paper also said the Government would explore a move to curb Sharia weddings.