I’ve been in occasional contact with my MP, David Lidington on a variety of issues. One of these is reform of the House of Lords, particularly in regard to the removal of the bishops of the Church of England. I’m in no doubt that they should go, and I have some trouble understanding his reasoning for why they should stay. As I see it, it’s fairly straightforward and the logic goes something like this:
1. Religious beliefs (or lack thereof) must be a personal choice. Nobody can force you to believe in any particular god or gods, nor can they prevent you. If there is a state-mandated religion, it ceases to be purely a religion, and becomes a form of state control.
2. Representation in government should broadly represent the population. If a proportion of the population are religious, then unless there is some specific reason why the religious are drawn towards, or away from, political life, the mix of people in the two Houses is likely to approximately mirror the religious affiliations of the population at large.
3. From 2. above it follows that there is no requirement for extra, specifically religious representation in either House, and that any such representation by definition disenfranchises those sections of the population that do not follow the religions so represented.
I believe Mr. Lidington’s view was that the Bishops were not about representation of the population, but about overseeing legislation, but I think that’s a cop-out – they’re still overseeing legislation on behalf of the population at large, so point 3. above still holds.
So, there you have it – simple really, isn’t it? Or am I missing something?