February 2010

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The often incomprehensibly silly Andrew Brown (of The Guardian’s Comment is Free Belief section) has published a particularly dopey diatribe against the National Secular Society (Cherie Booth unfair to atheists? | Andrew Brown | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk).

As background, this follows a case Booth presided over a few days ago, concerning an individual who picked a fight while in a queue in a bank, ultimately breaking his victim’s jaw.  Booth handed down a suspended sentence in part (apparently) because the grumpy bruiser was religious.  This raised the ire of the National Secular Society, who’s president, Terry Sanderson has made an official complaint.  As Terry puts it:

Yet despite saying violence on our streets “has to be taken seriously” Ms Blair/Booth QC let Miah walk free from court, telling him: “I am going to suspend this sentence for the period of two years based on the fact you are a religious person and have not been in trouble before. You caused a mild fracture to the jaw of a member of the public standing in a queue at Lloyds Bank. You are a religious man and you know this is not acceptable behaviour.”

Clearly, the NSS objection is that favourable treatment should not be afforded thugs on the basis that they hold religious convictions  Now Andrew Brown weighs in at the Guardian’s CiF Belief.  In a rather dim piece of illogic, he writes:

In Sanderson’s world, judges should say things like “Although you have no previous convictions, you are none the less a follower of Pope Benedict XVI and so unable to tell right from wrong. I therefore find myself compelled to impose a custodial sentence”

Nope, that’s not the point.  The person’s religious beliefs (or lack of) should not enter the consideration of sentence.  There are 646 comments as I write.  Should I bother?  One sceptic’s blog has complained to the editor about the article (Complaint to the Guardian reader’s editor) and Brown’s contributions to the comments thread, in which Brown seems to elevate the whole thing to encompass the NSS’s protest about our Government subsidising the Pope’s upcoming visit.

On which subject, my view is that Pope Ratzo visits either as head of his cult – in which case he can pay his own way but should be allowed to make his disgraceful comments about proposed UK equality legislation, or he can come as Head of State of the Vatican, in which case his costs might be subsidised by the state, but he should be rather more circumspect about criticising UK Government policy.

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