Gordon Brown's statement to the effect that religious people should bring their convictions to the public square, including the political arena, is welcome. Yes, his Government's actions belie his words, but the fact that he has said is useful in terms of the wider debate about the place of religion in society.
Coming in the wake of his Government's U-turn on marriage, and the repeated emphasis from the UK Conservatives on the importance of marriage, it illustrates that the public square in the UK is becoming a slightly warmer house for believers in both traditional marriage and religious practice.
Of course, it should be pointed out that, in many ways, Britain is still pretty chilly for people of faith. There are plenty of examples of the UK authorities making life difficult for religious believers.
Still, in terms of public rhetoric, UK politicians seem to find it easier than our politicians to stand up clearly for religious freedom or marriage. By comparison, our public represenatives are more keen on attacking religion, and never stand up for marriage.
Last July, Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said that he believed that religious belief should not be brought to bear in the considerations of any politician.
In response to a sermon criticising his Civil Partnership legislation, Mr Ahern said that he was “a republican” adding that “from the foundation of the State, there has been a very definite line between issues of church and State and that is exactly my position.”
Speaking on LMFM radio, he continued: “When I legislate, particular as a Government Minister, I don’t bring whatever religion I have to the table.”
The same goes for marriage. While the Conservatives have made marriage the centrepiece of their electoral strategy, repeatedly stressing its importance in the mending of what they describe as Britain's “broken society”, no leading politician here has explicitly spoken out in favour of traditional marriage, in distinction to other family structures.
This is despite the fact that the UK is a far more secular society, where rates of religious practice are a fraction of what they are here.
Of course, one can carry this analysis too far. In many ways, the UK is in a far worse position than we are as regards religious freedom, for example. (Although, if the Government's Civil Partnership Bill goes through with out an amendment protecting people of faith, this may change.)
But the bottom line remains that mainstream politicians in the UK are far more comfortable making the case for marriage, and for religious freedom, than any of our leading representatives. Given far higher number of religious voters here, as compared to our neighbouring island, this is somewhat mystifying.