In his presidential address to the General Synod of the Church of England this week, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, defended religious freedom and asked how the right balance can be struck between freedom of religion and other rights.
He was speaking against the background of the debate in Britain over the implications of the Equality Bill for religious freedom, a debate entirely relevant to our debate over the effect of the Civil Partnership Bill on freedom of religion and conscience.
In a key paragraph, he says that the State must be extremely slow to take upon itself the power to settle moral debates between different groups in civil society.
He stated: “The freedom of government to settle debated moral questions for the diverse communities of civil society is not something we should endorse too rapidly: governments and political cultures change, and it is a mistake to grant to governments authority that could impact on us in other and even weightier areas, whatever authority we grant government to define fundamental and universal legal entitlements in society at large.”
The State, Dr Williams said must acknowledge that “there is a boundary that it is risky to cross without creating ideological powers for the State that could be deeply dangerous for liberty in general”.
The full text of his talk can be found here.