Hapless Rowan

So, Rowan Williams has suggested that sharia law is inevitable in the UK and now is having to face the angry mob who just don’t understand him.

The thing it, Rowan Williams is quite logical in suggesting that a special religious law could be part of the law of the land – we already have such things. The churches have carefully got the state to agree to just such provision over the centuries. Thus we get a situation where church buildings, property and people are treated differently under the law than if they were not religious. It is our own Christian version of sharia law. This covers everything from clergy receiving housing without it being regarded as a taxable benefit, to churches reserving the right to discriminate in employment in areas which are repugnant to people of good will in society. What the hapless archbishop has not realised is that this is a concept which is pretty unpopular when you articulate it and not only with people outside religious communities.

Us secularists have to stick together. Fr Archbishop has a good point – Islam could well call for special cases to be made in the law on the basis that Christians have them. He is quite wrong to think that it is right.


  1. I suspect you’ll find that an Imam in full time employment at a mosque has the same self-assessment form to fill in and any housing provided by his mosque would not be a taxable benefit.

  2. kelvin says

    Yes RR – it is the case that an Imam would be treated the same as a Christian member of the clergy when it comes to tax. The question is, is it right for religious people to have exemptions in the law at all though.

    I think that the price that we pay for the exemptions that religious people inherit either from the past or from the activities of the dominant established or national churches is not worth paying.

  3. Elizabeth D says

    I am pleased to be able to relieve you of the belief that clergy are unique in enjoying an exemption from taxation on the accommodation benefit in kind. The exemption is given to employees who are customarily provided with living accommodation for the better performance of their duties. The group that the exemption covers includes members of HM Forces, managers of newsagent shops that have paper rounds, and stable staff of racehorse trainers who live on the premises, among others.

  4. kelvin says

    Many thanks Elizabeth D – I was unaware of that and stand corrected. I’ve heard the fear expressed several times, that if the church were to recognise that clergy are employed, then they would have to pay tax on their housing. I’m pleased to hear your clarification.

  5. Now there’s an analogy worth teasing out —

    clergy: congregations:: stable staff: racing horses

  6. Michael says

    FWIW this controversy has sparked some editorial comment in Canada. The problem with the editorial is that they forgot that Rowan William’s writ doesn’t run in Canada. So HM The Queen of Canada gets her spiritual advice from other sources – probably the Canadian PM

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