Monday, 19 October 2009

Assembly Christian Fellowship

This morning I attended a prayer breakfast at Stormont organised by the Assembly Christian Fellowship.  The speaker was Stephen Shaw QC, a senior barrister and a member of the Scrabo Hall fellowship in Newtownards.  He spoke about the three core truths of the gospel - All have sinned, Jesus Christ died for our sins and Jesus Christ rose from the dead.  During his address he reminded us that while politicans are accountable to their party and to the Assembly, ultimately they are accountable to God.


  1. MLAs - in their role as political representatives are ultimately accountable to the people who elect them. To be ultimately accountable to someone or something else raises conflicts as we have seen in when issues relating to euthanasia, abortion or same sex partnerships.

    The oath of allegiance at Westminster can be made on the Koran or other selected sacred text depending on the religious observance of the MP. This oath relates to the commitment of the individual and not to the creed of the book on which the oath is taken.

    It is this aspect of NI politics that is most worrying. If MLAs wish to be elected so that they can be ultimately accountable to God, then let them put that in their manifesto. Religious beliefs have been used (especially by the DUP) to justify commenting, personally, on matters of morality. This is deceitful - if indeed moral issues are part of a political agenda then they should appear in the election manifesto so that people know exactly what they are voting for.

  2. Columban - I have never sought to conceal my position on issues such as abortion or same-sex partnerships and neither has anyone else in the DUP. Indeed I have stated my position on election literature and no one would be in any doubt as to the position I take.

  3. Nelson – I acknowledge that both DUP manifestos, Westminster 2005 and Europe 2009 oppose civil partnerships. However, whenever I have asked DUP head office for details on their policies towards GLBT people / groups, I have had no response - and the details matter. While the DUP may oppose civil partnerships, do we take this at face value or do the DUP oppose wider equality legislation re civil liberties for gays and lesbians, e.g. Westminster legislation on the legality of same sex unions, age of consent, etc. Last year’s press coverage of Iris Robinson’s and Ian Paisley Jnr’s remarks, for example, might indicate that there is deeper opposition, by the DUP, to the acceptance of gays and lesbians within our community and to their protection under equality legislation.

    In neither manifesto is there any mention of abortion rights and yet members of the DUP have actively opposed legislation in Westminster that seeks to stop the extension of abortion legislation to NI.

    The details matter because, while the manifesto defends religious liberty, it does not define the religious beliefs in question upon which the party, or party members, stand. This is important because if a party is elected on the basis that it may politicise its religious beliefs, the electorate should know what they are. Since there is a range of Christian belief and interpretation of the Bible (even within religious groups and churches) it is insufficient to talk about ‘religious belief’ in general. It is perhaps easy to understand why articulation is difficult as agreement on such matters has defeated the Christian churches for two millennia, e.g. we find that Protestants, Catholics, Church of Ireland / Anglicans and Jews who believe that same sex partnerships are, and are not, against God’s law and other matters, e.g. family planning and contraception, would not gain agreement among religious groups.

    We enjoy religious freedoms in the UK because we live in a ‘secular’ democracy. I like to find it ironic that if we lived in a theocracy there would most likely be only one religion allowed.

    It is my fear that the DUP is, in effect, the Free Presbyterian Church and Evangelical Protestantism, in the political arena and that it is the religious beliefs of these churches that the DUP wishes to follow but dare not articulate it for fear of losing votes. It is important to know if this is the case and the manifestos and policy statements are where the details should be demonstrated.

  4. Columba - Down through the years I have often stated in my election literature that I am pro-life and pro-family.

  5. I see you have decided to take my previous post down from this thread, even though it was honest and contained no offensive language.

    A DUP supporter for many, many years; I defended them against a torrent of abuse year after year, election after election, and now they would silence me for speaking the truth, simply because I disagree.