|A giant thumb Eric Pickles|
He wants immigrants to understand and appreciate the British way of life and to try and integrate more fully by, for example, learning our language. Now in principle I have no problem with this. If, for example, I went to live in France then I would make an effort to learn the language and try to understand the cultural differences between the French and ourselves. I don't want to convert bits of a foreign country into little England and I support the view that foreigners coming to the UK should behave in a similar manner.
However, Pickles goes on to say that he thinks that Christianity is a mainstay of our British way of life - something I would debate. He then goes on to say that free speech and freedom to worship are key to being British. Strange then that he also says he would take steps to ban demonstrations that challenge our values. Isn't that a bit hypcritical?
Naturally, non religious organisations are also up in arms.
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said Mr Pickles’ strategy would fuel sectarianism. 'While we agree that there should be some common values to live by - a shared language and respect for human rights - there cannot be a religious hierarchy that discounts the feelings of those who don’t share in that faith,' said Mr Sanderson.
'It is a recipe for conflict between communities that already eye each other with suspicion.
'We see all over the world that when religion is given power, conflict follows. We have managed to some extent to keep this kind of sectarianism out of our policy making; now Mr Pickles intends to restore it in a big way.'
Of course, we should remember that these are also the same people who went to court to ban prayers at council meetings.
I am not particularly religious, but I support your right to believe what you wish. What I do not support is the right to stuff your views down my throat or to force me to agree with you.
It seems to me that Pickles' policies are suggesting just that...