The Sixth Commandment

I was watching the Daily Politics last week when they did a segment on Politics and the Church. I wasn’t the least bit surprised to see that one of the MPs they had on as their guest parroted the cliché that ‘faith should have no influence on legislation.’

This might seem to make sense until you actually look at the very origins of our legal system. The Courts in this country have their roots in the church and even some of the laws are only in place because of religious teaching.

Take murder for example. No statute has ever been passed in Britain to make it illegal. The only law against it comes not from an Act of Parliament, but from legal precedent. That is, it comes from an established judgement of the Courts from a previous case. And on what authority did the Courts first rule that killing was unlawful? It was on the basis that it was against the law of God. It contravened the sixth of the ten commandments.

Of course, even if Christianity had never been introduced to Britain, murder would undoubtedly have been made illegal. But Christianity was introduced here, for better or worse. And the adoption of Christianity as the state religion, along with the role it was given of directly influencing our legislation, led to a huge number of laws which we value today as a core part of our justice system. To now argue that faith should have no influence on legislation is to turn your back on centuries of positive influence, as well as, I’m sure, a large portion of bad too.

So how do you take the good without taking the bad? The answer is that you don’t. Good and bad are subjective terms. What was considered good for our society in the 1800s is often considered bad for it today. The church is, rightfully, resistant to change. But secular law doesn’t have to be. This is why faith absolutely must be allowed to influence legislation, so long as we don’t allow it to dictate legislation. Let us keep those laws which were derived from religious teaching for however long we believe that the law is a positive one. It makes no sense to scrap a law which is widely seen as positive just because of its origins. But where a law can be seen to no longer fit with the beliefs of society, the law of the land can be changed, even if the law of the church cannot. There need be no exclusion one way or the other. State and Religions can work hand in hand. And it can be any religion too. There is a truth to be found in all things. That isn’t the same as saying that all things are true, only that there is a proportion of truth within it.

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