I was really disappointed by the process by which the SORS legislation was propelled through Parliament. Whatever you think of the legislation itself, the process, both here and in Nortern Ireland, certainly seemed lightweight on consultation.

This is legislation that starts to erode the rights of people to exercise their conscience in matters of belief and moralilty. The inclusion agenda, now driven apparently by a secular worldview, has become what it originally sort to undermine: the exercise of raw power of one group over another.

Inclusion is, to some extent, a concept that is in the “eye of the beholder”. It is now obvious what was previously implicit: that the most inclusive agendas can become plainly exclusive. It can feel like a tool of the kind of fundamentalism that we are all working to undermine.

Of course, I am aware that there have been seasons of history when the Church exercised raw power over the powerless – and I certainly would not want a return to those days! However, there is abundant evidence that the faith groups’ concern for the poor and powerless in our world is without question. You might think therefore that our right to stand against issues that are not in line with our conscience and teaching might be carefully considered, before being ridden over roughshod in such a non-consultative way.

I hope we are a long way from “thought police” government. Suddenly it seems a little closer.


I was struck by the story of the eleven year old Mexican boy who is going to university. Clearly this lad is a paleontology prodigy but how does this decision honour his childhood? I was relieved to learn that his mother had decided that he continue at school with children of his own age to help with his social development. However, this story does seem to accord with a broader trend you can observe in British culture of children growing up too fast.

On the illicit and clearly shocking side of this trend is the prevalence of guns and knives amongst teenage gangs and the use by schoolkids of mobile phones for amateur teenage porn. On the more subtle side is the way advertising and marketing is increasingly targeting children to groom the next generation of consumers.

At the centre of this is the sexualisation of childhood, particularly girls. A report by Compass entitled The Commercialisation of Childhood outlines this phenomenon with alarming clarity: lacy lingerie, for example, is marketed to under 10 year olds. I can think of an advert promoting a doll for girls which was highly sexualised. This is just one of the impacts of this trend. Others are equally worrying. What’s more, I fear we are yet to reap the full consequences of the commercialisation of kids.

One final thing I’d like to highlight is the huge pressure that is put on parents to spend by their children as a result. Given that so many parents are in debt anyway, encouraged by consumerism themselves, this can only lead to more stress. It’s a vicious and downward spiral.

The news that Manchester (my home town) has been ‘awarded’ the first of the UK’s super casinos is surely bad news.  Gambling turnover has soared from £7 billion in 2001 to £50 billion in 2005.  That ought to worry any government, but apparently not ours.  Why is this?

Government research published in April 2006 explains why.  The researchers conclude that deregulation will lead to “more money generated in the gambling sector than any other”.  The increase will create jobs and inward investment.  What is less clear is what the human cost to this epidemic will be?