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[Image] Speaker Bishop Micheal Nazir-Ali at the event

WFD 5 Religious Freedom

18 April 12

Watch the highlights from and listen to podcasts of the debate here: http://www.religionandsociety.org.uk/faith_debates/religious_freedom

Press Release

Equality Law is driving a coach and horses through our traditional respect for conscience, warns Bishop

A disagreement broke out at the fifth Westminster Faith Debate on ‘The Limits of Religious Freedom’ between Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali and Professor of Law Maleiha Malik.  The Bishop, known as a fierce defender of Christian freedoms, argued that the recent spate of court cases which restrict the freedom of Christians to act on their beliefs reveal a worrying drift towards intolerance and totalitarianism. He argued that the law is not necessarily always right, and that moral considerations need to be kept in mind.

Bishop Nazir-Ali referenced Britain’s “long standing custom of respecting conscience, especially where it has been formed in a reputable moral tradition, as in conscientious objection during war or even in the workings of the Abortion Act of 1967." He said "such respect has largely been overturned in the recent Equality legislation.”

Professor Malik, defending equalities law, said that a consensus had been reached by society in framing this law and that it was already more than generous to religious people. She said that “in extremis” the courts could be used to enforce tolerance.


  1. The Westminster Faith debates are designed to bring the best academic research into the public eye, making the very topical debates on the role of religion in society more informed on subjects from extremism to multiculturalism, welfare reform to religious freedom. All details are available on the website: http://www.religionandsociety.org.uk/faith_debates .
  2. The Westminster Faith Debates are organised by The AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society programme, Charles Clarke and Theos.
  3. The papers delivered by the two academics, Peter Jones and Maleiha Malik are available here.  The transcript to Bishop Nazir-Ali is available here.
  4. Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali was until 2009 Bishop of Rochester.  Maleiha Malik is Professor of Law at Kings College London.


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