I came across the following quote recently: “Telling a Christian school to facilitate non-Christian worship in the name of “British values” seems beyond belief“, which resonated with me, especially because it relates to the culture war I see myself in. For a while now the question of British values has been regularly cropping up in various media reports, for example the supposed desirability of encouraging foreigners wanting to settle in the UK to embrace these and the importance of teaching them to children in our schools.
The context of the quote, coined as far as I can make out by the Christian Institute, is its report that “MPs tell Education Secretary Nicky Morgan that new regulations requiring schools to ‘actively promote’ equality rights are distracting Ofsted from its real work and should be scrapped“. There have been well documented examples of faith schools especially being marked down because they have not given sufficient attention to such matters.
In a related article titled: “Britain ‘sleepwalking into losing religious freedoms’ says Christian leader“, Nola Leach CEO of Care made the important observation: “A philosophy of human rights is emerging without the need for a religious, let alone Christian foundation”, adding: “What is clear is that a hierarchy of rights is emerging where religious freedom is trumped again and again.”
Reading an article British Prime Minister, David Cameron, wrote in June, with the title “British values aren’t optional, they’re vital. That’s why I will promote them in EVERY school: As row rages over ‘Trojan Horse’ takeover of our classrooms the Prime Minister delivers this uncompromising pledge…“ it became apparent what his understanding of British values were. He wrote: “the values I’m talking about – a belief in freedom, tolerance of others, accepting personal and social responsibility, respecting and upholding the rule of law – are the things we should try to live by every day“.
The article went on to consider the importance of the rich British heritage and democratic institutions we still enjoy, tracing back to the Magna Carta, signed almost 800 years ago. All this is true of course and much more could also be added. I was particularly impressed with the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, which had Mr. Bean managing to swindle a win ahead of the Chariots of Fire elite athletes and the Queen jumping out of a helicopter in order to open the games, indicating among other things something of the British sense of humor. Then I recalled my childhood, long before the forces of secularism and multi-culturalism began to hold the sway they now do, of values like: cheerfulness in the face of adversity, attendance to duty, support for the under-dog, respect for elders and those in authority, and the importance of hard work, deferred gratification and fair play.
But the crux questions remain: what are British values and who is qualified to define them? It would seem from the quote at the start it is whatever the ruling elite deem them to be and it is they who have taken it upon themselves to define them, and woe betide those who disagree with their verdict. Sadly, when it comes to earning the right to do this, nothing can be further from the truth, and when I read stories like the UK government cutting rescue services to deter escaping asylum seekers who as a result perish at sea in their boats, I refuse to agree it should be them. To force a faith school to break the first of the ten commandments in order to satisfy the present pre-occupation with equality is arrogance that is “beyond belief” and is NOT a value I share and I doubt it is a British value either, even though I grant wanting people to live in harmony with those who are different in some way is a worthy goal. The problem we now face as British people is that we have over the years been casting aside our Judaeo-Christian heritage and a consensus that may have once existed, which had at its heart the maxim: “righteousness exalts a nation“. Sadly, we no longer know what British values truly are.