Last weekend I joined the march and rally for a secular Europe in Westminster. It was a generally pro-secularism rally, but it is one facet of our cause that really gets me going.
The UK has 26 bishops in the House of Lords. How quaint. How British. Now remind yourself that all of those Bishops are men. The reason they are all men is that the Church of England will not allow women to become bishops. Feebly, they say their sacred book justifies this bare-faced misogyny. It also justifies genocide in the name of God, but they choose to reject that bit.
The Anglican church is dragging its heels shamefully on this matter. Lacking the courage to reject sexism, the church deserves all the contempt it gets, as would any other institutionally sexist political organisation. It is bad enough that seats in our upper chamber are allocated to unelected representatives of an unremarkable religion. That the beneficiaries of this historical accident specifically exclude women is utterly shameful.
It is time for secularists of every sort, theist or atheist, to demand that this anachronistic embarrassment is ended, one way or another.
If they can’t find a way to give women a slice of their undeserved power then here’s an idea for them: Get out of our Parliament and take your sexist cowardice with you. Let’s see if they would get elected as MPs while telling their female constituents that they wouldn’t trust them with power.
Secularism is not an anti-religious concept. All religions would be treated equally in a truly secular society. One needn’t be atheist to see that the privileged status of the Church of England is unacceptable and that their policy on women bishops is contemptible.
I want more religious people to speak out against their church’s disgraceful treatment of women. How can any Anglican remain silent while priests struggle to justify the unjustifiable in their name?
I am not limiting this call to women, who are all directly insulted by this, but to men too. This is a human disgrace and it’s time we started telling our vicars and our MPs that we will not stand for it any more.
I agree with what the Dalai Lama wrote on Facebook recently: “The reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate.” The Church of England must ground its ethics in humanity – or get out of Parliament.