While my values are strongly influenced by my own Christian faith, I do not believe that religion should have a formal place within our political system. I would therefore be in favour of the disestablishment of the Church of England. I believe people should have the freedom to believe and to act as they choose, provided their action does not impinge on the rights of others. These are the principles which inform my answers to your questions below.
1. Do you think the government should fund faith schools?
Yes. Parents should have the right to continue to choose faith based schools within the state funded sector with the caveats below.
2. Should publicly funded faith schools be allowed to discriminate in their admissions and employment?
No. We will ensure that all faith schools develop an inclusive admissions policy and end unfair discrimination on grounds of faith when recruiting staff, except for those principally responsible for optional religious instruction.
3. Should publicly funded faith be allowed to teach creationism as equivalent theory to evolution?
Liberal Democrat policy is that creationism is not a scientific theory and should not be taught as an equivalent to evolution, which is. It bis however appr explored through religious education.
4. Should anti-discrimination legislation and equality legislation make religious groups exempt from regulations that other organisations would have to follow?
We believe that people receiving public services should be protected under equality and human rights law regardless of who is the service provider. Any organisation contracted to deliver a service should do so in a manner that respects the rights of all their service users and all their employees.
5. Should religious leaders have privileged access to decision makers?
No. They should certainly have access to policy makers but no more so than anyone else who represents a sizeable community which has an interest.
6. Would you vote to retain or remove bishops from the House of Lords?
The Liberal Democrats have long argued for replacing the House of Lords with a fully elected second chamber. Bishops and other religious leaders should be allowed to stand but would no longer have an automatic right to sit in the second chamber.
7. Should religious law such as Sharia be allowed as an alternative within UK law?
No. However where Sharia courts have been used in the UK they have been used within rather than as an alternative to UK law. Many disputes are settled through arbitration be it religious or otherwise and this is recognised by the arbitration act. I think that where two parties willingly submit themselves to a judgement by a religious court then this should be respected, provided it does not remove the rights they have under general law. An example might be as an alternative means of arbitration in divorce disputes. I hope that my answers are helpful to you. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch should you have any further questions.