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INDEPENDENT QUAKER JOURNALISM SINCE 1843
CONTENTS – VOL 168 NO 15 3-5 News 3 Equality Bill makes it through 4 Who will be at your Meeting on 9 May? 5 The time bomb in our shopping baskets Philip Barron 6 Aliens living in another galaxy?
Susan Seymour 7 Comment
Jez Smith and Juliet Batten 8-9 Letters 10-11 Stepping over the poverty line
Sue Glover Frykman 12-13 Arts 12 The Way of the Cross
Rowena Loverance 13 No-nonsense guide to religion
Robin Bennett 14 Who is a funeral for?
Margaret Barker 15 No longer frocked
Ian Johnson 16 q-eye: witness 17 Friends & Meetings
Cover image: Women’s group health education in Bangladesh. Photo: Sue Glover Frykman. See pages 10-11. Images on this page: Above ‘Perfidy’ and below ‘Betrayal’ both by Andrew Rafferty. Photos © Andrew Rafferty. See page 12.
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the Friend, 9 April 2010 News
Equality bill makes it through
The bill passes in the ‘washup’ before parliament is dissolved
‘You did brilliantly.’ So said Britain Yearly Meeting’s recording clerk Gillian Ashmore as she updated Friends on the same-sex civil partnership and Equality Bill developments at Meeting for Sufferings last month. At the previous Sufferings in January representatives were exhorted to be in contact with any peers that they knew and could contact about the proposed amendment that samesex civil partnerships should be allowed to take place in religious venues.
The bill was sent for royal assent this week after the lords’ amendments were agreed in the commons without a vote. Speaking on the same-sex civil partnership amendment solicitor general Vera Baird said that no religious denomination would be liable for discrimination if they did not open their premises for a ceremony. She added that the law would not force religious groups to do anything that was not compatible with their faith.
The amendment had been put forward by Waheed Alli and he worked hard to meet the concerns of bishops and others, reported Gillian. As part of the procedure, after the election, there would be a consultation, which is necessary to bring in the regulations. Those regulations would not be in place before 2011. The law will only apply to England and Wales, not Scotland or Northern Ireland.
At Sufferings in March Gillian explained that the process had reinforced the understanding that Quakers could work with other churches on sensitive issues as well as working effectively together within Friends House. She added that they could be satisfied with the steps forward, but she appreciated that although it was virtually identical, this was not same-sex marriage. Speaking in response to the equality bill passing the commons this week Gillian said: ‘This provision in the Equality Bill represents a small but emblematic step towards the goal of full gay equality, supported by Britain Yearly Meeting in summer 2009. This will make many people happy. We look forward to working with a government of whatever political complexion in giving effect to the intention of parliament.’ While the work by Britain Yearly Meeting on this issue has been widely welcomed, some Friends have left the Society over this issue.
Campaign against the detention of children gathers momentum
A Quaker protest at the immigration detention of children was one of the last to be received by the Ministry of Justice before the general election campaigns got underway this week. Meeting for Sufferings (MfS) sent the letter to Jack Straw on 1 April protesting at the continued imprisonment of children subject to immigration control. MfS also minuted that Friends might use the letter to canvas parliamentary candidates.
Friends will have read over the past year some of the stream of reports criticizing the detention of children. A letter in the Daily Telegraph (19 February) signed by representatives of churches, and in our case by Susan Seymour for MfS, refers to many of these: ‘…the Children’s Commissioner, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the Children’s Society and many other bodies concerned with the wellbeing of children all support an end to child detention because of the appalling effects on children. These include insomnia, bed wetting, weight loss, speech regression, depression and self-harm’ (www.medicaljustice.org. uk/content/view/1099/69/).
Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network, a BYM-listed special interest group, has recently worked closely with Meeting for Sufferings on asylum issues, particularly the detention of children.
Both in respect of action by Meetings and individuals QARN suggests that Friends who do not use the internet write to their MPs, the home secretary Alan Johnson, and both national and local newspapers making the above argument. This is also a good moment to write to all prospective parliamentary candidates asking for their views and their parties’ policies on the subject.
Janet Toye Oxford Meeting
Visit www.qarn.org.uk for more information and visit bit.ly/ncdpet to sign the petition calling on the prime minister to end the detention of children.
the Friend, 9 April 2010