Since the days of Edward the Confessor, our justice system has tempered the right of the Monarch to do whatever he would with we serfs, by reference to the tenets of Christianity by way of moral compass. We called this interpreter of the moral compass ‘Lord Chancellor’, and declared the system equitable and fair.
We still have a Lord Chancellor, sitting there fat and Buddha like, and so far as we were all aware, the sole concession to modernity was that these days he wears Brown Suede shoes. How wrong we were – apparently he has chucked out the moral compass, otherwise known as the book of Christian values, or Bible. He is now a defender of ‘multi-faith values’ who is guided by something called a ‘secular compass’.
Christianity no longer holds sway in the legal system, one of the country’s most senior judges said yesterday, declaring that courts must serve a multicultural community of many faiths.
As a Quaker, I hold no particular brief for the Bible; I respect those who do, and I understand the certainty that some gain from following its tenets. I can respect and understand those who follow the Koran. I could even understand if the majority of the country became Muslim and decided that the Koran was the moral compass in future. Such is democracy.
I can comprehend that few people go to church these days, even fewer ever read the bible. This isn’t about whether you hold the bible to be true or not – it is about the fact that it has always been the benchmark against which our laws are set – take it away, and what are we left with? What do we replace it with? The individual views of those who have navigated a (at least publicly) blot-free path through the legal hierarchy?
What puzzles me is where does this secular moral compass reside – who is the arbiter of when it is facing true north or magnetic north? How does anybody know whether their proposed action is morally correct or not?
Under civil law, Roman law, as practised in the rest of Europe, you can’t do anything unless it is in the book of law as being permissible. So far so good – whether you agree with that or not, at least people know where they stand.
Under common law, as practised in the United Kingdom, you have the freedom to do anything unless it has been proscribed by law – which means that if you are the first person to think of some new aberration to societal peace and quiet, you need some sort of guidance as to whether your proposed action is likely to be acceptable.
Sir James Munby, the President of the Family Division, said “Happily for us, the days are past when the business of judges was the enforcement of morals or religious beliefs.
“All are entitled to respect, so long as they are ‘legally and socially acceptable’ and not ‘immoral or socially obnoxious’ or ‘pernicious’.”
So where does this secular moral compass that decides what is ‘socially acceptable’ reside then? On Twitter? I’m genuinely puzzled – anybody care to explain it to me?