Scottish Licensing Laws
The Committee on Liquor Licensing Law in Scotland under Sheriff Gordon Nicholson has now come up with its recommendations, opening up the way for 24-hour drinking. The Committee acknowledges “significant increases in health problems caused by over-indulgence in alcohol . . . growing evidence that young people, often as young as 13, are drinking to excess, and sometimes with the declared intention of becoming drunk . . . increasing concerns about binge drinking which is often encouraged by deep and irresponsible price discounting on the part of some licensed establishments, and . . . increasing evidence of the link between excessive drinking and crimes of violence and general public disorder”.
Yet they note complacently “that the great majority of people in Scotland drink sensibly and moderately but that those people are often irritated by what they see as petty and unnecessary restrictions such as, for example, the fact that off-licence premises . . . cannot open for business on Sunday mornings”. Given the list of serious dangers in the previous paragraph, what is needed is a series of measures to reduce drastically the consumption of alcohol. We welcome provisions in the Committee’s report which, if implemented, would lead to improved supervision of licensed premises, but one fears they will, on their own, do little to change the hard-drinking culture which is ruining so many individuals, families and communities in Scotland.
And the duty of Sabbath observance seems sadly to figure nowhere in the Sheriff’s thinking. So much the worse for Scotland.
Should the Church of England Be Disestablished?
A perceptive article about disestablishing the Church of England has been brought to our attention. It is from the pen of columnist Peter Hitchens and appeared in The Spectator under the title, “God Save the Nation”. He argues forcibly for maintaining the link between Church and State.
As a denomination we adhere, of course, to the Establishment Principle – that the civil magistrate, being ordained of God, is required to safeguard, maintain, support, and promote the Church of Christ, without intruding on its spiritual independence and jurisdiction. However, the Church of England does not possess the spiritual independence it ought to have; the Crown has a dominant say in the appointment of bishops. Episcopacy is unscriptural, we need hardly add, as is the appointing of men to office in the Church by the Crown. That aside, the Church of England has drifted so far from its biblical moorings that some of the godly think that it would be better not to have an established Church in England than one which has rejected the Reformed faith, and has in its ranks unbelieving bishops, sodomite clergymen, women ministers and ardent Anglo-Catholics.
Some of those who call for disestablishment argue that it would benefit the Church itself by giving it more freedom to develop, and help our multicultural society foster toleration. The Vatican, of course, wishes disestablishment as it would open the door wider for increasing its own power in the nation.
Hitchen, however, insists that the link between the Church and the State is, in fact, “vital for our wellbeing”. He asks who would crown our next monarch if the Church of England were disestablished? “The president of Europe? A multi-faith collective? Nobody at all? In which case. . . where will ultimate authority and legitimacy come from?” Pertinent questions indeed. He goes on to ask, “If we cease formally to be a Christian country, what shall we be? Perhaps, in the end we might yet become an Islamic state – by no means as remote a possibility as some might think, given the present fervour and energy of that very different faith.”
He rightly says, “Christianity is woven into our laws and government. The foundations of English law are biblical. Each morning when Parliament is sitting, the Lords and Commons begin their deliberations with prayers. . . . The fundamental contract binding this country together is a Christian one. . . . That contract is governed by the belief that authority is only granted to those who hold it on condition that they exercise it according to a higher law which they cannot overrule or challenge. . . Law, which is divine in origin, is above power at all times. . . . When the Reformation placed the Bible in the hands of every boy that drove the plough, the law became the property of the whole people, who obeyed it not because they were forced to, but because they understood and shared the principles it embodied. Modern coronations are celebrations of our sovereignty over ourselves, as a free and Christian people.”
We cannot agree with everything in Hitchen’s article, and it does not touch on the pressing need of the Church of England to be reformed, but it does good service in highlighting the fact that Christianity is woven into our laws and government, that the foundations of English law are biblical, and that the abandoning of the Establishment Principle is bound to undermine further these Christian foundations. May the day speedily come when our rulers will acknowledge these principles and implement them, giving to God His place as the one who has ordained the powers that be, and who is to be honoured and obeyed by the whole nation. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
Church and State in Alabama
Two years ago Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore arranged to have a two-ton granite block inscribed with the Ten Commandments and put on display in the state’s Judicial Building. However, state supreme court justices have ruled that to display the Commandments in this way violates the American constitution and the block has now been removed from public view.
This is just the latest skirmish between those who wish to continue to have some recognition of Christianity in American public life and those who are violently opposed. Moore himself complained: “This is an example of what is happening in this country: the acknowledgement of God as the moral foundation of law in the nation is being hid from us”. And a spokesperson for Moore pointed out that the Alabama Constitution “specifically mandates an acknowledgement of God upon which the justice system of this state depends.” Which is good. Every judicial system needs a firm basis for it to operate. The problem is that, by forbidding the establishment of any particular denomination, the founding fathers of the nation left the way open for a gross reinterpretation of that provision, which has resulted in the prohibition of all acknowledgement of religion by government in the United States. Americans show a high degree of religious observance – although the quality of a great part of that observance is very much open to question – but the most powerful nation in the world has put itself in a very serious position by officially refusing to acknowledge the Most High.
Militantly anti-Christian groups have made the most of their opportunity, among them one calling itself American Atheists, which has attacked Alabama Governor Bob Riley as having “an equally disturbing record on state-church separation. He has called for public prayer in support of various causes, from the war in Iraq to raising taxes, and even organised prayer groups and Bible clubs to meet in state offices.” Clearly, they demand that office-holders act as atheists in carrying out the duties of their positions.
Moore’s critics have claimed that with 350 000 places of worship in the United States, there is ample opportunity for religious expression, and that he is “establishing a specific religion, namely fundamentalist Christianity, by using government resources to promote the Ten Commandments”. One might ask if it is only “fundamentalist” Christians who wish to promote the Ten Commandments. But, more to the present point, it is disturbing to note the powerful opposition which exists in the United States to anything which suggests, however remotely, the duty of nations to support the true religion.