Thursday, 15 November 2012

Abu Qatada is even worse than gay marriage

This is a guest post by Rev Julian Mann

There is a moral issue facing Britain that should be of major concern to voters, and it is not gay marriage.

As a passionate opponent of the redefinition of the God-created institution of heterosexual marriage, I can understand the principled passion of those who, like the Chancellor George Osborne, support it ardently for reasons of fairness and equality. Mr Osborne also believes, according to his analysis of President Obama's election victory, that gay marriage is a vote winner, particularly among young people, and I would have to concede that he is probably right.

But gay marriage, important an issue though it is, at this juncture pales into insignificance compared with the legal shambles over Abu Qatada.

It is a travesty of justice that he cannot face trial in an overseas nation that had reasonable grounds to charge him with plotting a terrorist atrocity against its people. The responsibility for this disgrace lies with the European Court of Human Rights. That is why Britain's relationship with Strasbourg must now become a matter not of hand-wringing but of robust political action.

I will not conceal the Christian spiritual agenda bound up with my concern about the threat to social stability that Islamist terrorism represents in the country I love. Because Christianity spreads by persuasion not by coercion peaceable social conditions are vital for its dissemination. It is wonderful that social conditions in the United Kingdom currently allow for the proclamation of God's love in Jesus Christ. The privilege of living in a democracy also allows Christians to articulate views on a range of social and political issues for the public good, though it should be acknowledged that the threat to free speech once gay marriage is enacted, particularly for public sector employees such as military chaplains, is a very real one.

With the potential for Islamist terrorism now deeply entrenched in British society, our government has both a symbolic and practical moral responsiblity to deport Abu Qatada to Jordan in defiance of Strasbourg. It would not be difficult under the very public circumstances of this deportation for British monitors to ensure that he is not tortured in Jordan. But, as well as opposing the obtaining of evidence by torture, does not the British government also have a moral responsibility to assist the Jordanian authorities in getting as much information as they legitimately can out of Abu Qatada and to help wipe the smile off the face of evil?

Julian Mann is vicar of the Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge, South Yorkshire