Another blow to our image

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From David Bisson.

WHILE many in Jersey are working hard to improve our tarnished image abroad, yet again a leading member of the Island community has taken it upon himself to give further ammunition to those who like to spread the word that we are not fit to govern ourselves.

I refer to the recent threat by Advocate Richard Falle to imprison anyone who refuses to rise for morning prayers at the commencement of Magistrate’s Court proceedings.

Is Advocate Falle not aware that religious intolerance is simply unacceptable in today’s society? This is particularly the case in communities (eg Jersey) where freedom of belief is biased towards an established religion (ie Christianity) – here the issue becomes one of persecution of either members of other faiths or atheists.

As a member of the legal profession, Advocate Falle must surely be aware of the many democracies who prohibit this form of persecution in their Constitutions. In the United States, it is generally held that in order to be permissible a law must have a secular purpose, must have a primary effect which neither advances nor inhibits religion and must avoid excessive entanglement of church and state.

The Japanese Constitution states that no person shall be compelled to take part in any religious act, celebration, rite or practice. The state and its organs are prohibited from religious education or any other religious activity.

In Australia, governments are similarly prohibited from making any law for establishing any religion or for imposing any religious observance. The French Human Rights Declaration states that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion – a sentiment also expressed in the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Of course there have been precedents supporting Advocate Falle’s strong views on preserving the influence of Christianity in our day-to-day lives. A certain Charles Bradlaugh was elected MP for Northampton but was initially prevented from taking his seat as he was an atheist. He was also briefly imprisoned, thus providing further support for the draconian persecution of non-believers.

This was, however, during the reign of Queen Victoria – we certainly have an awful lot of ground to make up if we are to be taken seriously by the rest of the world!


Old St Andrew’s Road,

St Helier.

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