Sunday, 8 February 2009

National Secular Society’s Secularist of the Year Award

I spent a very pleasant afternoon yesterday at the National Secular Society’s Secularist of the Year Award at the Imperial Hotel in Russell Square.  The award was presented by Richard Dawkins.

The joint winners were Dr Even Harris MP and Lord Avebury for their joint work in abolishing the common law offense of Blasphemous Libel.  This has been the NSS’s raison d'être for it’s whole existence, so it was no surprise that the primary authors of its repeal should be rewarded!  Both gave fine acceptance speeches, with Lord Avebury commenting that he was just the one who gave the final push, after such a long effort, despite the fact that he has been tabling amendments for 20 years to get rid of that wicked law.  Dr Harris MP gave a very amusing speech about the battles yet to be won, including faith schools and faith-based welfare.  He revealed that he has drawn fifth in the members ballot for Private Members Bill, and he wants to introduce a bill to stop discrimination against Catholics marrying into the line of succession (and allow female members the same right to inherit the throne as males) so he thought it would be a good idea to ring up Damien Thompson, the editor of the Catholic Herald and give them an exclusive (since he and the Catholic Herald have disagreed on much previously) but Thompson was “disgusted”:

Dr Evan Harris, the Lib Dem MP nicknamed "Dr Death" for his creepy determination to make late-term abortions and euthanasia more widely available, now has a new cause: he wants to remove the ban on the heir to the throne marrying a Catholic.

You know something? Catholics don't want to be liberated from this constitutional discrimination by a politician who advocates an end to the requirement that any abortion requires the consent of two doctors, arguing that the "procedure" can carried out by a nurse or even in the home.

I know I speak for many Catholics when I say that this man disgusts me. He is wrong about nearly everything, and wrong in a particularly nauseating fashion, too: self-righteous, humourless, self-important.

I had a phone call from his office yesterday, with the news that "Dr Evan Harris MP" wanted to brief me on his initiative, as if it was supposed to be some sort of honour. I said I couldn't imagine anything worse than talking to such an appalling character.

Let's leave the constitutional bar in place for just a bit longer, shall we? It's mildly offensive, but Catholics have more important things to worry about. Such as saving late-term unborn babies from the grisly fate that Dr Harris is happy to see inflicted on them.

Ha ha ha!

The other presentations were a special award to Ariane Sherine for her excellent work on the Atheist Bus campaign (of a little model London bus with her slogan on the sides – nice) and two hard working volunteers.

Entertainment was provided by a recreation of the great debate between Huxley and Wilberforce about Darwinism.  The part of Bishop Wilberforce was played with great gusto by NSS President Terry Sanderson – I must say, there’s a career in the Church for him if he ever wants to give up on our side!

We also heard from Matthew LaClair, a student from New Jersey, about his efforts to keep his classroom religion-free after his teacher used his position to preach to the students.

It was a fine afternoon, and I’m looking forward to next year.

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