Friday, May 26, 2006

Authoritarian Method Too Far

What do you get if you rush through sensitive legislation? What do you get if don't allow sufficient time for Parliament to scrutinise and debate such legislation?

Well obviously for starters parts of it get overlooked and the repercussions are not fully realised until something that should normally happen without a glitch goes wrong.

Step forward fourteen probationer Methodist Ministers from the USA. Hardly a part of the axis of evil, well at least not as defined by Bush and Blair. Now suddenly under the tightening of observation of anti-terror laws they have been denied work visa to work in some of the UK's Methodist circuits. The law that restricts unordained religious leaders was passed twelve years ago in 1994, it looks like the religious Shadow Home Secretary at the time, ACL Blair MP for Sedgefield, didn't realise the full extent of what Ken Clarke was proposing.

The Superintendent Methodist Minister for Wakefield, Dr Paul Glass sums up the situation very succinctly and astutely:

"This rule is meant to be for unqualified Islamic students. You could not imagine somebody less like a terrorist than a young American Methodist minister.

"It seems to be ludicrous and a direct attack on religious freedom. The Government is in danger of looking ridiculous.

"Faced with a Government that is acting in increasingly authoritarian ways, I would hope that we could bring as much pressure to bear as possible to change this restrictive action."

Personally I think the time that the Government is in danger of looking ridiculous has long passed. However, I do think that legislation of the most sensitive nature, especially in relation to law and order or terrorism is too often rushed through Parliament as a knee jerk reaction to recent events. The amount of scrutiny that people would expect on such sensitive issues is not carried out. There is an over abundance of lawyers in both Houses of Parliament surely these minds, some of whom spent their professional career looking for loopholes in the law. Should these people not be given time on these issues to scrutinise the minutiae of these things to get the letter right not just the spirit.

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