I have a soft spot for Bideford.
Many years ago every Friday evening I would leave the front gate of a RAF base near Nottingham to hitch-hike down to Bideford. Then on Sunday afternoon I would make the return trip. My then girl-friend, later my wife, lived in the town, her first job after leaving college being in the office of the Town Clerk of Bideford.
Bideford is basically a quiet country town, with an interesting bridge, a sleepy harbour, several rather pleasant pubs and some of the friendliest people you could meet outside Glasgow. The sort of people who quietly go about their business and are happy to allow others to go about theirs. It is a rather understated sort of place. Bideford is the kind of town which makes outsiders like me admire England.
Unfortunately Bideford has become the latest focal point of interest with an ex-councillor and member of the National Secular Society claiming that having prayers before Council meetings disadvantaged him and made him feel bad.
The judge in the case ruled that his human rights had not been trampled upon but did rule that under the Local Government Act local councils in England and Wales had no right to have prayers as part of the agenda for Council meetings.
I am glad that Clive Bone the ex-councillor whose sensitive feelings had been trampled by those seemingly unfeeling Christians has won his case, even if only on a technicality.
I am glad because this is not a case about the actions of Bideford Council. It is not even about prayer. This case may wake up some Christians to the fact that there is a concentrated drive by progressive secularists to drive Christianity from the public square, and especially the body politic.
There is an attitude amongst secularist activists which is crushingly illiberal. That Bideford Council had twice voted to have prayers is of no consequence to the atheists who insist on ramming their lack of belief down our throats.
Forced conformity to the dictates of any worldview, even if only outwardly, is a mark of the constitutionally intolerant.
Those who cannot stand the thought of religion never actually campaign for a level playing field. Rather they wish to steamroller the predominance of their particular moral viewpoint. The concept of ‘live and let live’ is utterly alien to their mindset. There is something deeply un-Bideford like in this furore.
The great danger, apart from that to their eternal souls, is that when a stable moral order is overthrown it does not leave a moral vacuum. It is replaced by another belief system with its own list of virtues and vices. All the evidence would indicate that the progressive secularism which is replacing Christianity in England (and also unfortunately Scotland) is going to be much more intolerant and intellectually stultifying than the rather gentle and tolerant Anglicanism it seeks to replace.
There is a unattractive, bullying vindictiveness in progressivism which frightens. Homosexuals deliberately seeking out Christian B&B owners in order to be offended. A bureaucratic official and admirer of the psychotic mass-murderer Che Guevara getting a Christian van driver suspended for displaying a Palm Sunday cross. Of all the councils in England the National Secular Society just happens to pick out one of the smallest in order to further its progressive jihad.
This is why I am glad that the NSS had even a partial victory. It may awaken the rest of us to the rather unpleasant future which awaits us.