Letters: Courageous bishops are right to speak out

 

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Your editorial “A God delusion” (22 February) is critical of the letters recently written by churchmen of various denominations to newspapers. I read the letters and found them thought-provoking and, in the main, justified in their doubts about aspects of the Government’s welfare policies.

I was not aware of any claims by the bishops to exercise “special authority”, let alone “a divine right to be heard”. The only “right” claimed would seem to be that of writing to the press to express an opinion – as I am doing now. The papers in question were not obliged to publish the letters any more than you are obliged to publish mine.

As for your suggestion that because churchmen are not democratically elected they should be cautious about stating their well-founded opinions – may I respectfully mention that newspaper editors and columnists are not elected either. If I disapprove of your ideas, I may cease to buy your paper and if I am offended by the stance of a bishop or archbishop I may stop going to his church.

Jenny Bryer, Birmingham

 

Good on the Church of England bishops! Their intervention was a courageous wake-up call to the Coalition government about the dreadful effects of their “benefit reforms”.

One Tory defender of these God-awful policies suggested that sanctions against benefit recipients are a “last resort”. This, to my personal knowledge, is at best disingenuous, and at worst a blatant lie. As a volunteer for local food banks, I can tell him that sanctions against legitimate claimants for often the most trivial of reasons – five minutes late for an appointment, failure to remember to bring along the appointment card to a benefit review – are immediate and merciless. It is up to people like me to pick up the pieces of these poor people’s broken lives, and to try to help give them some hope.

This awful government is in a barely disguised campaign to demonise and vilify the poor. While continuing to protect their super-rich friends against any suggestion of paying their fair share of tax, ministers relentlessly pursue a wicked campaign to push the poor back to Victorian days when they were utterly helpless, and dependent upon the largesse of the wealthy.

W P Moore, Norwich

 

Of course the welfare system needs reforming, but over time and with care and compassion. Reforms need to be made, but not at the expense of the genuinely poor and needy.

The Government, with its tedious and patronising buzzwords – “closed curtains”, “shirkers and strivers”, “hard-working families” – may think it is on a moral crusade. In fact it’s an immoral crusade.

It is a disgrace.

Neil Coppendale, Shoreham-by-Sea,  West Sussex

 

Who will speak out for poor and vulnerable people? Politicians will not – they are all on the side of “hard-working families”. Newspapers by and large will not; it does not sell. Thank God that the church leaders do. In their letter to the Daily Mirror the bishops and others did not claim “an unassailable moral position” (editorial, 22 February), they said “there is an acute moral imperative to act”, which there certainly is. It is the Prime Minister who seeks to claim the righteous high ground by referring to his welfare reforms as being a “moral mission”, while denying the immoral consequences for thousands of people who have no voice.

Anthony Slack, Rochdale,  Lancashire

 

One reason that the Church has a right, indeed a moral right, to “meddle” in politics is because, in today’s economic climate, it and many charities are expected and relied upon to support the poor and vulnerable, including those who slip through the welfare safety net because of the cutbacks. Indeed the Church is an important part of the “big society” that David Cameron once promoted.

Dave Richards, Combe Martin, Devon

 

Far from representing a “tiny fraction of the population” in fact over 59 per cent of the population of England and Wales identified themselves as Christian at the 2011 Census. This is rather more than the proportion of the electorate who voted for the Coalition government, yet alone the proportion of the total electorate who voted for the Government.

M Howell, London SE22

 

When both Government and opposition seem almost at one in agreeing that there has to be a reduction in benefits and in disparaging those on benefits, who will speak truth to power for those who have no voice? A repeated and central concern of the Old Testament prophets and of Jesus is that those who are marginalised – the poor, the widow, the “alien in your midst”, the orphan and others – should be not only spoken for, but cared for. 

Surely it is irrelevant what percentage of the population the church represents. After all, what percentage of the population is represented by the regularly published trenchant views of The Independent? What is important is the issue  of truth.

Robert Fyfe-Taylor, King’s Lynn,  Norfolk

 

Religious leaders do not speak by “dint of historical influence” but as representatives of their fellow-believers here and now – whose numbers, incidentally, however much you may wish it otherwise, are very far from being a tiny minority. Drawing attention to injustice and unfairness does not constitute “meddling in politics” – it has been and is the bounden duty of prophets and priests in every age. Presumably you would have directed the same criticism against the Levellers or William Wilberforce?

Michael Broadbent, Bishop Auckland,  County Durham

 

Hs2 threatens both city and country

Mary Dejevsky (“Fly-unders are the future”, 21 February) mentions the villages that will be blighted if HS2 goes ahead, but not that the greatest loss of homes to HS2 and its infrastructure of construction compounds will be in inner London.

In the London Borough of Camden 226 homes are due to be demolished, more than twice the number (107) on the whole of the rest of the line to Birmingham. The borough will suffer devastation, 24-hour noise, pollution, transport disruption and congestion and thousands of extra HGV journeys over a 10-year construction period. Homes, office blocks and shops will be demolished and other businesses destroyed as they are forced to close for years or lose trade.

Sue Prickett, London WC1

 

Name and shame these tax avoiders

DJ Chris Moyles admits that he was naïve in signing up to a tax-avoidance scheme called “working wheels” (report, 22 February). You report that the same scheme counted 450 fund managers, celebrities and other high earners between 2006 and 2008 as members.

Do these people not realise that there is a moral dimension to this, in a situation where many are striving to overcome welfare reductions, and are having to resort to food banks in increasing numbers? All members of the scheme should be named and shamed, although I am not sure that they are capable of shame – except in the sense that “it is a shame that I didn’t get away with it”.

John Cooper, London SE23

 

Parliamentary man on the buses

Finally – an MP with first-hand experience of his brief (“The world was his oyster card”, 22 February). Lord Adonis can now speak with a well-informed voice on infrastructure matters after riding the London night buses for a week. Michael Gove should now endure an Ofsted inspection and Iain Duncan Smith should dine at one of those foods banks he thinks people use by choice. This could be the end of government by Walter Mittys.

Ian McKenzie, Lincoln

 

Atos under fire for doing its job

It is interesting that Atos wants to withdraw from its contract because it has became so unpopular in trying to implement the Coalition’s policies that its employees are subject to abuse and even death threats (report, 22 February). And yet Atos was appointed by our democratically appointed Coalition.

What is the truer voice of democracy – the actions of a Coalition implementing policies not in its manifesto, or the reactions to Atos as it tries to fulfil its contract?

Dennis Leachman, Reading

 

Nothing wrong with Rooney’s wages

Why all this fuss about Rooney being paid £300,000 per week to play football? Surely about half of this goes in tax to the revenue? A great contribution to the nation.

Chris Harding, Parkstone, Dorset

 

You report on £300,000 a week for Wayne Rooney – unworthy and obscene!  And on £500,000 raised to help save the elephants (21 February) – worthy and fantastic!

Sue Simpson

Brighton, East Sussex

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