Two’s company

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Welcome to the House of Lords – twinned with Tehran

We all know there are unelected Bishops in the House of Lords, but this interesting bit of trivia as reported by Johann Hari in The Independent is worth noting. Here’s an extract:

“Which two nations still reserve places in their parliaments for unelected religious clerics, who then get an automatic say in writing the laws the country’s citizens must obey? The answer is Iran… and Britain.

In 2011, the laws that bind us all are voted on by 26 Protestant bishops in the House of Lords who say they are there to represent the Will of God. They certainly aren’t there to represent the will of the people: 74 per cent of us told a recent ICM poll the bishops should have to stand for election like everybody else if they want to be in parliament. These men use their power to relentlessly fight against equality for women and gay people, and to deny you the right to choose a peaceful and dignified death when the time comes.”

The whole article is well worth a read and will be emotive for most atheists (even if you knew this already), but indulge me for giving one more quote:

“And here’s the strangest kicker in this strange story: it looks like the plans being drawn up by Nick Clegg to “modernise” the House of Lords will not listen to the overwhelming majority of us and end these religious privileges. No – they are poised to do the opposite. Sources close to the reform team say they are going to add even more unelected religious figures to parliament. These plans are being drawn up as you read this and will be published soon. The time to fight is today, while we can still sway the agenda.”

That Britain and Iran may be the only two nations who still have places in their parliaments for unelected clerics may score you some points if that question ever comes up in a quiz, but this is very far from being a trivial matter for the UK in 2011.