Daniel Greenberg, Parliamentary Lawyer

The right of children to their parents’ love, and vice versa, is sacred and precious, and should be respected and protected, whether on religious or humanitarian grounds by all.

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26 thoughts on “Daniel Greenberg, Parliamentary Lawyer

  1. There is a matter of degree here. Tearing children away from their mothers’ arms is one thing, but whether parents should have the right to teach their children whatever they want is quite another.

    Should some schools be allowed to teach that the earth is 6,000 years old? Is that a matter of tradition or a matter of fact? Should schools be allowed to teach children about the existence of gay people, or should parents be allowed to prevent that on the grounds of tradition? What about teaching children that your “traditions” are right and all others are to be undermined and persecuted?

    If they’re being accurately reported, then there seems little doubt that the actions of the Chinese authorities are extreme and cruel, but I have reservations about parents having an absolute right to dictate what their children are taught.

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  2. The notion that parents have the right to teach what they like to their children is ok … up to a point.

    Teaching children outmoded* religious ideas is an affront to humanity. More than that actually. Religions by their definition create deep divisions that inevitabley lead to persecution (and don’t the religious love to be persecuted) violence, cruelty, murder and wars. Religions retard too and lead to all kinds of deeply entrenched irrational, selfish and dangerous behaviours.
    Think:-
    Antivaxers
    Abolition of Stem Cell Research
    Anti Abortion
    Anti Assisted Dying
    Anti Contraception
    Anti LGBT
    One Nation Under God
    Non Stun Slaughter
    Creationists interfering in science education
    And many many many more dangerous devisive cruel retarding hateful bigotries.

    What right does a parent have to teach than vaccination is sinful. What right does a parent have to inflict the threat of a mutated and untreatable measles strain upon my children.

    I could go so far that for a parent to teach a child some things is a direct threat to my basic human rights and a threat to the survival of humanity.

    Outmoded in this context means just plain and demonsrably wrong and it applies to all religions and their attendant bigotries.

    So how should we remove the hazards of religion.
    By force or by education. The answer is obvious but difficult … note the muslim pushback against education for LGBT inclusion as acase in point.

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    1. Agree it’s a difficult balance and religion does a lot of harm – but it also does a lot of good – important to avoid swapping one set of bigotries for another.

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      1. That old saw (sore?). Does a lot of harm but also a lot of good. What is the exchange rate? How many bowls of soup to the homeless are equivalent to abusing a child? Many organisations manage to do good without doing harm.

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  3. “So how should we remove the hazards of religion.
    By force or by education. The answer is obvious but difficult ”

    This leads to an interesting philosophical question as to who decides what is right to teach? Some areas can be determined by evidence based approaches (though since science progresses by refining previous models even this is open to challenge).

    I’d favour making the religions be responsible for their edicts and pronouncements

    for example:

    You can be an anti vaccination proponent but you must pay compensation at the rates set by the courts for any person (vaccinated or not) who catches the disease within a radius of x kilometres of you.

    You can block abortion and/or contraception, but you must pay for the support and upbringing of any unwanted child born – including all medical costs for those poor unfortunates with life affecting conditions – all food, shelter, clothing, secular education, health and general well being costs.

    et cetera – you get the drift and how it can be extended to other areas

    They will be personally responsible for the costs – it’s not to be pushed onto the state or taxpayer; the religion can sell off its assets and buildings if necessary. I’m fed up with the privatisation of privileged beliefs and the socialisation of the costs of their outcome.

    If a religious group cannot pay and effectively becomes bankrupt (financially as well as morally) they must cease to make further proclamations and withdraw totally from social media (under penalty of court imposed sanctions); weasel tricks of reforming under another name should be outlawed. The group shall have no ability to join in any public debates or discussions.

    Notice that I’m not proposing that their views or beliefs should be suppressed; just that they take responsibility for them. The institutions and/or individuals pushing their views onto others may find an insurance policy to cover them.

    This should be perfectly reasonable, after all their IMF will look after them, right?

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    1. “I’d favour making the religions be responsible for their edicts and pronouncements”
      That’s a really interesting thought experiment Birch, in theory I think it sounds very tidy.

      I wonder how easy it would be to quantify and prove all of the effects of different views. Large organisations (media companies, tobacco industry, political parties, etc) are not known for admitting to causing harm!

      Also, would we have to accept the counter claims as well? Would I become personally responsible every time some anti-vaccer claims that their headache is brought on by the vaccines they had as a kid? Wouldn’t an anti abortionist claim that in their opinion, abortion is murder and therefore I am responsible for the murder?
      Now I can’t say that I am particularly scared of either of these counter claims, but my point is that the current debates would still take place (albeit in a claims court).
      Interested in your thoughts Birch.

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      1. Yes, I agree that dealing with counter claims may be difficult and I competely accept and acknowledge that my idea is not fully formed (unlike religious orthodoxy I am prepared to admit that and to welcome suggestions for change).

        That said, having a pseudo legal approach (and again I would prefer not to see this become an exclusively contract/law based mechanism) would expose claims and counter claims to the need for evidence.

        An objection to an abortion can be directly linked to the subsequent birth: the process and events can be clearly seen. A person claiming that their IMF requires them to inhibit the freedoms of others would need to produce evidence which would be much harder to provide [I would say impossible but let’s keep an open mind].

        I like a ‘live and let live’ approach. I have no problem with others believing whatever they want; I do have a problem when one person imposes their belief on another and forces them to do/refrain from doing activities just because of what the first persons imaginary friend may have said millennia ago.

        And before the obvious objection: yes I do agree that society as a whole should encourage/prohibit some actions: you don’t need to follow a particular religion to realise that murder, rape, child abuse …. are wrong and need to be stopped. These laws can be reviewed regularly in a democratic society.

        So, in the absence of a reductio ad absurdam approach in real life, making advocates [not only of religion – also politicians and large organisations] responsible for the outcomes of their actions seems a good alternative. It may encourage thought before interference. A case of “be careful what you wish for”.

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    2. Science mutates as ideas are refined or superseded as new or more accurate observations and data are acquired. This is the strength and glory of science. Our understanding of the universe simply improves over time as ideas are proposed tested and peer ratified. Religion does not do this. Theologians and apologists simply assert and bamboozle and obfuscate and blur and deceive to protect their dogma. Science unlike religions does not indoctrinate people and coerce them under the threat of eternal hell fire damnation to:-
      Perform fgm on defenceless young girls
      Throw gays from tall buildings
      Fly aircraft into tall buildings
      Protect peadophiles from criminal investigation
      Impede stem cell research
      Refuse abortion rights
      Circumcise baby boys
      Disallow assisted dying
      Promote antivax stupidity
      Deny proper medical attention to sick children
      Spread aids by prohibition of condom use
      Propagate discriminate against LGBT people
      Stone women for having sex outside marriage
      Stone women for being raped
      Honour killing
      Murder for the crime of being the wrong kind of Muslim or Christian
      Support the bombing of Iraq because god told too
      Murder of apostates
      Convincing people that sex is dirty and sinful
      Establishing the concepts of sin and apostasy
      Selling redemption for cash payment
      I can go on for hours like this.
      The worst people to tell children what to think are the pious who simply propagate their squalid dogma through the generations. And no one person should decide what to teach children. That’s the job of government authorities honouring secular humanist values to teach children how to think and promote the wonder and facts of scientific endeavour.

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  4. This was not a thought ‘from a religious perspective’. Lightly touching on some religious reference solely as a ‘box ticking’ exercise does not make it so. This thought could have been delivered equally well by a member of Humanists UK or the National Secular Society, or any professor of ethics or philosophy at any unviersity. Except of course that they are purposely excluded. TftD is just one massive exercise in hypocrisy. But then it’s ‘religion’; so what does one expect?

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    1. Yes. Dead right. But TFTD does provide an invaluable spin off in that it allows the pious the irresistible opportunity to make complete RSEZ of themselves and their squalid beliefs. I think of it as a catalyst for the demise of religious privilege and power in this country. Catalyst because it enables a desired reaction (the ridicule of religion) whilst remaining itself unchanged.

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  5. Daniel Greenberg is a senior lawyer. It is totally inconceivable that he does not understand the full aspect of what he said this morning, including all the points raised by Peter and Patrick. This was therefore a shameless attempt to sneak these things in under the radar. The Uighur Muslims are being dreadfully treated in China, individually and culturally, but this is entirely different from the general situation regarding parents’ rights to teach their children. To claim a link is an appalling piece of sophistry.

    Greenberg quoted the convention on human rights. As a lawyer, he will be aware of what Article 9 actually says, in particular its second clause:

    Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

    This part he failed to mention. All the relevant case law deals with situations where a parent’s action on religious grounds is held to be contrary to the child’s right to an equal place in society. In particular, the court has found that a Swiss Muslim family cannot prevent their daughter from learning to swim in mixed classes, and that full medical treatment must be given to children irrespective of their parents’ beliefs. A ruling from Turkey even established that the state has a right to prevent access to higher education for someone wearing a headscarf. Religious freedom is enshrined in the convention, but again, only with caveats:

    The State must respect this freedom within public education. Educational freedom includes the right of all people to institute and guide institutions that adhere to the State’s minimum standards in learning. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (General Comment 13) stipulates that the State must guarantee this right does not cause excessive disparities of educational opportunity for certain groups in society.

    “The State’s minimum standards”. Fall below these and a parent has NO right to educate their children. Indeed, the state is given the duty to step in if it considers that the education in question will cause “disparities in educational opportunity.”

    The convention also contains anti-discrimination clauses that are held to be higher than the right to religious freedom. No religious school can discriminate between girls and boys, or between pupils of different race, or between pupils of different sexuality. All of this is very, very clear, and has been confirmed time and time again in case law. In other words, there is no similarity whatsoever between the plight of the Uighur people and the circumstances in certain Birmingham schools. The Convention on Human Rights makes it abundantly clear that the latter’s protesters are not protected in their current project, and even that the project might itself be contrary to the convention.

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    1. Get your facts right: I didn’t quote Article 9 of the Convention, I quoted Article 2 of the First Protocol, and I quoted it in full: the qualification that you mention from Article 9 is imported into the UK’s implementation of Article 2, by reason of the Reservation referred to in section 15(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998.

      You say “In other words, there is no similarity whatsoever between the plight of the Uighur people and the circumstances in certain Birmingham schools.” – I never said there was.

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      1. I quoted Article 2 of the First Protocol, and I quoted it in full

        Indeed, my apology. But the protocols are subject to the rest of the Convention, and limited significantly by it. By itself, what you quoted doesn’t reflect in any way what the Convention is saying about parents’ and children’s rights where education is concerned. Parents have the right to ensure that their children are educated “in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions”, except where these religious and philosophical convictions are in conflict with other aspects of the Convention, in which case they don’t. This is not in any doubt, having been tested several times.

        I never said there was.

        Again no, but neither is there any link between the Protocols to the Convention and the plight of the Uighurs. So many other aspects of their basic human rights are being infringed that to select this right, a rather limited right at that, seems very bizarre. Given that the situation in Birmingham is frequently in the news, it’s not unreasonable to think that any reference to the educational rights of children would cover this case. In fact, your statement:

        For parents not knowing if […] their children were being brought up orphaned from their religious and cultural heritage…

        seems again to be widening the scope of your TFTD away from the Uighurs and into more general areas. In the cases where it is contrary to the rights of others, including the children in question, they should be orphaned from their religious and cultural heritage. In fact, it is enshrined in the Convention that this MUST be done, to protect the children from aspects of their religion and culture.

        This is one of the problems with TFTD in principle. If these questions had been put to you while you were speaking, you would have had the opportunity to clarify. As it was, you quoted a section of the Convention that is associated with a very well-known current news story, certainly one more linked to the Birmingham story than to the dreadful situation in China, and you quoted it without its context or limitations, giving a false impression of its power, legal and moral. Nothing that you said excluded these other cases, with the result that a casual listener could conclude there was an equivalence in some regards.

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      2. Steve – I absolutely take your point about the format of TFTD – and therefore about the dangers of creating unintended perceptions of connections between topics or applications – I genuinely meant to talk about the Uigars alone – but I completely accept that you and others will draw conclusions about what I might therefore think about religious schools – as it happens, I think the application of the Convention rights to religious schools, and to religion in schools, is incredibly complicated and almost impossible to get right – I have advised clients from a number of different religious communities about this, and the main thrust of much of my advice has been to focus on process rather than substantive results – one of the failings at present is, I think, the need of different perspectives to have a forum for constructive discussion, negotiation and compromise – (and I completely accept that monologues whether on TFTD or elsewhere are not generally a helpful part of that process …) – many thanks – Daniel

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      3. I have to take you at your word, that you intended to talk only about the Uighur people. In which case the extrapolation to other aspects of culture and education is all on my part. Thank you for clarifying.

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  6. Yes; it was a thoughtful and articulate piece by Daniel Greenberg; and for a change a TftD speaker actually took a foreign government to task for its human rights violations. All too many of them tend to shy away from controversial issues. But, as Graham points out, it could have been delivered by any human rights advocate in any context; and there was little by way of a “faith perspective” on show. And Steve has firmly nailed the non-sequitur in trying to extrapolate from general human rights to education rights.

    Furthermore…it has to be said that some Jewish organisations are just as insistent on imposing “the hazards of religion” as the anti-LGBT Muslims in Birmingham, eg: https://jewishnews.timesofisrael.com/jewish-school-headteacher-if-we-taught-about-sex-children-would-be-withdrawn/

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  7. Can’t really add any more to the well argued points made above – and agree with the general consensus.

    I’d only add a little O.T. note, reflecting on education – or someone’s lack of it. I listened to ‘Prayer For The Day’ this morning. The person introducing the oration was a Salvation Army Major, who confidently asserted that slave ships from Africa came up the Thames and unloaded their human cargo on the docks where they were traded. Erm…. shurely shum mishtake?

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  8. I have taken some time to gather my thoughts on this one, and I apologise for repeating any arguments that others have already made.

    The conflict at the school gates in Birmingham and elsewhere is an example of a clash between religious and secular values. The Panorama programme on Monday showed that much disinformation is being spread by extremists and rabble-rousers in order to stir up hostility among parents about what young children are being taught regarding LGBT issues.

    One could argue that policymakers must take some of the blame for the situation. For years, multi-culturalism was encouraged as a way of ensuring that people from ethnic minorities could live peacefully with the mainstream population. Different cultural practices were to be condoned and even celebrated. At one time, there were those who defended the practice of FGM because it was ‘part of their culture’ in which the rest of society had no right to interfere. Possibly as a result of the rise of radical Islam and the realisation that multi-culturalism was not working as intended, attitudes began to change. FGM has come to be condemned as the horrible, barbaric sexual abuse of girls and young women which it is. Forced marriage, compulsory veiling, the abuse of vulnerable white working-class girls by Muslim men and segregation of the sexes have all been subjected to severe criticism, and in some cases, legislation. Nothing wrong with any of that of course, but this switch in attitude must have caused, and may still be causing, resentment among Muslim communities who previously felt they had been given the go-ahead to practice their traditions and religion as they wished.

    Government policy is now intent on ensuring schoolchildren are taught that different kinds of sexual relationships other than the traditional male-female ones are acceptable. Nothing wrong with that either, except that for certain religious groups including conservative Muslims, Orthodox Jews and evangelical Christians it has simply proved a step too far. In the Panorama programme, the Muslims interviewed claimed they were not anti-gay or transphobic, accepted that gay relationships and marriage were legal and had no problems with non-Muslims having gay relationships, but they did not want their children to be taught about such matters.

    The Government’s view appears to be that while parents and places of worship are free to teach children what their religion says what they can and can’t do, children still need to be educated so they are able to fit into a liberal democracy which permits different kinds of sexual relationships.

    Is this a reasonable compromise, or a hopelessly confused one? If the Government wants to encourage tolerance towards such things as gay marriage, why is it actively encouraging the creation of more religious schools, at least some of which will foster intolerance towards alternative kind of relationships? And where does it leave children and young people growing up within hard-line religions who are gay, bi-sexual or trans themselves?

    There is, however, another argument which says that the Government is trying to do too much too quickly and stirring up resentment even among normally liberal and tolerant people. Is there really a need for children as young as four to be taught these things? Isn’t it subjecting them to concepts they can’t really understand and as bad in its way as indoctrinating them about religion? Shouldn’t it be left until they are older and able to reason for themselves? Before anyone starts jumping up and down, I’m not saying I agree with this, but it is a view which lately I have been hearing surprisingly frequently.

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    1. Better for everyone if children are taught about the various manfestations and variaties of human (about inclusivity and not sexual mechanics) before the godly tell them that homosexuals lesbians cross dressers and transexuals are sinners deserving of eternal hell fire persecution.

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