Tolerating the intolerant in the moral maze

On BBC Radio’s Moral Maze this week, we tackled the issue behind the controversy in Birmingham where mainly Muslim parents have been picketing a primary school in protest at its policy of teaching children about gay families. The city council has now applied for a permanent ban on protests at the school gates. The parents have been accused of bigotry and intolerance towards gay people; the school has been accused of bigotry and intolerance towards people with traditional religious attitudes.

The row illustrates a sharp dilemma for a liberal society: to what extent should it tolerate attitudes of which it may disapprove? Where is such a society to draw the line between the articulation of its core cultural values and the rights of parents to resist those values being imposed upon their children? Who is to say what those core values are? Can secular liberalism define our common values, or is secular liberalism itself a kind of faith which is as intolerant of difference as any organised religion?

To discuss these issues I was joined by fellow panellists Anne McElvoy, Andrew Doyle and Mona Siddiqui. Our witnesses were Imam Assad Zaman, educational lecturer Dr Anna Carlile, Director of Advocacy for the Evangelical Alliance Dr David Landrum, and lecturer in political theory Dr Stephen De Wijze. You can listen to the show here.

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