Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Baroness Warsi becomes Minister for Faith and Communites

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Baroness Warsi, no great fan of secularism, has been made
Minister for Faith and Communities
Well, it's been an interesting morning for aficionados of cabinet reshuffles. Personally I started off the morning suggesting on Twitter that a switcharound in government is a dull affair, while noting the news that Baroness Warsi had been removed from her role as Chair of the Conservative Party.

You'll probably remember that earlier this year Warsi used a visit to the Vatican to condemn secularism, likening its advocates to supporters of totalitarianism, having previously declared that the Coalition was a government that would "Do God", so from the perspective of a secular magazine it was hard not to welcome that news that she would no longer be a member of the government.

But wait. Not long after greeting her departure, we were hit with the news that the Baroness would in fact be moving into a new role – as Minister for Faith and Communities. It's a department where she'll join another enemy of secularism, the Secretary of State for Communities Eric Pickles, and Warsi's appointment suggests that the remaining years of the Coalition could be characterised by continuing hostility to secularism. For a sense of how the government has approached such issues during its first two years, take a look at my piece from the magazine earlier this year, in which I looked in more detail at its baffling fight against secular principles.

And as if Warsi's new role didn't make it a bad enough morning for rationalism, we also learned that the former Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, a man who favours restrictions to abortion rights and NHS funding for homeopathy, is being promoted to Health Secretary.

Still, as the British Humanist Association's Chief Executive Andrew Copson has pointed out, at least the news should keep us occupied.

Update, 13:30  – another appointment worth noting is Maria Miller as Minister for Women and Equalities, who has a consistent record of opposing reproductive choice in Parliament.
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