Hello! What’s your name and your current position?
Peter Fisher MBE, retired.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I was a civil servant in the Ministry of Justice and its predecessors 1973-2011. My last role was advising the Judge Advocate General in connection with the military justice system, during its major overhaul; the Court Martial is administratively rather like the Crown Court but with some added complications.
Previously I managed various tribunals, latterly the Immigration Appeal Tribunal. I am not legally qualified – but one picks up a bit of law in 40 years.
Secularism as a concept is often misunderstood. If you had to explain it to someone in your own words, what would you say?
Secularism is about fairness and impartiality. It is about citizens with religious beliefs having their say and a fair share of influence over national and political life, but not having excessive and disproportionate power. In the UK it is also about bringing to an end the traditionally entrenched power of one religion over and above other strands of belief or non-belief.
What’s the most common misconception that you come across about secularism?
The notion that secularists want to ban religions, or discriminate unfairly against religious people. This is, of course, completely false.
Why do you think secularism is important?
Unfair religious privilege is one problem which is capable of being solved completely, unlike many human problems, and after two centuries of struggle we are most of the way there. What could be more important than finishing the job?
As a secularist, what concerns you the most?
The treatment of children. It is distressing to see children being manipulated, brainwashed, discriminated against, and even mutilated and abused, by adults under the guise of religion. Children need and deserve the protection of the law, but too often they do not get it.
Anything else you want to say while you’re in the spotlight?
In a democratic society, it is an extraordinary phenomenon that religious doctrines which are supported by only a tiny percentage of the population nevertheless have still maintained a high level of political traction in Parliament. I think we are close to the tipping point where that tradition comes to an end. This year in both the UK and Ireland we have seen the opinions of religious leaders listened to with respect, and then overridden by huge majorities and widespread public support. A promising note for the future.
Peter Fisher recently initiated a challenge to abolish the religious element of ceremonies to mark the start of the legal year. You can read more here.
Views expressed are not necessarily those of the LSS.
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