Tony Blair appeals for the world’s children to be taught respect for all religions. But should they not be taught to respect the more general right of others to free expression and association?

Under the auspices of his Faith Foundation Tony Blair has appealed for the children of the world to be taught in school respect for all religions. This appeal is questionable in many ways. An objective treatment of all religions would reveal their negative features which in many cases attracts valid criticism. For instance, why do so many denominations exclude women from their priesthoods and justify the patriarchal dominance men over women? There is a danger that encouraging respect will lead to an ignoring of the negative features of religions and a lack of objectivity in education on the issue. Indeed in the work of the Tony Blair Foundation there is only one form of one religious denomination that comes in for regular criticism.

Respect for the right of people to hold different beliefs and associate on the basis of them should be a value taught in all schools – but this should not be focused exclusively on faith. By focusing on religious differences is not Tony Blair contributing to an excessive focus upon, and privileging of, this one sphere of human activity? Pleas for tolerance should be much wider than those just based on religion. To be fair there are sections of his latest article that refer to the need to foster understanding across barriers of religion ‘and belief’ but the dominant focus is on religious difference.

Tony Blair outlines his views at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-29553001

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