24 December 2008

Neutrality in the Queen's Christmas speech

In an earlier blog entry (12 November 2008), I looked at the way the Queen’s speech at the state opening of parliament each year is a model of how to read out someone else’s words (i.e. the government’s legislative plans for the coming year) with complete neutrality.

Although her annual broadcast to the Commonwealth on Christmas day is supposed to be her words to people in the UK and the British Commonwealth, she has to solve a rather different problem of displaying neutrality – not between different political parties, but between different religions.

As head of the Church of England, she's obviously free, and perhaps even obliged, to be open about her own Christian faith in her Christmas message, but sections aimed at believers in other religions have become a regular feature in recent years, as is illustrated by the following three extracts:

"There may be an instinct in all of us to help those in distress, but in many cases I believe this has been inspired by religious faith. Christianity is not the only religion to teach its followers to help others and to treat your neighbour as you would want to be treated yourself. 

It has been clear that in the course of this year relief workers and financial support have come from members of every faith and from every corner of the world.

"It is worth bearing in mind that all of our faith communities encourage the bridging of that divide. The wisdom and experience of the great religions point to the need to nurture and guide the young, and to encourage respect for the elderly…. The scriptures and traditions of the other faiths enshrine the same fundamental guidance. It is very easy to concentrate on the differences between the religious faiths and to forget what they have in common."

"All the great religious teachings of the world press home the message that everyone has a responsibility to care for the vulnerable."

You can inspect the whole scripts of these and ones going back to 1996 by clicking on the title above. Or you can click here to see her in action last year, or here (after 3.00 p.m. UK time on 25 December) to check whether she has any more religious neutrality in store for us this year.

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