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article imageBritish secularists accused of ‘New Atheist witch hunt’

By Andrew John     Sep 14, 2010 in World
Secularists in the UK have been accused of conducting a “New Atheist witch hunt” against Pope Benedict XVI, who is due in the country for a four-day state visit later this week.
The rebuke has come from Claire Fox, director and founder of the UK think tank the Institute of Ideas, speaking at the launch of a series of debates on religion as part of the organization’s annual festival.
“Ms Fox accused anti-visit campaigners of making ‘hysterical, oft-repeated arguments’ such as that the Pope is ‘leader of the world’s largest paedophile ring’,” says the Christian think tank Ekklesia today.
It quotes Fox as saying: “There are many reasons to criticize religious leaders, and plenty are coming from within the church itself, but secularists really should take the opportunity to remind themselves of the Enlightenment values they claim to stand for – such as tolerance, freedom of thought and conscience and a human being as a rational subject – rather than focusing on what they hate about the church and, by extension, Catholics.”
Her words are aimed chiefly at the Protest the Pope campaign, which is due to brief the press today at 3 p.m. UK time, to further outline its protest plans and its charges against the Pope – formerly known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – days before he is due to visit the country amid much controversy, not least of which has been generated by the costs of the visit, which are having to be stumped up by the British taxpayer.
Speaking in advance of the press conference, Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “The cost of this visit to the taxpayer will run into tens of millions of pounds, at a time when the government is about to announce 25 percent cuts in public spending. If the Pope really cared about poverty – and these government cuts will hurt the poorest in our society – he would offer to pay his own way from his church’s fantastic wealth.”
More about Pope Benedict, Clerical child abuse, Institute ideas, Claire fox, Terry sanderson
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