I sent the following questions (stolen from Exiled Preacher) to the top two candidates for Bath in the 2010 general election, here are Don Foster’s answers:
1. Do you believe that Christian values have a beneficial role to play in contemporary society?
It is clear that the Christian ethos has a tremendously valuable role to play in society. The work undertaken by countless Christian groups, and those of many other religions, has come to be relied upon up and down the country, and it is important that charities and organisations are supported and recognised in their work.
2. Do you believe that marriage is for a man and a woman alone and that it is the duty of the State to do all it can to strengthen and encourage the institution of marriage?
The Liberal Democrats recognise the value of marriage, and I want to see fairer legal rights for all couples who live together in long term relationships.
But we must recognise that “families” come in many forms. The Lib Dems want to support families, whatever their make up, and we believe in a fair society parents should be supported so they can spend meaningful time with their children, and receive more help so, for example, childcare is more affordable.
I voted in favour of the 2006 Civil Partnerships Bill, because I believe it is important that gay and lesbian couples also have the opportunity to express their commitment to each other.
3. Do you accept that people who believe that heterosexual marriage is the only proper context for sexual expression should be free to say so without falling foul of the law or losing their jobs?
Yes. Liberal Democrats have consistently campaigned for free expression. We headed the successful campaign against over-broad laws on ‘inciting religious hatred’, which would have prevented criticism of religion, and also forced the government into abolishing the arcane laws of blasphemy and, most recently, sedition and criminal defamation.
4. Do you believe that churches should be free only to employ people whose beliefs and lifestyle are in accordance with Christian teaching?
As you are no doubt aware, this has been a topic of much discussion due to the recent passage of the Equality Bill through Parliament.
The Liberal Democrats recognise that some religious organisations need to have a religious test for employment, where being of a specific faith is a genuine and determining occupational requirement. Examples of these roles would be the clergy and heads of religious organisations. Some religious organisations are also allowed, under European law, to discriminate in employment in order to uphold their ethos. However, we believe that such discrimination must be justified on the basis of the job that is being done and the context of the role.
5. Do you believe that the law on abortion is too lax, too restrictive or about right?
I am seriously concerned about the rising number of abortions and the way in which abortion is increasingly, it appears, being used as a form of contraception. I have, and always would, strongly resist any calls for relaxing the abortion laws, and indeed have called for a wider public debate about abortion, given the body of scientific evidence that has emerged since David Steel’s Abortion Act of 1967.
While I feel the 24 week limit is about right, I would also support much more rigorous controls on abortion. However, I feel this must go hand in hand with far better sex education in schools. A few hours in the classroom, does little to combat the massive pressure that is put on our youngster from the media towards sexual relationships. In many European countries children are, from a relatively young age, made aware ‘how babies are made’, and consequently sex isn’t ‘sensationalised’ when the children grow into young adults. They have much lower rates of teenage pregnancy and less abortion. This is an approach we should be considering here.
6. Do you think that the law on euthanasia should be changed?
My position is that I am opposed to a change in the law surrounding euthanasia. I am concerned that changes in the law could lead to an increase in euthanasia, and even encourage involuntary or discriminatory euthanasia. I do believe that the terminally ill and incurably ill have the right to expect the same standard of care as anyone else and would therefore wish to see further improvements in medical treatment and pain control, as there is obviously a huge need for top quality palliative care for terminally ill patients. Adequate treatments for controlling and relieving pain are available, but not always applied.
7. Is British society broken, and if so how does your Party hope fix it?
No, but it is an unfair society and one with many problems that must be addressed (such as those caused by drug and alcohol abuse). In relation to “fairness”, I have attached a copy of our 4 main policies in the run up to the General Election, which I trust you find of interest. But for more information, please do visit www.libdems.org.uk to read our manifesto online.
Fabian Richter’s response to the same questions is here.