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Last Updated: Monday, 26 April, 2004, 09:02 GMT 10:02 UK
Is Archbishop right to speak out against the government?

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has criticised the government over its case for war in Iraq and a loss of trust in the political system.

During a sermon on Christian obedience, Dr Williams said there had been facts presented by the government which it emerged were anything but certain.

The Archbishop's remarks were addressed to the congregation at St Benet's Church in Cambridge.

Downing Street said Dr Williams' views on the war were already well known.

Do you agree with the Archbishop's views? Is he right to speak out about the government? Have you lost your trust in politics? Send us your views.


This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of the opinion we have received:

If the government can talk about gay unions why can't the church talk about government policy?
James Clarke, UK

If the government can talk about gay unions why can't the church talk about government policy? After all our head of state is still head of the church.
James Clarke, UK

Yes - we need people like Rowan Williams to speak out against the way in which the government not only ignored, but attacked public opinion that opposed the war. I think his comments before, during and after the war were balanced and justified. I have no trust in the politicians today - I have a 2001 letter from Tony Blair promising that the government had no plans to introduce top up fees. I don't think I can believe anything he says any more. Mr Blair's a Christian - perhaps an archbishop can make him listen?
Peter, London, UK

Of course he is, anyone should have the right to voice their opinion.
David, Edinburgh

People of Europe and the USA should be grateful to God for what they've got. Consider us here whose governments lie daily, steal our wealth, and we can do nothing about it, because, even our democratic rights have been stolen.
Emma Maduabuchi, Nigeria

Surely this is one of his roles as a spiritual leader?
Catherine Dyer, UK

The Archbishop is expressing what many people feel. Surely this is one of his roles as a spiritual leader? Personally, I am confused and not a little frightened at the lack of ability and integrity in our politicians.
Catherine Dyer, UK

I think he should sort out more important questions within the Church first such as the Gay/Lesbian situation before getting involved in politics. Why should we take note of an institution that gives such mixed messages and then goes on to criticise the Government for doing the same?
Mike, London

Bush, and to a lesser extent Blair, invaded Iraq not merely because of their political but also because of their religious beliefs. In this country we often hear calls for more public condemnation by Muslim leaders of those identified as 'the enemy' for misinterpreting true Islam. How ironic that the spiritual head of the Church of England now criticises our leadership for similarly skewing Christianity to suit its purposes.
Graeme, London, UK

He speaks not only for the Christian faith but for those of us who still believe in truth and honesty!!
Nick Reede, Nottingham, UK

Christians may disagree and some Christians may find the comments of other Christians embarrassing or naive at times. However the idea that it is possible to separate individual belief from one's involvement in society shows a real misunderstanding of the Christian faith.
Mark, Warwickshire

Both Tony Blair and George Bush are public Christians, whose actions bear on the credibility of our faith
Johan Maurer, Birmingham UK/Portland OR USA

The war was deceitfully promoted, and was begun and continues in unrighteousness. Both Tony Blair and George Bush are public Christians, whose actions bear on the credibility of our faith. Rowan Williams is right to call them/us to a higher standard.
Johan Maurer, Birmingham UK/Portland OR USA

It is the right of every individual to express their opinions. If you don't like it then don't listen.
Henry Hughes, Leeds, England

And all along I was under the mistaken impression that we had separation of church and state!
Richard, Swansea, Wales

The Bishop of Sheffield says the Government should say,"...we got it wrong" When did the Church of England ever admit to the wrongs committed by them over the centuries?
Allan (ex pat. C of E), British Columbia. Canada.

If an Archbishop has nothing to say on decisions to prosecute war, one of the most morally difficult areas any government faces, what would he be there for?
Jonathan, Edinburgh, Scotland

I thought religious leaders were meant to involve themselves only in matters spiritual
Alan, Bradford, West Yorks

I thought religious leaders were meant to involve themselves only in matters spiritual. However, seeing as so many wars and terrorist atrocities are perpetrated in the name of 'religion', maybe he is more than qualified to vent his spleen. Religion eh? Wouldn't the world be a better place without it!
Alan, Bradford, West Yorks

While we are in a democratic state I think the majority of us would feel that Tony Blair has not been honest and open and that he has done his best to win round public opinion by deliberately misleading us in published documents, briefings and WMD "facts". Tony Blair has not acted ethically, the Archbishop has.
Alan, Reading

Of course the Archbishop is entitled to his say, just the same as anyone else. Whether we agree with him or not, we cannot fall into the trap of assuming he is right simply because he is member of the clergy. He has to be prepared to be ignored along with everyone else too.
Chris, UK

It seems ironic that that the archbishop should claim Christians are overly concerned with truth when in fact they are more than happy to take the existence of some super being and a prophet on faith, not evidence and truth.
Brian, London, England

I believe the Archbishop is right to express his disquiet about the war
Dr. H. Windsor, Hanworth, Middlesex

I believe the Archbishop is right to express his disquiet about the war which seems to have opened a frightening Pandora's Box. However, I am not sure that he was right to extrapolate this to the question of trust in the government. The alternative to this government is too ghastly to contemplate.
Dr. H. Windsor, Hanworth, Middlesex

Politics, religion, ways of living your life, they are all very closely inter-twined and there will always be differing views, the question ought to be if the politicians are Christians, which most claim to be, then how can they morally justify some of the decisions that they have made. This is why we need to have the Archbishop sticking his oar in, and it is as important that he does as the rest of do, or ought to do.
Julian, London

The conflict in Iraq and the Middle East in general is based on Religion, its not helpful for another Religious leader to get involved, however it is a great thing and right that he and we can, as this is a free country┐unlike so many.
Colin, London

I don't agree with Dr Williams' views but I believe in his right and his duty to speak what he believes to be the truth. I thought that was part of his job.
Brian, Newhaven, UK

The people who bleat about the church keeping out of politics are usually the ones who criticise the church for failing to speak out on issues. The whole idea about Christianity (and other world faiths for that matter) is about how we live our lives in this world, corporately and individually.
John Thompson, Southport, UK

Of course - and a very brave man he is too. Indeed, it is his duty to do so because we must not forget that so many innocent lives have been lost or ruined by the untruths that define this war.
UE, UK/Nigeria

Everyone's politics are influenced by their beliefs, whether atheist or born-again Christian. Dr. Williams' politics are obviously influenced by his beliefs and he is honest enough to admit it.
Matt, Birmingham, UK

Why do you have to be an Archbishop to get such a obvious criticism heard?
Ed, Aberdeen, Scotland

The Archbishop is entitled to his views just like everyone else. What he should not be entitled to do, however, is to abuse his position to criticise government
Jo, Kent

Dr. Williams has every right to enter into dialogue on the life of society
Paul, Alton, UK
The comments reported are a small part of a long and closely argued sermon. The sermon is centred around what obedience means, how it can be best carried out and what commands obedience and respect. He suggests the search for truth is one element of that which commands obedience. Dr. Williams has every right to enter into dialogue on the life of society, that's one of the purposes of preaching, since it is about the application of faith to life. To say archbishops should not concern themselves with politics is to say Christians should not concern themselves with life. Christianity is a holistic faith, believing nothing is outside the concern of God, and so nothing is outside the concern of the preacher.
Paul, Alton, UK

Absolutely. It is not normally the church's job to dictate policy to the government, but when a government is so obviously mistaken as in this case, it is the business of anyone who is in a position to make themselves heard to point it out to any who may still be unaware of it. The church's role as guardian of moral values also obliges it to condemn evil, not least when perpetrated in the name of the British people.
Chris Weddle, Bonn, Germany

I am not a Christian or of any religion but I applaud the Archbishop's comment. It is about time someone in a high profile position (be it religiously or not) voiced the opinion of the majority.
Sam Shaw, Edinburgh, UK

How boring. There are already more than enough tedious liberals whining about Iraq. He should stick to what he does best, whatever that is.
Anthony Jones, UK

Blessed are the peace makers? Isn't he just doing his job in that quiet hand-wringing way beloved of The Church?
Nestor, London, UK

The Archbishop should keep out of politics and concern himself with the collapse of the Christian faith - a collapse, for what it's worth, he appears to be encouraging.
Jack Kincaid, London, UK

Dr Williams' job is of course to offer moral guidance
Sian, London, UK

Hang on - isn't Mr Blair a religious man, and in the C of E? Dr Williams' job is of course to offer moral guidance to his flock, and I find the way Blair dismisses the advice of his 'spiritual leader' very worrying indeed.
Sian, London, UK

Of course the Archbishop, and the church as a whole, has the right (and duty) to engage in issues of this nature. I fail to understand how Rowan can be criticised for 'speaking out', during a sermon, in a church.
Tim Clark, London

While the Archbishop may mean well, he is only armed with media information, the same as the rest of us. Why should his view be important. Religion after all is the problem in the first place. Keep religion out of politics.
Ales King, Dundee, Scotland

If Dr Williams rates himself as a 'thinker' then perhaps he ought to reconsider his vocation.
David, Leicester, UK

The archbishop is free to say whatever he wants - the bigger question is does anyone care what he thinks. Like many people the Church of England is a complete irrelevance to me. Note that we have at least voted in the politicians who made the Iraq decisions - as opposed to the archaic church structure.
Nick, UK

Christian leaders have a duty to highlight injustice
Matt, London, UK

The Archbishop is spot-on, just as he was spot-on in criticising this unjust war (along with the Pope). Christian leaders have a duty to highlight injustice - however powerful the perpetrators are.
Matt, London, UK

Personally, I would say that all spiritual leaders have a duty to speak out about current affairs. If an Imam was to do this however in Britain or continental Europe, all hell would break loose and the poor cleric would be labelled as an extremist and a danger to society!
M. Dwyer, NL

It's the view of many people in the UK that the Government and Prime Minister in particular entered this war rashly and without due consideration for the predictable consequences. Moreover the opposition parties have been stunningly toothless in providing any serious critique of the Governments conduct. Under such circumstances we should be thankful that the Archbishop at least is prepared to stand up and represent the views of much of the population.
Alan M, Ascot, U.K.

Let him say what he wants, just so long as politicians have an equal right to criticise the Church whenever they want to.
John, England

As an agnostic I am sick of unelected 'religious leaders' having their every utterance splashed across the front pages
Chris Lonie, London, UK

As an agnostic I am sick and tired of unelected 'religious leaders' having their every utterance splashed across the front pages of newspapers. Their views, while undoubtedly heartfelt, have no more relevance than those of any other individual. All religions are finding the current climate a trying time; making patently political statements - arguably an abuse of power - can hardly help this state of affairs.
Chris Lonie, London, UK

Of course he's right! Dr Williams' responsibility is to provide a moral compass for the Anglican Church. Blair's government is not concerned with morals, merely power and re-election.
Al, London, UK

He DARED to speak out against Our Leader. My God, what is the world coming to?
Ray, UK

Yes. Without a doubt. This government wants to portray itself as motivated by Christian values. Yet it is motivated entirely by greed. The leader of the world's Anglicans needs to forcibly put that myth to rest.
Philip Le Roux, Hampshire England

Yes, surely his conscience is answerable to a higher force than even Mr. Tony Blair.
Enjay, Berkshire UK

No points for stating the bleeding obvious.
Andy Gaffney, Livingston, UK

It's absolutely right that our religious leaders make their views on the war known to the government, British public and especially to the international community. His views coincide with the majority view of the British people. We have lost our trust in the political system and in our Prime Minister. In fact, I wish The Archbishop would speak out more often.
Mandy Leith, Bristol

Some people genuinely live by their religion, and others just use it as justification for their actions
Roger, UK

It's refreshing to see the leader of the Anglican Church condemning a war started by two self-professed Christians (GWB being of the "born again" variety!). Some people genuinely live by their religion, and others just use it as justification for their actions.
Roger, UK

Anybody with half a brain cell knows that Christianity (and all other religion) is total drivel so what right has this gullible old man in a funny hat got to criticise anybody or any institution? If it weren't for religion the whole of the Middle East's problems would be solved immediately.
Andy, Salisbury, UK

What Dr Williams said is true. But being a religious figure does not mean that you are not entitled to express your political opinion. You don't need a genius to tell you that the government mishandled 'sexed up' this war.
Said, Manchester UK

I don't see what the problem is? Dr. Williams is simply telling the truth. Perhaps the government should try the same approach.
Robin, Birmingham, UK

Of course he's right to speak out when the government is wrong. I doubt that the government would refrain from speaking out against him if they disagreed! Nor would they avoid basking in the Archbishop's praise, assuming any was forthcoming.
Sophy, Cambridge, UK

This loss of faith is a big threat to our way of life and should be taken very seriously indeed
Helen, Exeter, UK

Yes, I do think he is right to speak out. He was not expressing his opinions on the war itself, rather the more worrying loss of faith in the government by the electorate, and ultimately the loss of faith in democracy itself. This loss of faith is a big threat to our way of life and should be taken very seriously indeed.
Helen, Exeter, UK

As said You are with us or without us. Which I see does not only affect us here in the USA but has spread. If you are not with them you are anti this and anti that and considered everything in the book as a traitor. But isn't it time someone has the guts to stand up for what is right instead of agreeing to something that has been wrong since the beginning.
Marie, USA

It's all very well to say that Dr Williams's views are well known, but does the government actually have any answer to his criticisms? I think not. That is why ordinary members of the public like myself who feel betrayed by this government will be so grateful that he has spoken out on our behalf.
CK Yoe, London, UK

Of course he is right to speak his mind. If it takes somebody in his position to make the current batch of politicians of all parties to sit up and take notice then so be it. The populous are thoroughly fed up with the current brand of politics riddled with spin and half truths, time for a return to traditional values.
Terry, Epsom, England

I think the Archbishops should not concern themselves with politics
Bill, Reading, UK

I think the Archbishops should not concern themselves with politics. They have more than enough problems of their own making. Surely Iraq should be the least of Dr Rowan's problem!
Bill, Reading, UK

The Archbishop of Canterbury is there to provide moral and spiritual leadership. Sadly, all this one does is listen to the latest fashionable views and then dress then up in "God talk" so people can gush at how trendy his views are. As an active member of the Church of England, I can only cringe whenever the Archbishop opens his mouth.
Graham, Andover, England

Of course he has a right to speak his mind, it's still a country of free speech or is it?
Rob H, Nottingham

One of the main roles of the Church is to provide moral guidance
James Lee, London

One of the main roles of the Church is to provide moral guidance. It is therefore to be expected that they might disagree with our current, morally-bankrupt government. I am an atheist, but Dr Williams ability to speak out suggests to me that there is still a very valid place in our society for the Church of England.
James Lee, London

He has as much right to voice his opinions as anyone else. It's supposed to be a free country after all (ha!).
Andrew, Bristol, UK

Yes, I'm in accord with the Archbishop's view. He has, after all, merely voiced what the opinion polls indicate most of us have been thinking for some time.
Chris Hunter, Bedford, UK

Yes, yes, and I have not lost my trust in politics, only the current breed of politicians.
John, UK

It is the right and duty of everyone to speak out if they think that the government is doing something wrong.
Richard Read, London, UK

It will be a sad day when an Archbishop of Canterbury is not prepared to speak out
David, London

It will be a sad day when an Archbishop of Canterbury is not prepared to speak out about anything he judges important enough to warrant public comment. If he hadn't spoken correctly on this issue, it would have dented his own reputation and authority. The only message to the Archbishop should be 'keep talking', particularly if it relates to the prevailing amoral approach that many politicians take towards issues of integrity and expedient presentation.
David, London

I think more people in the Church should make their views known about world events and lack of morals in our government.
Peggy Marshall, Loughton, Essex

It is the church that is out of touch! When the church is as inclusive as the major political parties (giving the Tories the benefit of the doubt) then I will start to listen to them and not before.
Gary Gatter, London

NO, if it wasn't for religion we wouldn't have the majority of the wars fought across the world that we do, Dr Williams would be better suited trying to prove that the things he and people like him preach about actually existed instead of airing his own political views.
Neil Price, UK

The Archbishop of Canterbury has the same right as anyone else to voice his views
Ian, Milton Keynes, UK

The Archbishop of Canterbury has the same right as anyone else to voice his views, it just happens that he can do it more publicly. The British political system allows for spiritual views by virtue of the Lords Spiritual sitting in the House of Lords. Should it be decided to separate Church and State, then the Archbishop would still be free to speak. There will be those who say that religion and politics should not be mixed, but surely one's religious or non-religious views must guide and mould every aspect of one's life.
Ian, Milton Keynes, UK

Yes, he is right to speak out.
Revd Kenneth Kenrick, Stockport

He may or may not be right but like any other individuals he is entitled to his opinions. What he is not entitled to is the expectation that his comments carry more weight than anyone else's.
Chris, Brighton, UK

Everyone has a right to speak out against the Government, and in my opinion everyone has a need to speak out against this Government.
Nick, Kent

Yes he's right. The government mislead the country about the reasons for going to war. It's good to be reminded, so that Downing Street can't sit back and let the incident be forgotten.
Julian, London UK




SEE ALSO:
Archbishop's anti-war message
26 Dec 02  |  Wales


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