Dr Williams is in a hole. Everyone tells me he is a very intelligent man, but on this occasion he has made an elementary error in the way he thinks about law and society.
There can only be one law in a free democratic society. Everyone has to obey it. The only privilege that should extend to the government is the right to change the law, but only for future actions, not for past.
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Dr Williams has confused the need for toleration, with the need for a single law.
I am all in favour of extending toleration. It has worked well for the UK, which is a fairly tolerant society. There are many areas where we do not need to have an agreed single law or rule, where we can tolerate different practises.
We do not need to enforce a law to make people eat pork. We can allow people with religious objections to avoid it. Nor should we enforce a law to prevent others eating pork who have no objections to doing so.
We should not enforce a law to make all women appear in public with a head scarf, as many of us do not believe such clothing is necessary. Nor should we pass a law saying women must not appear in public in a headscarf, as some women would like to for religious reasons, and some for fashion.
A majority of motorists today think driving at 80 mph on a motorway is a safe thing to do. A minority do not, and accordingly observe the speed limit. You could say it is inevitable that we need a law which allows the majority to practise their belilef that driving at 80 mph is safe.
However, we could not move from a law which says 70 mph is the maximum to a law which says 70 mph is the maximum if that is your belief, but 80 mph is the law if you are not a 70 believer. The police need to know which is the law for all, so they can enforce it fairly. That is why our system is based on people arguing and lobbying for changes to the law, and on elected officials who have to gauge where the majority and commonsense lies and change the law accordingly.
Dr Williams should withdraw his silly idea, and understand the important distinction between toleration, which is good, and the need for a single law, which is essential. The Archbishop and the Anglican Church should help those of us who want less law – and therefore more tolerance – to identify the further areas where we can relax and remove the need to boss people about. That would get him out of the large hole he has dug himself into.