Ekklesia has some interesting and sensible remarks on where Williams went wrong in believing that all manner of religious traditions had to be treated as juristictions to be accommodated in the civil law. He created a false opposition between the authoritative monopoly of English law and the needs of religious communities. There is no need for any such legal marketplace to develop, since already through the Law of Arbitration the family commitments of minorities in the civic arena can operate distinctly from formal legal arrangements, at which point the civil code must protect all citizens regardless of creed. Moreover, most Islamic thinkers agree that where Muslims are in a minority they are obliged to follow the laws of that land.Comment by John Omani at Thinking Anglicans, which I gather were based, at least in part, on Simon Barrow's essay, "What lies beyond Lambeth's Sharia humiliation?"
Barrow has one of the best discussions overall that I've seen so far. I am intrigued, in part, by the following, which touches on some points I tried to make below:
What is being suggested, in short, is that because Christian exemptions alone cannot be justified readily in the publicly funded and publicly accessible sphere of a plural society, the right to have exemptions, exceptions and special rules applied should be extended to other (though apparently not all) religions, but not to non-religious communities of conviction – humanist groups, say. But such an approach would surely lead to confusion and unevenness. You clearly cannot establish more than one faith (even if you think establishment is a good idea, which I do not). And the alternative, some kind of vague multi-faith settlement (special rights for religious groups within a secular state), would surely undermine work towards good community relations and social cohesion as well as degrading the aspirations of equality before the law, fairness in public provision and common accountability in governance. It would ironically risk creating just the kind of “no go zones” that the Bishop of Rochester talked about.Simon Barrow, Ekklesia, 10 Feb. 2008.
The dangerous idea that the law is not only there to provide specific safeguards for us all but also to "send signals" about the concerns of specific groups is bound up in Dr Williams current dilemma....
What is happening here, it seems to me, is that the dilemmas of a withering and shrinking (if not dying) institution, the established Church of England, are being awkwardly welded onto the insecurities and threats experienced by other minority communities in order to produce a case for the preservation of one in conjunction with the granting of new influence to the other. This is misguided for all kinds of reasons.
Finally, thanks to lapinbizarre, is this excellent piece on the Williams row by none other than Christopher Hitchens at Slate.