Tony Blair

Tony Blair

Editor’s Note: Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007, is founder and patron of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. He gave a speech in Italy on Friday on why the protection of religious freedom should be a priority for all democracies.

By Tony Blair, Special to CNN

1. DO have democracy-friendly religion and religion-friendly democracies.

2. DON’T think you understand democracy if you think it’s only about elections: it’s about a culture and mindset which includes freedom of thought, freedom of expression, political and religious pluralism, and human rights.

3. DO maintain equality of treatment for different religions within the law as a core element of the secular state.

4. DON’T duck difficult conflicts involving religious and secular ideas: discuss them openly.

5. DON’T rush to legislation to solve religious conflict; instead seek first to resolve it by discussion and accommodations.

6. DON’T allow religious schools to opt out of the same national standards and core curriculum that you expect of everyone else.

7. DO listen to religious voices on social, political and economic issues, and allow people to justify their views on explicitly religious grounds if they want.

8. DO insist on religious leaders making their case by reasoned argument not by bald assertion or authoritarian claims. Insist on that for atheists and secular leaders too.

9. DO NOT allow religious voices to have dominance in the public sphere if they cannot achieve majority support through democratic means.

10. DO ensure, whether the overwhelming democratic choice is either an atheist state or one dominant religion, that the voices of religious minorities and those who have no faith are protected.

Remember that none of us are qualified to state with certainty the will of God – so humility, openness to others, and interfaith dialogue are all essential for a healthy society.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tony Blair.

Credit to: The Editors – CNN Belief Blog

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