How would you describe your identity and beliefs in terms of religion?
I would describe myself as not having any beliefs. I wouldn’t say I am an Atheist, that’s a strong word, but growing up I haven’t followed any religion. I always thought that maybe I like the idea of certain beliefs, but I don’t follow any of them. So, I think there are lots of things in people’s lives that bring them to believe. For instance, a friend of mine’s father was running, fell to the ground, and in a state of shock and heard ‘believe in me’, and for them, it is going to church… but for me it is outrageous to follow anything that are to me like stories… and I have faith in things, but not necessarily in a particular religion. I regard myself as an Agnostic.
I wasn’t brought up in any religion. My grandmothers were baptised but my mum decided that if I wanted to be I had to make that decision, which should come from me when I was older. Then I decided it was not for me. I went to church when I was younger for things like guides. I don’t have any strong hatred towards that kind of thing, but I never felt connected to it.
Is GB an equal and tolerant society, especially in relation to religion and belief?
In some respects, Great Britain is a tolerant and equal society in relation to religion and belief. People have the right to have whatever religion they want and that makes them equal, but I think there are some people who don’t tolerate, I don’t know how to word this, I can’t think of the word, other people’s beliefs. I think there are still lots of prejudices in modern society. There are prejudices against Muslims and people like that, they come from things like immigration. I am not part of that prejudice, but some people struggle to be equal and there are many narrow-minded people in our society.
I think being an Agnostic is easier probably than having a strong belief in this society. I don’t really know lots of people who have strong beliefs. I think it is probably easier sometimes, maybe, to have non beliefs. I haven’t come across any struggles, but as I said, I am not a prejudiced person myself. If I thought very strongly I would probably face some prejudice myself.
It is hard because there are no structures or roles which I have to follow as an Agnostic… I think, I kind of have realistic views of all faiths… that can be my contribution. As I know, a lot of people have very strong views about their own faiths and they become isolated and narrow minded, and I think I can incorporate more different views and opinions in my day to day life, in different situations and scenarios. I don’t know if this is the right thing to say!
I don’t want to come across as naïve or that I don’t have any opinions. I think probably certain things don’t crop up in the media with regard to having to police things… we hear about the same problems all the time. I suppose only extremist views get attention. I think public authorities do their best at the moment. I think there is a lack of knowledge for a lot of people. One of my exes wanted to know everything that was going on politically and he used to watch horrible things, because he didn’t want to be naïve. I don’t think there is enough knowledge about how public authorities deal with the situation and the media don’t help much anyway.
How do you feel about faith schools?
I think the structure certainly worked for me. My parents did their upmost in my education, but obviously it is down to each individual family. My brother, who is older, got bad grades and he sought help elsewhere, with his teachers. They taught him at lunch time and he improved significantly. I think the system works well, it is left to parents… Maybe it is ok to be told off at times, because you are not necessarily pushing yourself! I don’t think the model needs big changes. My mum always pushed me to get English at A level, just in case… She pushed me to get English, just in case. I don’t think children always know what is best for them.
I didn’t know some faith schools are funded by taxpayers. I never went to religious schools. I think integration is very important. I went to a state school. It prepares you for day to day life. I was really interested in RE when I was younger. I have good memories of it, but I don’t remember anything, which is very bad. But I remember I enjoyed it then. It would have been interesting to have all different views in the class and not only one side, which was not exactly like brainwashing, but you wouldn’t get necessarily all different points of view.
Should religious businesses be allowed exemptions from discrimination law?
I feel I am quite a liberal person and every person should be entitled to have their sexual orientation recognised, but at the same time that couple was running their own business… I wouldn’t want to stay there if I were part of the gay couple. I would stay somewhere else. I think it is an age difference… It is very modern, we live in a liberal society at the moment and for people my age, sexuality is not an issue. I grow in a society where it is nice to be who you are, and of course other people may not be comfortable. I don’t know if the decision was the right decision… it was their business, but in terms of my belief, I would say it was right, but in business terms, they have the right to run it.
Is living in a democracy a positive thing?
Democracy is a good thing. Places without democracy scare me. I think we are very lucky.
Do you feel that you have a duty to vote?
I have never ever voted, because I have always felt I didn’t have much to contribute, but I have come to realise it should be a much bigger deal in schools. I have never been hugely interested in Politics, but I realise this is a very naïve thing to say, as it affects your whole life. So, I am becoming aware of the voting system and we need to do more research. Some of my friends have gone to the polling station, spoiling the vote, just to make a point…. Have they really contributed? I don’t know!
I now feel morally compelled to vote. It comes with age, because I realise what people have sacrificed to get this right. My mum is the same. She never voted, but then I tell her ‘this is really bad’. People died for the right to vote. It is very bad, we need to vote.
Is it hard for some people to participate in our democracy?
I think there are probably barriers for some people. The majority rule is good, when it came to the referendum, I was scared about what the result was going to be… an independent Scotland… it can segregate certain minorities which feel they won’t have their say.
Is it a problem that members of the House of Lords aren’t elected?
It doesn’t matter that the members of the HofL have not been elected. They have been appointed on the grounds of their merits.
How do you feel about bishops in the House of Lords?
Bishops in the HofL? It is weird to me that in a modern society, with so many different beliefs, we only have bishops of the CofE in Parliament. I know there is moral value that comes from Christianity, which is good, but I don’t think they necessarily speak for everybody.
Should Parliament have the final say in making law? Should judges be able to strike down laws?
I have never thought about the relationship between Parliament and the judiciary, but it strikes me that their views (judiciary) should be acknowledged. I don’t know if they should have power to strike down legislation, to be honest. This is a tricky question.
How do you feel about devolution?
I like that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have a degree of autonomy. I think they bring a lot to the table, and I don’t want to lose their contribution. I am happy for them to make certain decisions in some areas, but I like they are part of the UK. I don’t understand why London has to be the epicentre. I am 100% comfortable with devolution.
Are your beliefs respected by public authorities?
I think, because we don’t have strong opinions on religion, it is not like asking the same question to Christians. There is not a lot of it which is shared… unfortunately… that sounds unworthy… I don’t understand labels. I don’t get it. I don’t ever call myself an Agnostic.
Are our judges sufficiently independent?
My perception is that our judiciary are independent. I trust our judges. I have never had to go to the court, but if I had to go, I feel they would treat me fairly.
Do you feel that your views are represented in public life?
I have never felt left out as an Agnostic. I think with the path I have decided to go down, acting and performing, it is almost better to be Agnostic, because there are so many, many religions…
How should we respond to challenges to freedom of expression?
I certainly think that offending people must be definitely taken into account. There must be some censorship to an extent. It is common sense. I am happy and proud to have freedom of speech, but there are times in which it can be offensive. It is down to that particular person, who must know the boundaries… but not everybody does. I am not talking about the legal domain though. From a legal point of view, if you are going to find something offensive don’t go and watch it, but that play must go ahead. There are always going to be conflicts and arguments, but that does not mean… it is important that people have their right to voice their opinions. So, the limits are social, not legal. The legal dimension only comes when there are dangers or threats.
It is important to you always to act within the state law?
I have never thought of a scenario in which I have felt morally bound to breach the law. I can imagine there may be times in which I could feel it… I am on a plane, and then we discover… I feel strongly about things like taxes… I am waitress… why does it have to be taxed? I could think… I don’t feel very strongly about this now, but if I did, maybe there may be a time in which I would feel bound to infringe the law. Not now really.
Do you feel that you have a duty to speak out on behalf of others?
I don’t feel I have the power to speak on behalf of the vulnerable of our society. Not that I wouldn’t. I feel very willing… but I don’t think I have a daily duty. I have done it at times, being part of charities, etc… Acting for homeless people and things like that. I wondered how I could maximise my skills to help other people. As I love cooking, I thought I could do that and prepare some soup. I would love to do more, but I think in our society we get lots of requests by people… I think I am good at the personal level, on a one to one basis.
Is the Rule of Law applied equally? Do some groups receive preferential or prejudicial treatment?
I don’t think everyone is on an equal footing in Great Britain. The status in society… celebrity status and things like that. There is no way people on an equal footing, and when it comes to religion, I think there may be some sort of discrimination, just because certain people’s perception of religion is distorted and there can be discrimination. I have never come across that myself. So, it is difficult to say, but I guess there is discrimination. It is a shame.
How do you feel about the increase in police powers over the last 15 year or so?
The police can become invasive. They could be a sort of a threat, but in some scenarios, they can be necessary… I feel I am sitting on the fence in this interview all the time, but it is probably because I am still making up my mind.
Are there any legal changes you would like to see?
Minimum contract hours… minimum wage… I would like to see those changed…. Something else? Those come to my mind.
Is there anything which you would like to add?
This has been a very thought-provoking interview, but I am a very indecisive person and I haven’t had enough life experience, I guess. I don’t have strong views about many matters so far.
You haven’t covered the new religions which are coming up, like Scientology and things like that… and how they affect people. They will become increasingly important.
Grace is currently working in the hospitality industry but also has a modelling career, having completed a university degree in Performing Arts. She is very interested in music, theatre, film and comedy and loves to cook.