Even though he's wrong in this case he raises interesting issues
1. I'm not sure he does. Laws against offending the religious were already being proposed by Government before he supported them. Islamists have been demanding a greater role for Sharia within Muslim communities for some time. I don't honestly think that either of those issues were raised or really advanced theoretically by Williams.
2. His role makes him poorly placed to raise issues. If Gracchi himself, for example, had said what Williams said the debate could have been far more relaxed and open. When someone at the head of an established Church says something their words have real power. That means that what follows can't be an entirely dispassionate debate - too much is at stake. Douglas Murray highlighted one of the consequences of the Archbishop speaking out on this issue:
"I've just been speaking with a Muslim friend who has always opposed sharia law. 'Where does it leave me', he asks, 'when the Archbishop of Canterbury is calling for sharia?'"
Do you think anyone would be asking the same questions if you or I had called for Sharia? Of course not. This whole mess has demonstrated why the Archbishop of Canterbury's place is not to raise issues. His place in our national discourse is not as pioneer or radical - that's for those in more junior roles.
He deserves his free speech - this wasn't relevant to his job
1. This is absolutely relevant to his job. Do you think there would have been anything like the same furore if some university professor had come out with this? He is the head of the UK's established church and a senior member of the English establishment. That means that if he says something like this and there isn't an absolute stink that has a powerful normalising effect on what is and should be a very radical proposition.
2. He is letting down his Church. The Anglican Church has seen, according to Fraser Nelson, attendances fall by 20 per cent in the last eight years. If you or I say something that is radically out of tune with the majority of Anglicans there is little consequence. He should either quit as Archbishop and say what he wants or keep his mouth shut to avoid continuing to convince ordinary Anglicans that their Church's leadership believes in nothing they do, or nothing at all.
3. As a senior member of the establishment his signalling that they will appease radical demands for Sharia has a directly harmful effect on community cohesion. Extremists will be emboldened by this sign of weakness. This is probably the greatest harm that Williams' statements have had. He has a responsibility to show some backbone and conspicuously failed.
4. Positions of responsibility to do limit our free speech. A random blogger should be quite free to say "Putin's a twat" loudly a proudly. If Gordon Brown did that there would be consequences and he would be failing to do his job. Even more minor jobs like mine do place some limits on what I can freely say without consequences. Speech, for an Archbishop of Canterbury, is not and should not be free. Anyone with that kind of seniority should consider what they say carefully and use their words wisely as their position gives those words power.
Gracchi is judging Williams by criteria that would be appropriate for a university professor. That might be the job Williams is best suited for, he is completely failing to handle the job of Archbishop of Canterbury and should resign. I'm not the only one who sees it in exactly this way:
Col Edward Armitstead, a Synod member from the diocese of Bath and Wells, was among those calling for Dr Williams to step down: "I don't think he is the man for the job."
He said: "One wants to be charitable, but I sense that he would be far happier in a university where he can kick around these sorts of ideas."