Church and state debated in England

Two items.

1. Theo Hobson in the Guardian on disestablishment: It is worth noting that Rowan Williams has failed to start the debate; he has allowed the reactionary position to become stronger – a piece of major political cowardice.


Might reform come from elsewhere? Of course the secularist lobbies advocate it, but in a sense this is unhelpful: it makes it seem an atheist cause, and so strengthens the hand of the Anglicans, who scarify with the prospect of a Dawkinsish tyranny. Ideally it would come from a political movement that was also Christian, led by a new Cromwell figure.

Why is disestablishment not a mainstream liberal cause? It baffles me frankly. Why is it hardly ever mentioned by the columnists of this paper, except as a quick aside? …. To my mind it is the very essence of liberalism, that church and state should be separate. This is the English revolution that we have never quite had.

2. C of E and RC lobbying for right to discriminate:

Representatives of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church have told the House of Commons that they will fight to maintain their powers to discriminate in cases of employment and against limits proposed in the Equality Bill.

The two churches say they fear their “right” to discriminate on the basis of factors other than religion, would be “unreasonably” limited by the new Equality Bill.

Simon Barrow, co-director of the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia, commented: “At times it seems as if advisors to the two largest churches in Britain are on a crash course with reality, with fairness, and with the very meaning of the Christian message itself when it comes to handling equality and diversity concerns. Negativity, self-interest and an instinct to exclude rather than welcome is turning more and more people away from institutional religion.” He added: “The churches do not seem to understand that inward-looking self-preservation is a self-defeating strategy. This is something the founder of Christianity declared very pointedly to his followers in the Gospel accounts. But the irony and poignancy of this still seems lost on some of his modern-day followers.”

Category : The Lead

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3 Comments
  1. “The churches do not seem to understand that inward-looking self-preservation is a self-defeating strategy.”

    What I think they understand is that losing the power to discriminate between employees who support their message and employees who undermine it is to lose the ability to proclaim the message. And that is the very core of religious freedom–if that freedom is indeed valued any longer.

    As to what Jesus would have made of it–well, he picked some pretty sorry disciples, but I doubt that he would have welcomed Pilate’s intervention in his choices.

  2. garydasein

    Jesus probably would not have welcomed the interventions of Constantine and Theodosius in the movements bearing his name.

    Murdoch Matthew

  3. garydasein

    The churches should hold themselves to a higher standard, and not discriminate in employment where the activity in question is purely nonreligious. An office secretary or assistant, for example, should not be subject to a religious litmus test. A same-sex couple wishing to adopt a child should not be subject to questions about religious dogma and a child should not be deprived of a loving home simply because the church doesn’t know what to make of a same-sex couple.

    Instead churches hide behind a concept of “religious liberty” in order to justify discrimination and sheer bigotry.

    Organized religion has become one of the last bastions of discrimination.

    I would hope that the principle of the dignity of the person would trump other religious concerns within organized religion but it rarely does, as it did in the debate over slavery in the nineteenth century. A slave cannot rationally will to be a slave, logically, so the principle of the dignity of the person went against the institution of slavery.

    Secular law has an easier time with questions of discrimination because due process and equal protection before the law are key notions, while religious dogma cannot enter into the debate about whether a minority should have rights.

    Churches, on the other hand, are a different story. They may invoke religious liberty at the cost of their becoming more irrelevant to the larger society. The time for the disestablishment of the C of E has come in England.

    Gary Paul Gilbert

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