The UK must stop acting as if it is a Christian country says top judge
Britain is no longer a Christian country and must stop acting as if it still is, a major inquiry has recommended.
The report, which took two years to produce, involved consulting top religious leaders of all faiths, government ministers, and the media, and says that a “new settlement” is needed in the UK to give more official influence to atheists and those of non-Christian faith.
It found that just two in five people in Britain now identify themselves as Christian, and 50% of all people do not identify with any religion.
The report set out a number of recommendations, including:
- The abolition of the compulsory act of worship in schools
- Reducing the number of children given places at schools based on religion in order to phase out faith schools
- Introduction of rules to stop educational syllabuses from “sanitising” religions that reinforce negative stereotypes around gender, ethnicity and race
- Guidance for universities on promoting free speech without students having to fear being labelled “extremists”
- Cutting the number of C of E bishops in the House of Lords, and giving places to rabbis, imams and other non-Christian clerics
- Overhauling the coronation ceremony to include other faiths
- Greater protection for women in Sharia courts and other religious tribunals
- Introducing non-religious messages to BBC Radio 4’s Thought For The Day
The Commission on Religion and Belief in Public Life report was chaired by the former senior judge Baroness Butler-Sloss as well as patrons of the Commission including Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Woolf, the former chief justice, and Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the former general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain.
The recommendations have sparked a furious reaction from the Church of England and from the Conservative government.
A spokesperson for the Church of England described the report as a “sad waste”, adding that it had “fallen captive to liberal rationalism”, the Telegraph reports.
In a statement on its website the Church of England welcomed calls for “greater religious literacy”, but criticised other findings in the report.
It said: “The report is dominated by the old fashioned view that traditional religion is declining in importance and that non-adherence to a religion is the same as humanism or secularism.”
Meanwhile, Education secretary Nicky Morgan is apparently less than impressed. A source said Morgan found the report “ridiculous”, and added: “Nicky is one of the biggest champions of faith schools and anyone who thinks she is going to pay attention to these ridiculous recommendations is sorely misguided.”
But the National Secular Society’s Keith Porteous Wood said the report did not go far enough. He said: “There are some sensible recommendations in the commission’s report, but there is no escaping that the commission is composed of vested interests and is unlikely to make recommendations for any radical change.
“Disestablishing the Church of England should be a minimum ambition for a modern Britain in the 21st century.”