8 Dec 2015

Britain no longer a Christian country, and it’s time to rid public life of Anglicanism, panel says

Britain is no longer a Christian country and should stop acting as if it is, a top-level inquiry into the place of religion in society has concluded, provoking a backlash from politicians and the Church of England.
A two-year commission, chaired by the former senior judge Baroness Butler-Sloss and involving leading religious leaders of all faiths, calls for public life to be systematically de-Christianized.
It says the decline of church-going and the rise of Islam and other beliefs mean a “new settlement” is needed for religion in the U.K., giving more official influence to non-religious voices and those of non-Christian faiths.
The report triggered a quarrel Sunday night as it was condemned by cabinet ministers as “seriously misguided,” while the Church of England said it appeared to have been “hijacked” by humanists. 
The Commission on Religion and Belief in Public Life document says:
• Faith schools are “socially divisive” and the selection of children on the basis of their beliefs should be phased out
• The number of Church of England bishops in the Lords should be replaced with imams, rabbis and other non-other non-Christian clerics as well as evangelical pastors
• Acts of worship in school assemblies need to be be abolished and replaced with a “time for reflection”
• The coronation service for the next monarch ought to be overhauled to include other faiths
• Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4’s should include non-religious messages. 
Most controversially, perhaps, the report also calls for a rethink of anti-terror policy, including allowing students to voice radical views on campus without fear of being reported to the security services.
And it recommends new protections for women in Sharia courts and other religious tribunals — including a call for the government to consider requiring couples who have a non-legally binding religious marriage also to have a civil registration.
The commission has attracted particular controversy because of the authority of those behind it. Patrons include 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. 
While gathering evidence, the commissioners met key figures including Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury; Ephraim Mirvis, the Chief Rabbi; the Home Secretary Theresa May, and senior executives at the BBC and independent broadcasters.
The Church of England said the report was a “sad waste” and had “fallen captive to liberal rationalism.”
A spokesman 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.”
The report highlights figures showing the decline in people who say they are Anglicans from 40 per cent in 1983 to less than a fifth in 2013.
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
It says: “Three striking trends in recent decades have revolutionized the landscape on which religion and belief in Britain meet and interact.
“The first is the increase in the number of people with non-religious beliefs and identities. The second is the decline in Christian affiliation, belief and practice and within this decline a shift in Christian affiliation that has meant that Anglicans no longer comprise a majority of Christians.
“The third is the increase in the number of people who have a religious affiliation but who are not Christian.”

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