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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Disestablishment

One of the primary, long-terms aims of the National Secular Society is the disestablishment of the Church of England. This means separating Church and State, ending the privileged position of the Church of England with the Queen as both Head of the Church and Head of State. The result of this would be that the Church would no longer have privileged input into government but also that government could not involve itself in the running of the Church; both sides would gain autonomy.

There are two official two state-recognised Christian denominations – the Church of England and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. There is no established church in Northern Ireland or Wales but the 26 unelected bishops of the Church of England who sit in the House of Lords influence laws that affect the whole of the UK.

The existence of a legally-enshrined, national religion and established church privileges one part of the population, one institution and one set of beliefs.

To remove all symbolic and institutional governmental ties with religion is the only way to ensure equal treatment not only to all religions but also to believers and non-believers.

The Church of England has enjoyed significant privileges relating to "establishment" for many centuries. These religious privileges have remained largely unchanged despite the massive and continuing reduction in support for the Church in the UK. This decline can be measured in terms of membership, attendance and – in the wider context of what the Church describes as its "mission to the nation" – belief in God or Christianity. The serious decline started around three quarters of a century ago and has become more precipitous in recent decades. Realistically, this trend is irreversible for the foreseeable future, making the case for the Church of England's establishment unsustainable.

We would like to see a written constitution that declares Britain to be a secular nation. This would better reflect the changing demographics of the country and ensure that no religion can disadvantage another by having privileged access to power.