Government Must Act Now To Prevent Religious Power Struggle

It is now a matter of urgency for the Church of England to be disestablished, says the National Secular Society. The call comes in the wake of a report commissioned by the Church being published today which demands more privileges, more money and more influence.

Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, said: “We have predicted that with the rise of other religions in Britain there would eventually be a struggle for power among them and this is another serious warning of that coming to pass. The only way to curb this burgeoning sectarian battleground is to disestablish the Church of England and make government a secular, neutral space that does not favour any religion.”

“The Church of England is a dying institution. Less than 2% of the population attend the CofE on an average Sunday. And yet it has an extraordinary amount of political clout.

Mr Sanderson said that the Church’s demand to run social services in Britain was a disaster waiting to happen. “Faith-based welfare has been a catastrophe in the United States and it would be in Britain. The Church of England secured religious exemptions on employment legislation after public consultation had closed in a behind-the-scenes-deal with the Government. It has opposed legislation giving equality to homosexuals. Last year it demanded and received additional license to discriminate against non-religious teachers in publicly-funded faith schools. These are clear indications that it could not be trusted to deliver welfare services fairly and without prejudice.”

Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the NSS, added: “These calls for yet more power come from an already over-privileged Church of England. Britain is the only Western democracy to give religious representatives seats as of right in its legislature. The Church of England alone benefits from this with twenty six bishops in the House of Lords. This gives it huge influence and access to power, which it often uses for self-serving purposes.

“At the Church’s behest many new church schools and academies have been opened, but funded almost entirely by the state. Yet they still complain. This is the last plaintive gasp of a Church dying on its feet. Church attendance has been in severe decline for seven decades and Christian Research has forecast that it will drop to 87,800 by 2050. Who in their right mind would give even more power to an organisation in such terminal decline?

“It is inevitable that other religious groupings will begin to feel hard done by – and despite the Church of England’s jealousy over the Government’s attempts to integrate the Muslim population – other religious groups are growing and cannot be sidelined in the way that the Anglicans want them to be. It has now become a matter of urgency that the state be secularised and these ambitious priests be put in their place. The British public has shown that it is not interested in religion, it is not concerned with the Church and it doesn’t want its day to day business in the hands of the clerics.”

June 9 2008