Coronation should trigger debate on church and state, says NSS
Posted: Tue, 2nd May 2023
King Charles' coronation should trigger a debate on the future relationship between church and state, the NSS has said.
King Charles' coronation should trigger a debate on the future relationship between church and state, the National Secular Society has said.
The NSS has criticised the coronation as an "unnecessary and expensive religious ritual" which is incompatible with democracy and equality between citizens of different religions and beliefs.
The ceremony on Saturday will be led by archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at Westminster Abbey. It will be an exclusively Anglican ceremony in which Charles will swear an oath before Welby to preserve the doctrine and privileges of the Church of England.
At her coronation in 1953, Queen Elizabeth swore to "maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel" and "maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law".
She also swore to preserve "all such rights and privileges" of Church of England bishops and clergy. Due to the Church's established status, 26 bishops sit in the House of Lords as of right.
Charles is expected to swear the same oath. As King, Charles also holds the title of Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Catholics are explicitly prohibited from becoming monarch.
Charles and Queen Consort Camilla will also be anointed with consecrated oil. According to the Westminster Abbey website, "This sacred blessing, using the ampulla and spoon, is at the heart of the Christian coronation service, demonstrating the connection between the monarch and God". This part of the ceremony will not be televised due to sensitivities around its "sanctity".
It has been reported that representatives of other faiths will be attending as part of a "faith procession", but they will not be asked to speak by giving readings or blessings. They will instead carry the King's regalia, including bracelets and a glove.
The coronation is constitutionally unnecessary because under the Act of Settlement 1701, Charles automatically became King as soon as Elizabeth died. Barrister Geoffrey Robertson KC has described the coronation as "a legal irrelevance" and a "silly and superstitious Church of England ritual".
The 2021 Census found less than half the population of England and Wales are Christian, and just 0.9% of England's population attend Sunday services, according to the Church of England's own figures.
The Church of England has said it sees the coronation as a "unique opportunity" to convert people to Christianity.
NSS chief executive: 'A coronation fit for a king, but not a modern democracy"
NSS chief executive Stephen Evans said: "This coronation may be fit for a king, but it's certainly not fit for a modern democracy.
"An exclusively Anglican ceremony is a ludicrous way to inaugurate a head of state in one of the least religious countries on Earth. The inclusion of other faith representatives to carry the King's regalia is mere tokenism. The whole event is about protecting and projecting Anglican privilege and supremacism.
"This unnecessary and expensive church-controlled state occasion will reflect what the UK once was, rather than what it is today. An established church, with the head of state as its supreme governor, is incompatible with democracy and equality between citizens of different religions and beliefs.
"The dominance of the Church of England in the affairs of our head of state should trigger a serious debate about the future relationship between Church and state."