Bill to disestablish the Church of England introduced in parliament
Posted: Wed, 6th Dec 2023
NSS-backed bill presented in parliament today would separate Church and state
A bill backed by the National Secular Society to disestablish the Church of England has been introduced in parliament.
The private member's bill, proposed by Liberal Democrat peer Paul Scriven with assistance from the NSS, was presented in the House of Lords today.
The bill makes provision for the separation of church and state by removing the Church of England's established status, abolishing the automatic right of bishops to seats in the Lords and removing the monarch's title "Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England".
It would also give the Church full independence over its doctrine, liturgy, and clergy, while ecclesiastical law and courts would cease to have any legal jurisdiction. The regulation of notaries would also be transferred from the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Lord Chancellor.
Under the bill, the government would set up a committee to oversee these legal changes.
The Church in Wales was disestablished in 1920. The Church of Scotland is not established but British monarchs swear to uphold it.
Lord Scriven: Time to end the "privileges, power and patronage" of the established church
Lord Scriven said: "The time to separate church and state has come.
"In a modern, pluralistic, and secular society, the arguments in favour of disestablishment are compelling. It promotes equality, social cohesion, inclusivity, and a governance structure that is better suited to address the needs of a diverse population.
"As the United Kingdom continues to evolve, it is time to end the privileges, power and patronage of the established status of the Church of England to build a better, more secular, society for the 21st century."
NSS chief executive Stephen Evans called the bill "encouraging".
He said: "Separation of church and state isn't just an ideal. It is a necessity for any liberal democracy, and one which took a small step forward in the UK today.
"Disestablishment would address an archaic and unjustifiable religious privilege at the heart of our constitution and deliver a more inclusive democracy that better reflects the nation as it is today.
"This timely bill sets out a realistic roadmap to achieving a long overdue reform. We hope that parliamentarians will recognise the merits of disestablishment and get behind the bill as a tangible way of supporting freedom and equality for all citizens, whatever their religion or belief".
WATCH: The moment Paul Scriven introduced the bill. Cries of "not content" were heard at the introduction of this bill - before members had even had a chance to read it.