Scrap the bishops’ bench

Scrap the bishops’ bench

End the archaic, unfair and undemocratic bishops’ bench in the House of Lords.

Twenty-six Anglican bishops are given seats as of right in the House of Lords.

The UK is the only western democracy which reserves seats for clerics in its legislature.

This is unfair, undemocratic and undesirable. It's time to abolish the bishops' bench.

Two archbishops and 24 bishops of the Church of England currently have automatic seats in the House of Lords. They are sometimes known as 'the lords spiritual'.

We campaign for a secular upper house with no specific religious representation, whether of Christian denominations or any other faiths. In a secular state no religion or its leaders should have a privileged role in the legislature.

Any serious proposals to reform the House of Lords must address the unjustified privilege of the bishops' bench.

62% of Brits think no religious clerics should have an automatic right to seats in the House of Lords.

After over a century of decline in religious attendance in Britain, the claim that bishops — or any other religious representatives — speak for any significant constituency is not warranted. Less than 1% of the British population now attend Anglican services on the average Sunday.

In addition, the presence of religious leaders amounts to double representation of religious interests as many peers already identify themselves as being religiously motivated. Retired religious leaders are often appointed as peers.

Bishops do not have any "special moral insight" unavailable to everybody else. The idea that bishops or any other 'religious leaders' have any monopoly on issues of morality is offensive to many non-religious citizens. Those who profess no religion are no less capable of making moral and ethical judgements.

In an increasingly secular society the role of religious representatives in our legislature has become irrelevant, and has stood in the way of progressive legislation.

Take action!

1. Write to your MP

Ask your MP to help end the archaic, unfair and undemocratic bishops’ bench in the House of Lords.

2. Share your story

Tell us why you support this campaign, and how you are personally affected by the issue. You can also let us know if you would like assistance with a particular issue.

3. Join the National Secular Society

Become a member of the National Secular Society today! Together, we can separate religion and state for greater freedom and fairness.

Latest updates

Virtual-Pano, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons (cropped)

New bid made to remove bishop’s vote in Isle of Man parliament

Posted: Tue, 7 Nov 2023 14:00

House of Keys member behind bill says bishop should "go and get elected like the rest of us".

More than half of clergy think CofE establishment needs review

More than half of clergy think CofE establishment needs review

Posted: Thu, 31 Aug 2023 06:39

Nearly 12% of priests support disestablishment, survey finds

More information