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Britain is no longer a Christian country and should stop acting as if it is, says judge

TELEGRAPH: By John Bingham and Steven Swinford on December 7, 2015

This article is available in full on the Telegraph website at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/12036287/Britain-is-no-longer-a-Christian-country-and-should-stop-acting-as-if-it-is-says-judge.html

Britain is no longer a Christian country and should stop acting as if it is, says judge

A major inquiry into the place of religion in modern society has provoked a furious backlash from ministers and the Church of England

     
 
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The return to religion
The return to religion Photo: ALAMY
 

12:01AM GMT 07 Dec 2015

 

Britain is no longer a Christian country and should stop acting as if it is, a major inquiry into the place of religion in modern society has concluded, provoking a furious backlash from ministers and the Church of England.

A two-year commission, chaired by the former senior judge Baroness Butler-Sloss and involving leading religious leaders from all faiths, calls for public life in Britain to be systematically de-Christianised.

It says that the decline of churchgoing and the rise of Islam and other faiths mean a "new settlement" is needed for religion in the UK, giving more official influence to non-religious voices and those of non-Christian faiths.

Baroness Butler-SlossBaroness Butler-Sloss  Photo: PA

The report provoked a furious row as it was condemned by Cabinet ministers as "seriously misguided" and the Church of England said it appeared to have been "hijacked" by humanists.

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The report, by the Commission on Religion and Belief in Public Life, claims that faith schools are "socially divisive" and says that the selection of children on the basis of their beliefs should be phased out.

It also accuses those who devise some RE syllabuses of "sanitising" negative aspects of religion in lessons and suggests that the compulsory daily act of worship in school assemblies should be abolished and replaced with a "time for reflection".

The report backs moves cut the number of Church of England bishops in the Lords and give places to imams, rabbis and other non-other non-Christian clerics as well as evangelical pastors.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, (second right) arrives for the General Synod of Church of England meeting at The University of York. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, (second right) arrives for the General Synod of Church of England meeting at The University of York.   Photo: PA

Meanwhile the coronation service for the next monarch should be overhauled to include other faiths, the report adds.

Controversially, it also calls for a rethink of anti-terror policy, including ensuring students can voice radical views on campus without fear of being reported to the security services.

And it also recommends new protections for women in Sharia courts and other religious tribunals – including a call for the Government to consider requiring couples who have a non-legally binding religious marriage also to have a civil registration.

It also suggests that Thought of the Day on BBC Radio 4's Today programme should include non-religious messages.

French police injured in row over burka A woman wearing a black veil  Photo: ALAMY

The Commission on Religion and Belief in Public Life has attracted particular controversy because of the seniority of those behind it.

Its patrons include Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Woolf, the former chief justice, and Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the former general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain.

While gathering evidence the commissioners met key players including Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury; Ephraim Mirvis, the Chief Rabbi; the Home Secretary Theresa May, and senior executives at the BBC and Channel 4.

The Church of England said the report was a "sad waste" and had "fallen captive to liberal rationalism".

Abolishing current human rights laws will create uncertainty and give clever lawyers a field day, says former Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf, 82, served as the most senior judge in England and Wales for five years until 2005  Photo: ANDREW CROWLEY

A spokeswoman for the Church of England said: “The report is dominated by the old fashioned view that traditional religion is declining in importance and that non-adherence to a religion is the same as humanism or secularism."

A source close to Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, described the report's recommendations on faith schools as "ridiculous".

The source said: "Nicky is one of the biggest champions of faith schools and anyone who thinks she is going to pay attention to these ridiculous recommendations is sorely misguided."

The report highlights figures showing the decline in people who say they are Anglicans from 40 per cent in 1983 to less than a fifth in 2013.

Nicky Morgan arrives at 10 Downing Street as David Cameron names his new cabinet, May 11, 2015Nicky Morgan arrives at 10 Downing Street as David Cameron names his new cabinet  Photo: Reuters

It says: "Three striking trends in recent decades have revolutionised the landscape on which religion and belief in Britain meet and interact.

"The first is the increase in the number of people with non-religious beliefs and identities. The second is the decline in Christian affiliation, belief and practice and within this decline a shift in Christian affiliation that has meant that Anglicans no longer comprise a majority of Christians.

"The third is the increase in the number of people who have a religious affiliation but who are not Christian."

  Photo: ALAMY

It goes on to say: "The increase in those with non-religious beliefs, the reduction in the number of Christians and an increase in their diversity, and the increase in the number of people identifying with non-Christian religions: these are the settled social context of Britain today and for the foreseeable future, as is the unsettled and unsettling context of the international environment".

Its central recommendation is for a national consultation exercise to draw up a 21st Century equivalent to the Magna Carta to define the values at the heart of modern Britain instead of the Government’s controversial “British values” requirements.

“From recent events in France, to the schools so many of our children attend and even the adverts screened in cinemas, for good and ill religion and belief impacts directly on all our daily lives,” said Lady Butler-Sloss.

A religious education classA religious education class  Photo: ALAMY

“The proposals in this report amount to a ‘new settlement for religion and belief in the UK’, intended to provide space and a role for all within society, regardless of their beliefs or absence of them.”

The 150-page report sets out a major shift away from Christianity in Britain – particularly the Church of England – with the number of people describing themselves as having no religion jumping from less than a third of the population to almost half in just 30 years.

TO READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE GO TO THE TELEGRAPH WEBSITE AT  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/12036287/Britain-is-no-longer-a-Christian-country-and-should-stop-acting-as-if-it-is-says-judge.html