Phill Woolas, Immigration Minister, saying how it is
Well, if you mean 50 years, Woolas commented:
“Disestablishment – I think it will happen because it’s the way things are going. Once you open debate about reform of the House of Lords you open up debate about the make-up of the House,” he told the newspaper.”
“It will probably take 50 years, but a modern society is multi faith.”
So who is in the way of allowing people to choose their faith or none without the state privledging one over another?
A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “The Church of England is by law established as the Church in England and the Monarch is its Supreme Governor.
“The government remains committed to this position and values the establishment of the Church of England.” [BBC]
Woolas’ point – which along with a Sunday Times interview have come to haunt him in his new role as Immigration Minister – was that reform of the House of Lords was needed. Once that happens you cannot ignore the unelected Bishops of the Church of England there. Nor the role the monarch plays as head of an established church to which the majority of subjects are not actively a part of.
The reason why this is not a government priority:
The Government has reassured the Church of England that it will not embark on any move towards disestablishment unless the Church asks it to do so. With the Church bogged down in disputes over gays and women clergy, the last thing that it wants is a row over disestablishment. In Lambeth Palace and Whitehall the issue is considered political dynamite. [The Times]
It has the hallmarks of passions being stirred on all sides of the debate. The thing is that the best arguments are not on Lambeth or Westminster’s side. Citizens should be free to pursue their religious belief without having one privileged over another. The question of belief is an entirely a private matter. You do not have to believe in hell to be a member of the Church of England. That is not a question of belief but a matter of law on the statute book by parliament.
There is however a danger that rather than going ahead with disestablishment, the Labour Government will actually try to have religion encouraged in the public sphere. Sharia Law is already being practised for civil cases via Sharia Councils in Britain:
The councils do not involve themselves in criminal law or any aspects of civil law in which they would be in direct conflict with British civil codes. The vast majority of their cases cover marriage and divorce. By consent of all parties, they may also arbitrate issues of property, child custody, housing and employment disputes, though their rulings are not binding unless submitted to the civilian courts. [source]
The issue here is the nature of the consent by all parties, and whether all parties know about access to British civil codes and how to abject. This really must be stressed when you consider the number of women that may be subjected to Sharia Councils who do not speak English. By what token are we assured that they know their rights under English law?
Meanwhile the report Moral, But No Compass, backed by the Church of England suggestion is to have a Minister for Religion. As if 26 Bishops in the House of Lords was not enough representation. As one blogger commented:
the moment this minister sets foot in a church, the Muslims would demand visits to their mosques with increasingly-taller minarets, and then the Sikhs would want a visit to their shining new gurdwaras, and thence to mandirs, and viharas. And at some point the minister would have to make statements in the House about the status of Scientology, and feel obliged to celebrate Yoda’s birthday at the House of Commons with the Jedi Knight fraternity, if only to win their endorsement and votes. [Cranmer]
Hopefully the Conservative Humanist Association can ensure that the Minister for Religion idea is not one adopted as Conservative Policy – though it could be a move to gather back Anglicans feeling slighted by the Labour Government. Despite the fact that this government is very much in favour of faith based initiatives – signalling them out for special praise in the Goldsmith report.
The real reason is that the government sees the whole issue as a Gordian Knot where the monarchy, Church of England and House of Lords all intertwine. To sever one is to unravel them all, in a way that the government fears it could not control. A church that would be free to be political, rather than just a public servant. An elected head of state with executive power independent of the Cabinet. An elected House of Lords with legitimacy to take on the lower chamber more often.
It could also be one of those things that power is only ever given away when it is expedient too or the institution that has it cares not to have such exercise of authority. The political problem though remains. The issue is one that has to be advanced on a human rights front. The state cannot effectively favour all religions, nor should it use taxpayers money to privilege one over the other. Giving religious civil courts sanction to make rulings over citizens is a breach that all are the same under the law where legally unqualified people will render verdicts based on their interpretation of holy texts – which do not favour the equal treatment of people regardless of gender, and have a notion of property rights inconsistent with moder law.
The feminists should be burning Korans, and the government should be having an almighty headache over the dalliance with organised religion. Right now it bears the harlot upon it’s back – when will the beast shake itself free of the rider that feels secure debauched on the legitimacy of their union on the statue books? Some may say it would mark the end of the world, a new world order (a book on Revelation interpretations would be how many volumes?). What it should mean is the sovereignty of belief resides in the private minds of the citizens, and not a matter of the government who should protect the freedom of religion and speech by advocating those human rights values, rather than religion being able take them away and make them their own, with the complicit government allowing it’s citizens to be unequally treated in civil cases.
Secularism – why it is good for us all