Religious Freedom

Notes on the advantages and disadvantages of whether religion should have involvement within the State and the Government

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Religion and the State in the UK

Most in the UK claim to be Christian (though many believe w/o belonging - Grace Davie) and it is generally seen as a Christian country even though many citizens are of different faiths. 

UK laws + traditions are broadly Christian in origin + Parliament - new laws being considered tend to have a Christian emphasis
--> i.e. gay marriage - only allowed to be civil partnerships due to Christian church

Church of England in the established church - the religious body officially endorsed + encouraged by the State. It is created by the ruling body of the country, though it is not run or controlled by the govnt. As it is supported by the State, it ca have a huge influence in politics and how gvnt. decisions are made.

  • Queen is Supreme Governor of the Church
  • The Church is linked to the State + has political role
  • Church performs a number of official functions

(Originally happened due to Henery VIII passing Act of Succession + Act of Supremacy to break from Roman Catholic church in order to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. These acts made the King "Supreme Head of C of E"  

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Religion and the State in the UK Cont.

This role continues and the monarch has the power to

  • approve the appointment of archbishops + bishops
  • formally open the General Synod (Church's governing body)
  • maintain the power of the church

In Parliament, the Church is allowed to appoint 12 Lords Spiritual - this was originally 26, however has been reduced due to a decision made by the Joint Committee led by Nick Clegg. 
These are bishops in the House of Lords, they can use their position to review + amend parliamentary legislation.
--> Due to this the C of E exercises a considerable influence over Gvnt. No other church/relig. group can do this, although there are some members of H of L from other relig. faiths.

C of E gets special tax concessions given to it by the State, enabling it to accumulate great wealth + it owns land + assets worth £5.7 billion. (In comparison to Roman Catholic Church, w/ same members having only £297 m)

C of E would not mind if they were disestablished - 2008 Rowan Williams commented that it would not be the end of the world if this happened 

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Religion and Government

Prayers in Parliament

In both H of C + H of L daily sitting begins w/ Christian prayers - dates back to 1558, members of public are not allowed in during this.
Although this is traditional, is it not irrelevant in today's more secular society?

Lord's Spiritual

H of Ls job is to review legislation from the gvnt. in H of C. H of L has 733 members, 12 appointed by C of E and known as Lords Spiritual, including Archbishop of Canterbury + York and bishops.
They cannot vote unless circumstances are deemed exceptional. Sometimes they speak and in debates mainly in those matters regarding religion.

Defender of the Faith

1521 - Henry VIII given title of Defender of the Faith hence all monarchs hold this as defender of Anglicanism. In 1994 Prince Charles said that when he became King he would rather be Defender of all Faiths.  

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Should religion be involved in the workings of the

For

  • impossible to separate religion + politics as both are crucial parts of life
  • relig. believers have moral responsibility to campaign for political issues in line w/ teachings of their faith
    --> Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali criticised Britain's doctrine endless self-indulgence; he blamed this for explosion in public violence + binge-drinking
    --> Right Reverend John Packer said banning distribution of soup to homeless was "anti-humanitarian" 
  • believers have always been involved in politics--> William Wilberforce campaigned against slave trade
    --> Archbishop Desmond Tutu campaigned against racism + apartheid in S Africa
  • believers can encourage the State to spend money on things that are good for society i.e. hospitals + schools
  • relig. can ensure that gvnt. acts in a good and morally correct way, respecting human rights, the elderly, the poor + the needy 
  • Beatitudes - Jesus said "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to them" - welfare cuts
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Should religion be involved in the workings of the

Against

  • majority, who are non-believers, may resent religious involvement in secular matters
    --> 81% (politicians) want euthanasia, bishops do not
    --> 2008, Rowan Williams wants shariah law integrated into British family courts   
  • relig believers should be concerned w/ spiritual development rather than politics
    -->C of E divided over gay marriage + women bishops as Rowan Williams resigns
    --> 70% of Christians believe that bishops should not sit in H of L
  • UK society is multi-cultural + made up of many religious faiths + to avoid conflict it would be better if all religious stay out of politics
  • Romans 13:1 - teaches that Christians should obey political leaders because they have been given their authority by God
  • it is unfair that C of E have privileges
  • only 2% of pop go to Church


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It is important to put the will of God before power, money + self-interest

This can be argued to be a point both for and against

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Should religious believers have their freedom of e

Article 9 of Human Rights Act 1998 - 
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience + religion - includes

  • freedom to change their religion or belief
  • freedom, either alone or with others and in public or private, to worship + observe their religious faith
  • freedom not to be obstructed by others in following their faith

Limitations of this are

  • to ensure public safety
  • to keep public order
  • not to offend public morals
  • not to infringe the freedom of others
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Freedom of Religious Dress

The Niqab
- Oct 2006 - gvnt. minister Jack Straw commented that he preferred talking to Muslim women who did not wear the face veil because he could then see their face. He said that he would politely ask women who wore the niqab to remove it when speaking to him, (happy for them to decline). 

- The TA Aishah Azmi refused to remove her veil in the presence of men. After complaints she was given leave and her tribunal was then dismissed mainly on the grounds that wearing a veil is inappropriate for a teacher

- Within Islam there are different views regarding dress; the actual teachings are that women should dress modestly and cover all that is not essential, but the niqab itself is not an actual requirement

- 2006 - Tony Blair commented that the is a "mark of separation"
           - Harriet Harman said "the veil is an obstacle to women's participation" 

- Ken Livingstone commented that for a man to ask a woman to remove the veil "is completely and utterly wrong and insensitive"

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Freedom of Religious Dress Cont.

The Crucifix

- Oct 2006, devout Christian Nadia Eweida, was sent home w/o pay as she would not cover up her cross at  her place of employment, BA. BA did admit to allowing Sikhs to wear turbans and Muslims to wear hijabs because these cannot be covered up. 

- Again, the crucifix is not a requirement of the Christian faith, hence why it is often not allowed to be worn in various areas.

- Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin are now challenging the gvnt. at the European Court to be able to wear their crosses
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-17346834  

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Freedom of Religious Dress Cont.

The Crucifix

- Oct 2006, devout Christian Nadia Eweida, was sent home w/o pay as she would not cover up her cross at  her place of employment, BA. BA did admit to allowing Sikhs to wear turbans and Muslims to wear hijabs because these cannot be covered up. 

- Again, the crucifix is not a requirement of the Christian faith, hence why it is often not allowed to be worn in various areas.

- Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin are now challenging the gvnt. at the European Court to be able to wear their crosses
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-17346834  

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