17:51 Monday 7th December 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
STEVE JACKSON: Almost half of us now say we’re not religious, overtaking the number who say they’re Christians. But do our public institutions, the Monarchy, Parliament, schools reflect Britain’s diverse and secular values? Do we need a change from all of this?
(CHORAL MUSIC) (SERMON)
JUSTIN WELBY: … the new Queen, goes alone, not to the Coronation Chair, but past it: to kneel at the altar in prayer. Before her on the High Altar the words ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and Christ’.
STEVE JACKSON: Well that was the Archbishop of Canterbury officiating at the 60th anniversary service of the Queen’s coronation. But a major new report says our major institutions should take account of the more diverse nature of society in Britain, which is also less religious in many ways. A two year Commission on Religion in Public Life has come up with a list of recommendations, including a call for the Government to scrap the legal requirement for religious assemblies in state schools. The Chair of the Commission Baroness Butler-Sloss said they’re not trying to do down Christianity. They simply want to recognise the role of other faiths.
BARONESS BUTLER-SLOSS: Nowhere in this report do we say we should be getting rid of anything. What we want to do is add to it. In particular, taking assemblies, we want people to have the right to have a religious ceremony if they want to in a school. But there is a current law that requires all schools to have an assembly that is predominately Christian. Well this is basically out of date.
STEVE JACKSON: The Report says the number of people who describe themselves as Church of England has fallen to just a fifth of the population. Meanwhile minority religions are growing. Islam is now the UK’s second largest faith, followed by Hinduism, Sikhism and Judaism. The Commission says the number of Church of England bishops sitting as peers in the House of Lords should be cut to make way for leaders of other faiths. Keith Porteous Wood is from the National Secular Society. He says big changes are needed.
KEITH PORTEUS WOOD: The reality is that less than 5% of the population are in church on an ordinary Sunday. And only half of the population consider they belong to any religion. The rest of the people are effectively increasingly disenfranchised. Religion is institutionally represented, the non-religious aren’t. And so we get kind of left out.
STEVE JACKSON: The Church of England argues the Report underestimates the level of Christian belief in Britain. A spokesperson said, ” In a fortnight when we have seen overwhelming public support for the Church of England over the Lord’s Prayer cinema advert, it’s important to remember that most public opinion is strongly opposed to the marginalisation of Christianity.” That’s a good thought in the run-up to Christmas.