Comments: Commission on Religion & Belief in British Public Life

If we are a multi-racial society, it stands to reason that we are also a multi-faith society, as well as atheism and agnosticism deserving recognition too.

My own path is Christian, but I advocate 'open christianity' in the sense of Christianity being an open door which people can choose to enter at will, as well as being an open door through which Christians can go out into the community, to listen to others and try to understand the beliefs that matter to them.

Personally, I am opposed to faith schools in a multi-cultural society. I think faiths and spirituality and agnosticism and other rationales should be studied by pupils, but I think that individual faiths should not be attached to taxpayer-funded schools in a diverse society.

While I agree that leaders of other faiths have as much right as bishops to seats in Parliament (or none), I am still personally in favour of establishment, and the idea of a 'national church' whose doors are open to generally non-church goers.

When the 'children of Israel' were led through the Red Sea, as the foundation myth goes, the *whole community* was led, even though many turned their backs and fell aside in the wilderness.

I believe the Church of England should be here for the whole community, not just 'born again Christians' and regular church goers. I believe people in England should have this sense of parish after parish of 'The Church' and its presence and benevolence and welcome.

Then in times of crisis, the Church may become 'their' church. In the same way, I believe that infant baptism should be available to all, on the grounds that before we even came to faith, God's mighty act of salvation was carried out first - and then it's up to us to respond to that initiative and compassion.

Britain may not be exclusively a Christian country, but it has a huge Christian tradition and abiding presence, village by village, if not in terms of membership, then at least in terms of there being churches, and small networks of Christians, and something that endures that speaks of God's primacy and initiative to anyone who wants to respond.

We may now be a land of faiths and doubts, but the established church may still be a provision of God, a gracious and enduring open door, to all the community, on offer, there, for those who want to turn to it, and beyond that... the grace and Spirit of God.

Just because a certain spiritual path works for me, shouldn't lead me to devalue other spiritual paths or religious faiths. But nor should I devalue my own. The Church of England is potentially a vessel of grace - indeed I am sure it is. It's there, like a historic initiative of God, and should offer people an open door, at the crisis point of need or coming to faith.

The Church of England should be 'there' for all the people of this land, it should remain established, and it should be 'my church' even to the person who only usually goes there for weddings and funerals.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Monday, 7 December 2015 at 11:43am GMT

Malcolm Brown doesn't get it. He decries state neutrality between religions, which is precisely how the USA became the home of religious freedom when it adopted the First Amendment in 1790.

He thinks religions should be represented in Parliament in proportion to their contribution to the common good: i.e, most dibs for the c of e. This is the same Malcolm Brown who argued vigorously against what Parliament has determined to be the common good, in the Pemberton tribunal. Fine (for religious freedom), but utterly incompatible with establishment.

And to cap it all he talks of our nation, confusing England with the UK.

Posted by Iain mclean at Monday, 7 December 2015 at 1:01pm GMT

"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."

When did this view become "old fashioned"? What, according to the Church of England, is the new view, and what's the evidence for it?

That this modest report (it doesn't even advocate disestablishment and secularism) was not only dismissed out-of-hand by the church, but ridiculed by the British government, shows that religion has a lot more power and influence in Great Britain than is commonly thought.

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 7 December 2015 at 2:06pm GMT

I think the point is that 'religious neutrality' is impossible. There is no 'religiously neutral' space, because the ideology that lays claim to religious neutrality - secular humanism - is really just another sort of religious ideology (indeed, the dominant one in our society). So all schools are 'faith schools' of one sort or another: all schools and public institutions have some kind of underlying religious rationale, whether it's Catholic or Muslim or Anglican or secularist.

I have recently been reading John Milbank on the subject of 'religious neutrality' in the United States: Milbank's claim is that America is the *least* religiously-free nation in the West, because beneath its veneer of secularism it requires all religions to subscribe to the nation's civic religion of Enlightenment liberalism. This is why religious groups - including the Episcopal Church - have been so ineffectual in challenging the dominant myths of American public life, above all individualism and capitalism. State secularism provides an illusion of religious freedom, but in reality (as we are seeing in France) it is necessarily intolerant and restrictive.

On the whole I think I prefer the uneasy establishment of the state churches in England and Scotland. Christianity is better equipped than secular humanism to critique dominant systems of meaning, and to provide an alternative model of human community. I certainly don't object to the idea that other religions should have official representation in the institutions of government, though I think most adherents of non-Christian religions in the UK are grateful for the role played by the established churches. But the real issue here is not one of divvying-up a few token positions between different faith communities. The real issue is the ongoing power struggle between the two dominant - and mutually hostile - religious mythologies in this country: that of the Church on the one hand, and that of the secular humanist establishment on the other.

Posted by rjb at Tuesday, 8 December 2015 at 12:15am GMT

While sincerely honouring the Church of England's traditional ties to the State (after all, I was a product of its Baptismal and Confrmation policies); I do wonder why the Church of England clings to its privileges of State sponsorship in a situation of a more diverse community. Perhaps it would arrest the membership decline if it had to foot it with other religious communities, making membership more of an active commitment, rather than a state department.

Other Provinces of the Anglican Communion have to find their own financial and organisational support - a stern reality that marlks us out as independent of State control and open to all.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 8 December 2015 at 8:52am GMT

Nigel Genders writes:

"The recommendations for our schools from The Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life are not new and are regularly peddled out but rarely by parents. We do listen..."

The Church of England desperately needs to start practising more respectful engagement than this, and perhaps employ an advisor on unintentional irony.

The point Susannah Clark makes is an important one. CofE schools would be strengthened by selection on grounds that children and their families would be willing to support and uphold the Christian ethos and worship of their schools, regardless of their own beliefs or patterns of devotion. This would be a far preferable approach for a Church established by the state, and a "presence in every community." The current charade of middle-class parents pretending to be churchgoers does little, methinks, positive for Christianity in this country. These are matters that deserve gracious consideration and engagement, not this sort of sniffy dismissal.

Posted by David Beadle at Tuesday, 8 December 2015 at 10:54am GMT

Rjb, more bunk from Milbank? How can, say, the Southern Baptists conceivably be described as subscribing to "Enlightenment liberalism," and how exactly does Johnny Boy suggest that any religion is "required" to bend the knee to rationalism?

Milbank, we're told, has a thundering intellect. He's certainly got a slab of a Thesaurus, but like Rowan Williams, his genius appears far more frequently in the telling than it does the showing.

Posted by James Byron at Tuesday, 8 December 2015 at 10:08pm GMT

I don't know what Fr Smith means by suggesting the C.of E. is not "open to all" and that other Anglican Churches are. I should also note that the Church of England does has to find its own financial support - though it receives some help to maintain historic buildings etc, and assistance in some social and other areas, but so too does e.g. the Church of Australia - and all the schools of the latter (mostly elite and very expensive) receive really massive funding from our Commonwealth Government as do most of our Church's social and even mission agencies. Again,the Church of England is not a "department of state" nor is it controlled by the State : for all practical purposes it is independent, although the Queen as its Supreme Governor (in England) provides it with fine Christian leadership - from one who like Prince Charles represents that now endangered species of "vanilla Anglicans", neither high nor low but devoted to the BCP and to my own favourite, very open, non-exclusive service of Matins. (In fact, I think things were better when the PM did choose the bishops - allowing for greater diversity and more "unorthodox" talent.) And the Church of Australia, not established since the 1830s, I think has today more evidence of decline and far more problems than the Church of England (or the Church of Scotland for which I also have great regard). One might note that unlike the Churches of England or Scotland, some Churches in Europe receive the proceeds of voluntary church taxes and are very wealthy indeed. Establishment, in its now lighter form in England (rather different in Scotland) I believe is a great blessing in both countries not only for members of the two Churches and for peoples of other Christian and other religious traditions, but for the two countries as a whole. Three cheers for it !

Posted by John Bunyan at Wednesday, 9 December 2015 at 3:46am GMT

"There is no 'religiously neutral' space, because the ideology that lays claim to religious neutrality - secular humanism - is really just another sort of religious ideology...Milbank's claim is that America is the *least* religiously-free nation in the West, because beneath its veneer of secularism it requires all religions to subscribe to the nation's civic religion of Enlightenment liberalism."

I do and don't agree. I don't agree that the secular neutrality which PERMITS a "public square", is itself a religious ideology.

However, the problem (in the U.S. now, as well as probably previously in the U.K.) is that the *religion* of evangelical atheism (aka, anti-theism) is claiming to be the SAME AS the secular public square (pushing out the rest of the public in the process).

In the U.S., the First Amendment's guarantee of religious liberty existed when atheism was but a tiny fragment of the secular public square (i.e., atheism didn't create it). However, certain Christianists must accept that, no matter the Christian majorities of previous eras (inc the time of the First Amendment writers), the secular public square doesn't mean an assumed Christian hegemony, either. Like democracy itself, it's ever a balancing act of competing interests. As it should be.

Posted by JCF at Wednesday, 9 December 2015 at 10:56am GMT

JCF, I totally agree that new atheism is far too frequently treated as synonymous with secularism (in England, this confusion isn't helped any by the fiercely anti-religious National Secular Society).

I disagree, however, that anti-theism is a religion. It has none of the customary features, such as, well, custom, shared ritual, appeal to external authority for meaning, etc. The NFL has better claim to being a worship-shop.

Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 9 December 2015 at 2:55pm GMT

"I have recently been reading John Milbank on the subject of 'religious neutrality' in the United States: Milbank's claim is that America is the *least* religiously-free nation in the West, because beneath its veneer of secularism it requires all religions to subscribe to the nation's civic religion of Enlightenment liberalism. This is why religious groups - including the Episcopal Church - have been so ineffectual in challenging the dominant myths of American public life, above all individualism and capitalism. State secularism provides an illusion of religious freedom, but in reality (as we are seeing in France) it is necessarily intolerant and restrictive. "

This is a real misunderstanding of what is going on in the US. The US is not the least free, religiously. Indeed, the evidence is that people are less constrained, religiously, here.

It is worth understanding what is really going on, because similar characters are trying to do the same in Britain. What is going on in the US is that moneyed interests have bought up the public discourse - and it is indeed ugly. It has NOTHING to do with religious intolerance, per se. Have a look at the uneasy relationship between the Republican wealthy class and the culture warriors. The moneyed group could care less about gay marriage and abortion. They use the culture warriors, a minority extremist religious group, to help win elections that they otherwise would not win, for the purposes of furthering their nasty economic agenda.

TEC and other liberal mainline Protestant churches don't engage in the nasty tactics of the culture warriors or invest financially in dictating to others. That is religious freedom at work.

Yes, we have religious extremists, but to paint that as religious intolerance across the board and painting the US as least free, religiously, is missing the reality. Wake up to this, the moneyed interests are working on you too.

By the way, in a recent study, they have found that while Europe is experiencing a huge increase of Muslims leaving to align with Da'esh (and then returning, some disillusioned, some planning attacks), the US numbers on that are absolutely flat. Why is that? Because Muslims in the US can generally make a good living here. They are not as constrained by racism, religious intolerance, and economic limitations here.

Clearly, the rhetoric here is dreadful, unbelievably dreadful. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have take a chapter out of Goebbels book. But day to day life for most people includes real religious and economic freedom. Better than France.

You'll have to find religious intolerance elsewhere rjb, like the bishops in the House of Lords who opposed equal marriage and civil partnerships before that. And a CNC that won't select a real moral leader because a moral leader can't be a focus of unity for the bigots. Look to France that outlaws religious garb that is a requirement of some religions. And policies, upheld by the EU, that forbid some workers from wearing crosses, stars of David, or other symbols of religion. Let alone ghettoization and limitations on employment. Good Lord, deliver us from blaming the Great Satan of America rather than looking at your own intolerance.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 9 December 2015 at 7:19pm GMT

There is an almost universal assumption that because different Christian denominations have unique liturgies that the priests / minsters / vicars must also be separate.

I think the time has come for a grand ecumenical consolidation. Priests in many parishes should be non-denominational and lead worship at different times for each liturgical tradition. The congregation can then attend whichever liturgy / time suits them.

Then rather than having statistic for Anglicans we would get statistics for Christians and the importance of Christ would again be manifest to all.

Priests could then specialise if they wished to be Bishops.

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 9 December 2015 at 7:26pm GMT

While I can agree that anti-theism is not a religion - though I'd argue that it does, indeed, appeal to external authority for meaning - it is a faith position.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Thursday, 10 December 2015 at 4:51am GMT

My heart sank when I heard Baroness Butler-Sloss being interviewed on the wireless about this latest report. Its release in December just before Christmas made me think - is this "a good day to bury bad news"? For this report is most certainly "bad news" at a time when the Church is proclaiming the "Good News" about the birth of Jesus Christ.
This week at our local Church of England Primary School I have attended a very traditional (not an elf or an alien in sight) and highly delightful Nativity Play when all 120 children from Years One and Two participated - Good News indeed! Next week I look forward to welcoming all 400 children to the Parish Church for their annual Carol Service - yet more Good News!
I was delighted earlier this year when our school, of which I have the joy and privilege of being Chaplain, was awarded an "Outstanding" accolade by Ofsted. Without any shadow of a doubt Faith Schools are indeed the best schools.

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 10 December 2015 at 6:58am GMT

Mark, anti-theism is simply an objection to the existence of a theistic god: if it's mere disbelief, no faith is required; and if it's an affirmative belief that no such god exists, given the self-regulating world around us, it's less faith than it is a reasonable inference from the available evidence.

Posted by James Byron at Thursday, 10 December 2015 at 1:40pm GMT

"Milbank's claim is that America is the *least* religiously-free nation in the West, because beneath its veneer of secularism it requires all religions to subscribe to the nation's civic religion of Enlightenment liberalism." - rjb on Tuesday, 8 December 2015 at 12:15am GMT.

Coming to this rather late, but if that is really Milbank's claim, it is extraordinary. It is not supported by any expert on law and religion known to me. I would refer rjb and Prof Milbank to the excellent site run by the ICLRS (International Center for Law and Religion Studies) at Brigham Young University. Would be fascinated if Prof Milbank could come on and explain how he squares his claim with the data from ICLRS, who are the world experts in this area.

Posted by Iain McLean at Thursday, 10 December 2015 at 3:42pm GMT

The UK has faith based publicly funded schools that REQUIRE daily Christian prayer, and rjb says that the US is religiously intolerant? Wow.

Freedom of religion has always meant freedom from religion as well. I suspect that having Bishops in the House of Lords and forcing parents to send their children into a situation of coerced prayer is responsible for a lot of the resentment towards religion that you seen on the CIF section of the Guardian. And the teachers in these schools are subject to discriminatory practices as the CoE is exempt from equality laws? I'm really starting to understand the resentment.

On top of that intrusion on religious freedom, this "established religion" insists on homophobic and misogynistic practices that offend the sensibilities of most people. And it coddles and aligns with human rights abusers abroad rather than ministering to people at home. I'm starting to really see the amazing arrogance and abuse of power by CoE leaders who ought to be taking a much more humble stance vis-à-vis the citizenry of England... Sadly, the Good News is not to be found there.

The Good News is coming though. The Good News resides in people. The Incarnation happens when people are loving, kind, and compassionate, and loving All our neighbors as ourselves. All of our neighbors, or every stripe. The good people of England would not resent this Good News, even if it isn't their cup of tea.

Posted by Cynthia at Thursday, 10 December 2015 at 5:18pm GMT

@ Mark Brunson, "While I can agree that anti-theism is not a religion ...it is a faith position." No its's not, its a form of rationalism, although it does share with some manifestations of religion a bent for intolerance and ideology.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Thursday, 10 December 2015 at 6:19pm GMT

@ Cynthia, "Good Lord, deliver us from blaming the Great Satan of America rather than looking at your own intolerance." Your patriotism is showing, but your argument is something of a spin. You state, Muslims,"are not as constrained by racism, religious intolerance, and economic limitations here." But then you write "the rhetoric here is dreadful, unbelievably dreadful. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have take a chapter out of Goebbels book."

You make it sound like its just words, that rhetoric does not lead to serious constraints, that rhetoric is offered because it successfully feeds on and is reinforced by bias and bigotry in the wider public. Trump and Carson in The States, Marine Le Pen in France, even the more cagey stance of the Conservative party platform in the recent Canadian election, talk the talk and advocate constraints of one degree or another. Instance the attempts by some U.S. governors to shut out Syrian refugees or the campaigns to prevent Mosques from being built in some U.S. communities.

The "Great Satan" allusion by the way means something very different in an Islamic context than it does after experiencing a "turn around" by American fundamentalists.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Thursday, 10 December 2015 at 6:40pm GMT

To state definitively that there is no God, is, logically, the definition of *anti* theism.

That requires faith, as there is no conclusive proof that there is no God. There is an effort to draw a false distinction between rational observation and blind faith, but the simple fact is those of faith also have rational and observable facts to back their beliefs. It is, again, a false distinction.

Both rest on observation, reception of data from outside sources and a subjective decision about what that data means, along with a conscious decision to act on that meaning. To call one "faith" and one "rationalism" is a bit . . . irrational.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Friday, 11 December 2015 at 6:08am GMT

I'm not saying that the rhetoric is harmless. I would never say that. In the US, the largest terrorist group is white men with extreme right wing beliefs, like white supremacy and those anti-government looney tunes. The rhetoric emboldens them and that is horrific in a country that allows any idiot to buy assault weapons and unlimited amounts of ammunition.

rjb was saying that the US was the least religiously tolerant country and that is absolute poppycock and a diversion from real issues. We don't enforce prayers in our schools. No one is forbidden from wearing religious garments or symbols. No one can be fired for their religious beliefs. Despite the awful rhetoric, immigrants of all stripes, including Muslims, come here, get education and work decent jobs. Our economy is much better than England's, noticeably better, and our immigrants seem able to do pretty well. We don't ghettoize our immigrants (many of our African Americans, sadly, are victims of nasty racist policies in housing that set up poor black neighborhoods and that cycle is hard to overcome even though it was legally ended in 1968).

How can the US be the least religiously tolerant when the day-to-day life has no impediments to religious worship, no coercion of a state religion, no workplace discrimination, and offers tremendous opportunity?

Are there some nasty outbreaks of harassment towards Muslims, yes, especially in freaking Texas. But I hear that England has had some anti-Muslim backlash too, and that France is taking some worrisome steps in regard to civil liberties.

I'm not saying the rhetoric from Trump and others isn't awful. But there is an enormous difference between actual institutional religious intolerance that intrudes on peoples day to day lives and talk from a wannabe.

How would like to have to send your Muslim child to a school the REQUIRES Christian prayer? Even if it lets you opt out, it exposes you as different. How would it be to live in a country where 10 seats in the House of Lords are set aside for Christians and none are set aside for Muslims? Or a country that forbids you from wearing clothing that is a requirement of your religion? Or have a job where you can't wear symbols of your religion that comfort you and remind you whose you are?

Those elements strike me as terribly intolerant and intrusive.

And no matter how racist and hateful the rhetoric may be, at the end of the day the US has twice elected a black president who was accused of being Muslim, and England and Canada haven't done that. Not even close.

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 11 December 2015 at 8:06am GMT

"Freedom of religion has always meant freedom from religion as well."

"The Incarnation happens when people are loving, kind, and compassionate, and loving All our neighbors as ourselves. All of our neighbors, or every stripe. The good people of England would not resent this Good News, even if it isn't their cup of tea."

I agree absolutely, Cynthia. One could hardly object to the behaviour you describe even if one doesn't share the faith position.

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Friday, 11 December 2015 at 9:01am GMT

@ Cynthia, more patriotic spin I'm afraid. If we want to trade barbs about "my country is more exceptional than yours", Canada's Governor-General before last was Michael Jean a black female immigrant from Haiti. Our current Minister of Justice is Jody Wilson-Raybould a first nations woman, which is quite remarkable given the current crisis in Canada with regard to indigenous women and our justice system. The first nations crisis in Canada is the true equivalent to the ongoing American racial crisis for African-Americans.


When you write, " ...the rhetoric from Trump and others isn't awful. But there is an enormous difference between actual institutional religious intolerance that intrudes on peoples day to day lives and talk from a wannabe." You appear to seriously misunderstand the systemic context of the racist rhetoric within a the American politcal system.

That said, I am not in agreement with the notion that The U.S. is "the least religiously tolerant" nation. Not at all. However I am asserting that all western democracies, yours, mine, France, England and so forth, each have their positives and negatives regarding human and civil rights. My reply to your post, which I found somewhat naive politically, should be taken from that perspective.

Point of interest, some of my pals here accuse me ( and accusation is the word) of being "practically a Yank". It's a collection of things no doubt, including the TEC lapel flag pin I wear on my sport jacket out of solidarity. I picked it up at St. John's Book store in Tallahassee while visiting family.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Friday, 11 December 2015 at 12:46pm GMT

"the US numbers on that are absolutely flat. Why is that? Because Muslims in the US can generally make a good living here. They are not as constrained by racism, religious intolerance, and economic limitations here"

Cynthia, you're essentialising Muslims. Many of the Muslims in the UK arrived after the war from rural Pakistan and Bangladesh, in the aftermath of partition, as cheap labour for the cotton mills of northern England and in some cases steel mills in the midlands. They were poorly educated and from communities with deeply conservative and regressive cultures. The problems of assimilating those people and their children into the mainstream UK and challenging and complex, and the tensions in places like Rotherham are distinctly difficult.

America has very few Muslims from backgrounds like that, and in general American Muslims arrived on various visa programmes which looked for education and employability. They were also arriving in small enough numbers and diverse enough employment that (let's not beat about the bush) ghettoes didn't arise. There are other Muslim groups in the UK which, when compared to the US, look just as progressive and affluent. But the US has no equivalent to the deprived Muslim areas of (particularly) northern England, and just because people share a religion doesn't make them in any other way comparable.

Posted by Interested Observer at Friday, 11 December 2015 at 4:57pm GMT

'The good people of England would not resent this Good News, even if it isn't their cup of tea."'

Cynthia, I think I understand where you're coming from on this. However, I think we also need to remember that we're never given a guarantee in our scriptures that people will not resent the good news even (and perhaps especially) when it's faithfully and accurately proclaimed. As Will Willimon said last week, that's one of the reasons I'm glad people don't bring concealed weapons to church in Canada. After all, when Jesus preached his first sermon they ran him out of town.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Friday, 11 December 2015 at 5:42pm GMT

" But the US has no equivalent to the deprived Muslim areas of (particularly) northern England, and just because people share a religion doesn't make them in any other way comparable."

Point well taken. Thank you. That matters, very much.

The overall argument was that there was less religious tolerance in the US than the UK. That claim I found astonishing given that it was illegal to be Catholic in the UK until modern times and there's still a requirement for Christian prayer in schools...

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 11 December 2015 at 11:38pm GMT

"My reply to your post, which I found somewhat naive politically, should be taken from that perspective."

Rod, you should remember that as a gay person I'm on the receiving end of a lot of that nasty rhetoric. Half of those icky candidates would roll back my marriage if they could. And I have spoken extensively about how the homophobic rhetoric emboldens bullies and has dreadful impacts on teen and adult LGBTQ people. I don't believe it is different for any group on the receiving end. I am deeply gratified to see interfaith groups coming together in support of our Muslim sisters and brothers. Conversely, there is a very poignant story of 4 Muslim men coming to the funeral of Daniel, one of the recent California victims, to comfort his husband, Ryan.

The topic was religious intolerance with an incredibly ill-informed and self-indulgent claim that the US was the least religiously tolerant country. I was taking the nuanced view that there is an enormous difference between the rhetoric and people's actual lives.

Also, given England's historic and continuing religious baggage, it was pretty clear that rbj was missing the log in his/her eye.

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 11 December 2015 at 11:53pm GMT

"we're never given a guarantee in our scriptures that people will not resent the good news even (and perhaps especially) when it's faithfully and accurately proclaimed."

Well, probably. When people hear that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, and that there is a cost to doing so, we can get rather fractious. BTW, not all states allow concealed carry and some churches are "gun free zones." I wouldn't count on it, however. I wish we could just pass a giant magnet over this country and suck 'em all up. Alas.

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 11 December 2015 at 11:59pm GMT

This is an extremely poor report which I would not have expected from such a distinguished Chair as Baroness Butler-Sloss. It may be expected to gather dust on the shelves of most influencers. Reports where there is poor attention to detail send alarm bells ringing. Its patrons included a former archbishop, correctly referenced as The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Lord Williams of Oystermouth on page 2. He re-appears on page 91 as The Rt Revd Lord (Rowan) Williams, University of Cambridge, in case we had forgotten that he is the real Rowan and now Head of a Cambridge college. Few dioceses of the Church of England bothered to make submissions, in fact three. More regions of the British Humanist Association put pen to paper (four). Quite what the Diocese (sic) of Woolwich had to say I would be interested to know, being a candidate for election to the Dioceses Commission! A number of individuals sent submissions, but some were more individual than others. A certain Richard Chartres participated (page 94); in what way we don’t know. Surely the Bishop of London? Likewise David Ison, better known as the Dean of St Paul’s. The report bends over backwards to accommodate the humanists, not noted as a growing ‘religion’. It refers to ‘living with difference’ in places which then become ‘living with differences’, not perhaps a significant point. The bibliography looks selective. No reference to Professor Roger Trigg, whose important work Religion in Public Life ought to have been considered. One of the most fatuous recommendations is: bodies responsible for admissions and employment policies in schools with a religious character (‘faith schools’) should take measures to reduce selection of pupils and staff on grounds of religion. Regardless of the religious affiliations (or not) of pupils or staff, the reality is that these schools attract pupils because of their performance. Is the Baroness suggesting amending the Equality Act? The sheer demand for these schools means that there is a need to determine some kind of admissions policy. It is unlikely to be a blind one. No, this won’t do.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Saturday, 12 December 2015 at 12:17am GMT

@ Cynthia, "Rod, you should remember that as a gay person I'm on the receiving end of a lot of that nasty rhetoric." Good point, and a helpful reminder for someone like me.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 12 December 2015 at 2:00pm GMT

This report is just a combining of institutional opinions. It is not proper research. As for John Milbank, and his references elsewhere to sociology as 'secular theology', that secular theology gets supported by research whereas his 'theology' is just a bubble of his own Platonist imaginations and some wished-for institutional Church he'd regard as the basis of perfect peace. Hardly.

Posted by Pluralist at Saturday, 12 December 2015 at 3:32pm GMT

'Cynthia, I think I understand where you're coming from on this. However, I think we also need to remember that we're never given a guarantee in our scriptures that people will not resent the good news...' (Tim Chesterton)

As Jesus found in his day, I as a married gay person find, (and appreciate Cynthia's spot on posts)the good news is resisted by the Church of any age...

More good news among lgbt very often - real 'accurate' too...

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Tuesday, 15 December 2015 at 11:03pm GMT
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