Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Arguments against Disestablishment?

After writing my post on the Petition to Disestablish the Church of England , I wondered, in the UK Brights forum , why anyone, who had a naturalistic worldview or equivalent, and lived in the UK (well at least England or Wales), would not want to sign this petition? I had some interesting responses which I would like to review and answer here.

If disestablishment succeeded, it would play into the hands of non-established religions, leading possibly to the future establishment of a different religion. The roman catholic church was specifically mentioned with respect to the UK. Whether it would be that or other religions here, I could also add that I have wondered about the motivations of minority religions, such as Islam, supporting the move to disestablish in Norway. I don't know, but assume, that in conjunction with disestablishment, there is also the creation of a non-establishment clause or equivalent. I have also assumed but now wonder, if this is always the case, whenever disestablishment has occurred? For our purposes here we shall assume so anyway and we already know this is the case of this petition. My answer here is that these issues either are made worse or no worse, but certainly no better, by continued establishment, as the other religions seek parity, but only with such an institutionalised unequal peer, the Church of England, at the cost of parity to the rest of us. Let us at least remove this inequality and deal with the other issues as they occur.

If the Church of England is disestablished, it would still hold much power in UK institutions, which would then be invisible. Yes I believe this would be the case, even if it is just the old boy network and so on. Indeed it already does have invisible power, for example, most people who are aware of its representation in the House of Lords, are unaware of its influence on educational decisions, with veto power in Local Education Authorities throughout the country. With disestablishment, clear lines would drawn out and it could be more clearly indicated where it is overstepping the mark. Public scrutiny and the legal system could serve to monitor any excesses but this would be an ongoing task, as it already is with minority religions trying to create more unfair benefits and it would surely make it easier to contain them all together?

The Church of England is dead, why revitalise it? I hold that this is a myth that, in some sense, they would like you to believe. It does have more power than we realise and whilst it is institutionalised, as at present, it can keep a relatively low profile and work behind the scenes. I would also grant that it is not remotely as thriving a religion as others in this country and note, that contrary to the claims regarding roman catholicism above, the main christian sect that is growing internally (not through immigration) are evangelicals not the anglicans or catholics. I might also add the often drawn contrast between the US with its non-establishment clause and the UK with established religion. This is really the subject to another post but the two countries are very different. In truth I do not mind a more vibrant Church of England if it is operating on a level playing field with everyone else. Note that I don't like religion, that is I am religiophobe, but I am not anti-religious, in the sense that the freedoms I want I cannot deny to others including the religious - the freedom of and from belief of course.

With disestablishment, the monarch could marry a roman catholic. Or a muslim or an atheist! This is a different issue. With disestablishment, the monarch becomes the head of no faith at all, just a member of the faith they prefer. This really is an issue about the monarchy and could equally occur if Prince Charles becomes King (albeit the religious free might not be allowed to marry royals but any faith could...)

I hope I have covered and reasonably summed up the objections I have been exposed to. Interestingly the people who actually voiced these objections above have all signed the petition!For the rest of you I hope this might have alleviated some of your concerns over this petition. In addition I seem to be the only who picked up on this, I cannot find anything online about the author of this petition. So if you agree with this petition, please sign it and publicise it, either pointing here, writing your own blog on it, posting about it in relevant forums, writing letters to the editor of newspapers and so on. As I have said before the only possible goal I can see is simply to raise its profile so that it is part of the public debate. It is up to us to make this happen. If you are still unconvinced, please tell me why.


Bob said...

The link to your petition is broken -- add the "h" back in at the beginning.

I wasn't involved in the discussion, but I do frequent the Brights UK group, and I agree with your arguments here. I think the long-term principle is more important than these short-term tactics, and you demolsih those short-term tactics anyway.

martino said...

Fixed the link thanks