This House believes that the Church of England should be separated from the British state.

Throughout the world, it is common for religious groups to have varying amounts of involvement in the general operation of the state. This can be anywhere from total theocratic rule, where the religious group is completely in charge, the only example today is Iran, to religious groups simply being consulted about certain decisions that are to be undertaken by the state. Due to this potential variation, it is important to place set this debate. This particular debate discusses the situation in the United Kingdom, but the majority of the arguments are applicable to other countries too. In the United Kingdom, the Queen is both the head of state and the head of the Church of England, and senior bishops are often allowed seats in the House of Lords. In this debate, the proposition believes that the church should have no involvement in the running of the state whatsoever. The Queen would give up her role as the head of the Church of England and the Church’s role would be very similar to that enjoyed by other denominations in the United Kingdom.

Title 
The church’s involvement undermines the role of the state.
Point 

The role of the state is to protect its people and to create the conditions for its people’s prosperity. The Church does not share these objectives. The Church’s objectives are, instead, to either convert as many people as possible to its own religion, and to ‘save souls’ brining people into its own perceived afterlife.[1] The Anglican church itself considers its mission to be “transformation - transforming individual lives, transforming communities and transforming the world.” “that calling is carried out at the national level of the Church of England in evangelism, development of parish congregations”.[2] Such a mission is inherently aimed solely at benefiting those within the church or those who can be converted not society as a whole.

The current confusion of state and Church, therefore, is likely to cloud the state’s judgement and limit the state’s ability to provide the maximum possible prosperity and security for its people.

[1] Weller, Paul. “Time for a Change: Reconfiguring Religion, State & Society.” T&T Clark Int’l. 2005.

[2] Church of England, ‘Mission’.

Counterpoint 

The Church does not have enough of an involvement in UK politics for the objectives of the Church of England to have any impact upon how the country is run. The UK government is still run in an entirely democratic way. While the Church is consulted in certain decisions and bishop have seats in the House of Lords, final decisions are still taken democratically by the government.

There is in no way enough involvement by the church in the state for it to actually undermine the role of the state.[1]

[1] Gay, Kathlyn. “Church and State.” Millbrook Press. 1992.

Title 
Separation would show acceptance of other religions.
Point 

It is important to note that it is not religion in general which has this special access to the state in the UK but the Church of England specifically. This means that the state is showing favouritism to the Church of England over other religions by allowing it a far greater contribution to the running of the state. Therefore, separating the church and the state would put all of the religions in the country on an even level of contribution, which is none, and in the process show acceptance of these other religions.[1]

This is especially important as the number of people who identify as following religions other than Christianity in the UK has doubled in the last 20 years.[2] Additionally, many people identify more with their religion than with any country and so this move would help show acceptance of those cultures by the British state.

[1] Hannan, Daniel. “The Conservative Case for Disestablishing the Church.” The Telegraph. 2008.

[2] Lee, Lucy, “Religion.” In Curtice, John et al. eds., British Social Attitudes Survey 2009. p.180.

Counterpoint 

Separation of Church and State would do exactly the opposite; it would create animosity towards other cultures. This separation would be seen by many people, including extremist groups, as pandering to non-Christian religions and cultures in an attempt to show a greater level of acceptance.

This would result in people blaming non-Christian religious groups and cultures for the changes and giving ammunition to extremist groups who wish to incite racism. Rather than benefitting immigrants and people who follow non-Christian religions, this would actively harm them.[1]

[1] Iannaccone, Laurence R. “Religious extremism: Origins and consequences” Contemporary Jewry. Volume 20. 1996. 

Title 
Separation would show non-religious people that their contributions to the state are valued.
Point 

In the last 25 years, the number of people in the UK who identify as non-religious has gone up from 31% to 50% of the population, while people in the UK who identify as religious has gone down by the same amount.[1] Clearly then, there are growing numbers of non-religious people in the UK and falling numbers of religious people.

Separating the church and the state would highlight that one does not have to be part of a certain religion to contribute to the state. With the non-religious now making up half the population it no longer makes sense for one denomination of Christianity to have such an official connection to the state.

[1] Lee, Lucy, “Religion.” In Curtice, John et al. eds., British Social Attitudes Survey 2009. p.173.

Counterpoint 

There are little to no barriers to non-religious people contributing to the state. In present day UK, there are no issues with non-religious people being or feeling unable to contribute to the state. It is far from a necessity to be part of a religious group, or to even be religious, in order to be part of, or contribute it any way, to the government.[1]

The idea, therefore, that it is important to make non-religious people feel as if their contributions are more valued, or that the separation of the church and state would achieve this, is ridiculous.

[1] Gay, Kathlyn. “Church and State.” Millbrook Press. 1992.

Title 
International signalling.
Point 

As a government, the UK aims to promote democracy in the international community while reducing the number of countries adhering to other forms of government that do not listen to their people. This includes opposition to theocracies, where the country is run by a religious group according to religious doctrines, particularly in the case of Iran.

It is difficult for the UK to legitimately condemn such a governmental system while the Church of England has such a heavy role in the running of its own government. Although these are not on the same level, it can still be perceived as hypocrisy by the international community and the separation of church and state would greatly benefit the UK’s ability to condemn these states.

Counterpoint 

Separating Church and State would not increase Britain’s moral high ground. No one would mistake the UK for a theocracy and as a result no one will consider that a full separation of Church and State is necessary for the UK to be able to condemn states where religion has too much influence over policy. In just the same way that democracies can criticise other democracies so a state that has a state religion is capable of outspoken criticism of other states where religion has an influence.

Title 
Separating Church and State in England would be harmful to national identity.
Point 

The reason the Church of England has the involvement that it does in the state is because it is important part of the UK’s cultural heritage. Completely separating the Church of England from the state would be perceived to many people as severely damaging to British national identity. As a national church the Church of England has been at the heart of the country’s political and cultural life since the sixteenth century, religion helped make Britain the country it is today.[1] A separation would be the country turning its back on this history and its own culture.

[1] MacCulloch, Diarmaid, ‘How God Made the English’, BBC, 2012

Counterpoint 

The existence and operation of the Church of England can be considered part of the UK’s national identity but its involvement in running the country cannot. English culture would remain the same regardless of the position of the Church of England in relation to the governance of the country. Culture and identity are not things that can disappear as a result of a change in the country’s constitutional setup.

Title 
Separation would create animosity towards immigrants and non-Christians.
Point 

Currently, we already see problems in the UK with extremist groups blaming immigrants and non-Christian religious groups for pretty much everything from unemployment among whites to a lack of patriotism. Completely separating the church and the state could be seen as a move made due to political correctness and/or to try not to offend immigrants or those from non-Christian religious backgrounds.

This would be providing ammunition to extremist groups, as well as inspiring people who do not share these views to sympathise with them. This would be extremely harmful to the groups who are perceived as responsible for this change.[1]

[1] Iannaccone, Laurence R. “Religious extremism: Origins and consequences” Contemporary Jewry. Volume 20. 1996.

Counterpoint 

Separation would be inclusive to immigrants and non-Christians. People will not be disillusioned by the separation of church and state at all, it is even less likely that they will look for a scapegoat upon whom to pin the blame. The Church of England routinely condemns racist and extremist attitudes and separation will not change this.[1]

[1] The Church of England, ‘Countering Racist Politics’.

Title 
Disestablishment sidelines all religious people.
Point 

Rather than other religious groups seeing the removal of the Church of England’s involvement of the state as them all being put on a level playing field, it is more likely to be seen as a total removal of religion from the government.[1] Bishop John Pritchard of Oxford argues that Anglican Bishops can be seen as acting as community leaders for all faiths and are respected as such, as a result they often support other religion’s such as Pritchard himself arguing a mosque in Oxford should be allowed to issue the call to prayer.[2]

This separation of church and state, therefore, will be seen as a declaration by the government that religious groups have nothing to contribute to the operation of the state. Since nearly 50% of people in the UK identify as religious[3] this is likely to cause a feeling of being undervalued amongst a huge part of society.

[1] Gay, Kathlyn. “Church and State.” Millbrook Press. 1992.

[2] Bardsley, Fran, ‘Bishop backs mosque’s call to prayer’, The Oxford Times, 11 January 2008.

[3] Lee, Lucy, “Religion.” In Curtice, John et al. eds., British Social Attitudes Survey 2009. p.173.

Counterpoint 

The government is not going to suddenly stop listening to the views of religious minorities in the country and will keep listening to the views of the Church of England. It will simply stop the government being prejudicial towards the Church of England compared to any other religion or belief. Currently what we see is the Church of England having privileges that other religious groups do not have. Religious groups and people do not see this as a representation of the involvement of religion in general in the government, they see this as the involvement of the Church of England in the government. The separation of the church and the state, therefore, will actually be inclusive to religious people who do not identify as Church of England.[1]

[1] Hannan, Daniel. “The Conservative Case for Disestablishing the Church.” The Telegraph. 2008.

Title 
Minimal practical effect.
Point 

As it stands, the Church of England’s involvement in the state actually has little effect on it. Decisions are taken by the Prime Minister and his/her government rather than by religious officials and indeed the Church of England can often be a vehicle for the government’s views rather than the Church having an influence on government. As Bishop of Rochester Nazir-Ali states ‘The church is seen simply as the religious aspect of society, there to endorse any change which politicians deem fit to impose upon the public.’[1] Therefore, separating the church and the state will make little difference in terms of the way the state is actually run but may result in a reduction of the influence of the government on some of the population.[2]

[1] Liddle, Rod, ‘The C of E has forgotten its purpose. Why, exactly, does it exist?’, The Spectator, 7 April 2009.

[2] Gay, Kathlyn. “Church and State.” Millbrook Press. 1992.

Counterpoint 

That the separation will have little practical effect is just as much an argument for separation as against it. If there will be little change as a result then why should we stick with the status quo? The practical effect of the change may not be immense but the symbolism of the act would be much greater.

Bibliography 

Bardsley, Fran, ‘Bishop backs mosque’s call to prayer’, The Oxford Times, 11 January 2008, http://www.oxfordtimes.co.uk/news/1955738.bishop_backs_mosques_call_to_prayer/

Church of England, ‘Mission’, http://www.churchofengland.org/our-faith/mission.aspx, http://www.churchofengland.org/our-faith/mission/missionevangelism.aspx

Church of England, ‘Countering Racist Politics’, http://www.churchofengland.org/our-views/home-and-community-affairs/community-urban-affairs/countering-racist-politics.aspx

Gay, Kathlyn. “Church and State.” Millbrook Press. 1992.

Hannan, Daniel. “The Conservative Case for Disestablishing the Church.” The Telegraph. 2008. http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danielhannan/6025451/The_conservative_case_for_disestablishing_the_church/

Iannaccone, Laurence R. “Religious extremism: Origins and consequences” Contemporary Jewry. Volume 20. 1996. http://www.springerlink.com/content/du4l186785164316/

Liddle, Rod, ‘The C of E has forgotten its purpose. Why, exactly, does it exist?’, The Spectator, 7 April 2009, http://www.spectator.co.uk/essays/3521831/part_6/the-c-of-e-has-forgotten-its-purpose-why-exactly-does-it-exist.thtml

Lee, Lucy, “Religion.” In Curtice, John et al. eds., British Social Attitudes Survey 2009. http://ir2.flife.de/data/natcen-social-research/igb_html/index.php?bericht_id=1000001&index=&lang=ENG

MacCulloch, Diarmaid, ‘How God Made the English’, BBC, http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01dxrhg

Weller, Paul. “Time for a Change: Reconfiguring Religion, State & Society.” T&T Clark Int’l. 2005.

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