I don’t live in Britain, I’m not British and I’m not a Christian, so this affects me not at all. Also, I assume that the British are fully capable of deciding this issue without my input.
However, I am currently reading a novel by Anthony Trollope (Phineas Redux) in which disestablishment is a central plot point (more of a McGuffin, but still). And the novel is set in the 1860’s. According to the narrative in this novel. a majority of the country seemed to think at that time that disestablishment was a foregone event, at some point in the then-not-too-distant future.
And that is apparently where we still are.
I understand that there have been changes, such that being a non-churchgoer has no penalties, but it still seems bizarre to me if any public funds go towards supporting any church.
Here in the US, we value (or say we value) religious freedom, including the freedom from religion. It’s hard for me to understand the appeal of an established state religion, other than tradition and “we’ve always had it.” And it seems fairly self-evident that the CofE has an advantage over other churches by virtue of its establishment.
Can anyone argue, without appealing to tradition, that this state of affairs should continue?
Nitpick: The Church of England doesn’t receive any public funds by virtue of its establishment. It’s funded by donations from its own members, and income from its endowments. In so far as it gets any public funds at all, it gets them on the same terms as other churches (and indeed non-churches) under, e.g., arrangements for funding the conservation or restoration of historic buildlings, arrangements for funding schools, etc.
Well, of course, historically, much of the large endowment of the CofE did in fact come from the State, by virtue of establishment. (Though, of course, that is also true of many non-established, but formerly established, churches around the world.) And it’s possible that there is still some modest amount of public subvention arising out of establishment (e.g. the per diem allowances paid to CofE bishops for attending the House of Lords).
But I don’t think the current financial supports associated with estabishment are more than trivial. And there may be none at all, subject to what the earlier thread you refer to may show.
Just to be clear, I oppose establishment. I just don’t think the financial side of it is more than trivial. There are much stronger, better arguments against establishment.
I’m not a religious believer myself. But I’m not as anti-religion as some people are on this board. So I can accept that religion is a part of culture even if you don’t personally participate. I have no more problem with the British government choosing to support a religion than I would have with it choosing to support an orchestra or a museum.
For most, I think the complaint is not so much that the government “supports” a religion, but that, notionally at least, religion is part of the government.
There are, after all, some CoE bishops with seats in the Lords solely by virtue of their position in the church - not a privilege that other religions enjoy. Personally, I have other hills to die on, but I can see why people might consider this situation to be unjust.
Isn’t it the case that the government has the power to appoint senior officials in the Church of England? It seems to me that establishment is a bit of a devil’s bargain for the Church as well as for the state.
Historical trivia: There is apparently considerable scholarship supporting the assertion that the establishment clause of the first amendment was intended to protect the then-established state churches from being superseded by the establishment of a national church.
Formally, yes, Church of England bishops are appointed by the Queen on the advice of the government.
There is a long and complicated process within the church itself, the outcome of which is a list of two names which are forwarded to the Prime Minister. The convention is that the Prime Minister will advise the Queen to appoint the first name on the list.
But the underlying point is well made. It’s often assumed that the purpose of separating church and state is to exclude religious influences from public policy. In fact the primary motive, historically, has been to protect churches from state interference, and in most modern examples of established churches it is much easier to discern the effects of state policy on the organisation, operation and sometimes even teachings of the church than it is to discern the effects of church teaching on the state.
I’m not saying I’m personally in favor of church support as a government program. If I were a British MP, I’d probably vote against it.
But I think it’s a not an indefensible government program. I see it as essentially the equivalent of the National Endowment for the Arts - government funds being used to support a cultural program. And like support for the arts, support for one work of art doesn’t require all works of art to receive the same support. The British government can decide that the Church of England gets support that other religions do not.
I fail to see a single good reason to keep the Church of England established. It forces millions of Nonconformists, Catholics, Moslems, Jews, Deists, agnostics, and atheists to support a church (even if only symbolically) they do not believe in while putting the CoE under political pressure.
Being (officially) a ‘national’ church, and being intertwined with the government, has been terrible for the church. It’s created the expectation that the Church of England should be one that tailors itself to the values of the British public, instead of the other way around. This is why you get political pressure on the church to do things like ordaining women, allowing remarriage after divorce, and most recently to allow gay marriage. And, of course, more generally, to water down its doctrines to make them palatable to modern sensibilities.
Re: It forces millions of Nonconformists, Catholics, Moslems, Jews, Deists, agnostics, and atheists to support a church (even if only symbolically) they do not believe in while putting the CoE under political pressure.
I’m not all that annoyed by the first thing, but I’m tremendously annoyed at the second, so we can definitely agree that the established status of the COE is a bad thing, even if for separate reasons.
Rationally there is no reason why the CofE should be established. It is only established for England- the Church in Wales, the Episcopal Church in Scotland and the Churh of Ireland are all part of the Aglican communion but are not established in their home nations.
Given that the current Monarch has very strong views on establishment (any attempt to disestablish would be seen as very negative by her) and given her massive, nay incredible personal popularity, any formal disestablishment is unthinkable. That may change on the succession of her heirs!
My preference would be for disestablishment but in balance I am happy to go with it to maintain stability and even as a moderate Republican, I would not want the State to embarrass Queenie who is probably the best and most respected head of state in the world.That may change on the succession of her heirs!
That said, the UK despite its Established Church in England, its faith schools (CofE, Cathlic, Jewish, islamic, Sikh- all largely state funded) is considerably less God infested than the US. You can make a little provision in an eighteenth century constitution, but you cannot legislate against public sentiment that seems to want God to run the country but not actually formally recognise that.
With the esceptions of Northern ireland and Glasgow, what religion you are (as opposed to the problem of ethnicity rather than religion which surrounds radical Islam) matters little in the UK and no-one talks of it. People attend church privately and without announcing their faith and you are regularly surprised when you find that an acquaintance is not of the broad nominal category CofE (“Soldier , what religion are you we need to put it on your ID card?” “None really, you better put me down as CofE”) but is Catholic or Jewish or heaven forfend attends and evangelical Christian church!
Part of this is cultural rather than deeply religious. Even as a pretty solid agnostic I still identify myself sometimes as Christian Democratic Socialist or more specifically a Wesleyan- heavily Christian in terms of human fallibility, sin, crime and so on, in terms of forgiveness and rehabilitation, support and comfort for the lowly however despicable, but only mildly socialist in terms of Economic policy.The British Labour Party used to have a major wing that was of this bent but recently has become an unholy alliance between Tory Lite and State Socialist Lite- it lost its heart when it decided that it must chase the vote of the ‘hard working family’ and lost its Wesleyan Co-operative approach to lowliness. Rant over.
The only ‘advantage’ the CoE has by way of it’s establishment is the ability for the bishops to scold either the government or scientists from it’s massively powerful bully pulpit.
The government looks offended and tells the bishops they are not there to lecture on morals; whilst the scientists promise their discoveries will never be used for harm and wait a few years until they are and it’s the new normal.
Well, of course, this cuts both ways. In the English Reformation the English government “assigned” very large amounts of church properties to itself. I don’t know whether, if you did an inflation-adjusted balance sheet, the church or the state would come out the overall winner from these exchanges.