Separation of Church and State

Is this what we are aiming for?

What has happened in Norway

New Year’s Day saw the separation of Church and State in Norway. The change in the Church’s status was in response to amendments to the Constitution made in 2012:

  • Original Article 2: “All inhabitants of the Realm shall have the right to free exercise of their religion. The Evangelical-Lutheran religion shall remain the official religion of the State. The inhabitants professing it are bound to bring up their children in the same.”
  • New Article 2: “Our values will remain our Christian and humanist heritage. This Consitution shall ensure democracy, a state based on the rule of law and human rights.”
  • Original Article 4: “The King shall at all times profess the Evangelical-Lutheran religion, and uphold and protect the same.”
  • Amended Article 4: “The King shall at all times profess the Evangelical-Lutheran religion.”
    • Original Article 16: “The King ordains all public church services and public worship, all meetings and assemblies dealing with religious matters, and ensures that public teachers of religion follow the norms prescribed for them.”
    • New Article 16: “All inhabitants of the Realm shall have the right to free exercise of their religion. The Norwegian Church, an Evangelical-Lutheran church, will remain the Norwegian National Church and will as such be supported by the State. Detailed provisions as to its system will be laid down by law. All religious and philosophical communities should be supported on equal terms.”

Read full item here.

Anti-intellectual Populism

 

The Rise of Anti-intellectual Populism

It didn’t start in America and it didn’t start with the election of Donald Trump. For months pundits have discussed the phenomenon of ‘post-truth politics’: politics deliberately based on simplification, appealing to the raw emotions of the electorate. Evidence, historical precedent, well-reasoned analyses: all count for nothing. In fact they are repudiated as being the preserve of elites.

This populism replacing reasoned politics is now global and a major threat to universal human rights, to secularism, to reason, and to humanist values.

In India, Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government disparages the open secular framework that has long held the most diverse nation in the world in some sort of social harmony. In Poland, the Government is preparing once again for an aggressive assault on the rights of women, justified entirely through appeals to Catholic dogma. In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte indulges in sermon-like attacks on atheists, interwoven with rabble-rousing cries to bring back the death penalty. And in Russia, Putin, re-elected President in 2012, has used aggressive foreign policy to settle domestic political issues while imprisoning those who offend the church or criticise his regime. In Turkey, we see one of the greatest tragedies of our age: a country full of cosmopolitan potential transformed into a police state under Erdoğan, without democracy and without a free press or judiciary. In Hungary, the rule of law is rapidly becoming history. Elections in the next few months threaten the rise of far-right authoritarian parties in Austria, France, and the Netherlands.

When the world is so very far from what we want it to be, there is a temptation to retreat, to tend to one’s own garden and look to the private and the domestic. These are, after all, areas of our lives where we at least have some sort of control, and where we can have some positive effect.

This isn’t entirely the wrong instinct. Just as peace between nations starts with love between people and happiness in societies, our little choices can affect the bigger picture. So much of the BHA’s work is directed to the lives of individuals: our school volunteers encourage young people to open their minds and their sympathies, our pastoral carers give like-minded support to those in personal crises, and our celebrants guide families and couples through some of the highest and lowest points in their lives.

But public crises call for our public involvement, not just private actions. 

As humanists, we champion secularism because we believe everyone is treated better when governments and churches are kept apart. We champion human rights not simply because we believe in the equal dignity of every living person, but because we know that this is something all-too easily forgotten by humankind. And we steadfastly champion democracy and the rule of law, along with those civil values that ensure their smooth functioning.

In all that we do, these social values are our guides, along with reason, empathy, and kindness. The future is uncertain and ever-harder to predict. But we must enter it optimistically, rationally, and with a cool head on our shoulders. Our humanist way of thinking has given the world so much over the centuries and its resources are far from depleted. We are entering a dark chapter in the human story, but the light has burned brightly in darker times than this. Today we all have a responsibility to tend the flame.

 

Collective Worship Exemption Requests

More than 125 schools have applied over the past three years to be exempt from the legal requirement to hold collective worship of a “wholly or broadly Christian character”.
Information released to Schools Week following Freedom of Information (FOI) requests shows 127 schools have requested a “determinations” from their local Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE) board.
Determinations allow schools to amend their collective worship from being “wholly or broadly” Christian in nature.
A full determination allows a school to change to a different religion – for example, a school with a largely Muslim population could hold Islamic worship. A part determination allows different acts of collective worship to suit different faiths within a school, including atheists and agnostics.       Read More

C of E School Expansion Plans

Entirely the wrong direction of travel: Church of England announces 100 more church schools

The Church of England’s educational empire-building continues, with its recent announcement of plans to build more than 100 discriminatory Anglican ‘free schools’, which will have the legal right to select 50% of school places on the basis of religion.

As if that weren’t bad enough, other major players in our sorry ‘faith’ schools sector are pushing for that cap to be lifted. The Catholic Church, for example, is determined to be able to discriminate with 100% of places at its new schools. A national charity responsible for promoting ‘free schools’, the New Schools Network, has also called for a lift on the cap.

Read More

Rights of the Child

UN –  Rights of the Child

On 9th June the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has published its major periodic review of the state of children’s rights in the UK, and has advocated:

  • the repeal of compulsory collective worship in UK schools
  • a fully integrated education system in Northern Ireland
  • full and comprehensive sex and relationships education in UK schools
  • decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland in all circumstances.         Read More

“Nones” outnumber Christians

Guardian 23rd May 2016

The number of people who say they have no religion is rapidly escalating and significantly outweighs the Christian population in England and Wales, according to new analysis.

The proportion of the population who identify as having no religion – referred to as “nones” – reached 48.5% in 2014, almost double the figure of 25% in the 2011 census. Those who define themselves as Christian – Anglicans, Catholics and other denominations – made up 43.8% of the population.

Read the article

Academies and Religious Influence

On 25th April The National Secular Society published a press release warning that academisation risks increasing religious influence.

Three extracts from the NSS press release :

In 2015 the Archbishops’ Evangelism Task Group said that the Church had an “urgent need” to focus evangelism on children, young people and their parents in light of a catastrophic collapse in adult church attendance.

The earlier CofE ‘Church School of the Future‘ report set out a strategy of expanding the number of Church schools to “intensify the religious input into lesson”, calling for a new “concordat” between the Church and the Government to “reinforce and enhance” the Church’s influence throughout the education system.

The NSS has also raised questions about land ownership, expressing concern that “public land will be transferred from local authorities and placed under control of the local diocese for 125 years, and, given the permission of the secretary of state, the church could use it however it likes”.

Read the whole press release