Is Anglicanism still the State Religion in England?
A guest post by Dr Andrew Lilico:
Here is a sine qua non for a religion’s being de facto the state religion: conduct in accordance with the orthodox requirements of that religion must be at the very least presumed legal. For example, Roman Catholicism could not truly be the state religion if it were illegal to teach your children the doctrine of transubstantiation, or illegal to attend confession. Sunni Islam could not be the state religion if it were legally mandatory to worship the King as a god, or mandatory for all schoolchildren to submit drawings of Mohammed in an annual art competition. We could perhaps imagine some conduct required by the state religion to be accidentally prohibited by law, but when that was pointed out the law would have to be changed so that that conduct became permitted or the requirements of the state religion would have to be changed so that conduct was not required — otherwise there would be no content to the claim that this religion was actually the state religion.
Here is a fact: conduct in accordance with the orthodox requirements of Anglican Christianity is not presumed legal. That is the clear and explicit statement in a number of recent legal cases. I shall quote you from the judges statements in two such cases. First, consider McFarlane vs Relate Avon Limited (Case No: A2/2009/2733 in the Court of Appeal (Civil Division), 29/04/2010). In his judgement, Lord Justice Laws stated (paragraph 23ff):
…the liturgy and practice of the established Church are to some extent prescribed by law. But the conferment of any legal protection or preference upon a particular substantive moral position on the ground only that it is espoused by the adherents of a particular faith, however long its tradition, however rich its culture, is deeply unprincipled…The promulgation of law for the protection of a position held purely on religious grounds cannot therefore be justified…The precepts of any one religion – any belief system – cannot, by force of their religious origins, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of any other…So it is that the law must firmly safeguard the right to hold and express religious belief; equally firmly, it must eschew any protection of such a belief's content in the name only of its religious credentials.To assure you that this is not simply the eccentric view of one isolated judge, here is another case: Hall & Preddy vs Bull & Bull (Case No 9BS02095 & 9BS02096 in the Bristol County Court, 18/01/2011). The judgement stated (paragraph 8ff):
Whatever may have been the position in past centuries it is no longer the case that our laws must, or should, automatically reflect the Judaeo- Christian position.The judge went on to observe that the conduct under question in the case arose because of what the defendants understood to be the conduct required of Christians:
I have no doubt, and the point was not seriously pursued by the claimants, that the defendants genuinely hold a perfectly orthodox Christian belief…I want to emphasize here that the key point at issue is not whether this or that specific conduct should or should not be legal. The key point is whether, as a matter of law, conduct which the judges accept to be in accordance with the requirements of Christianity (and Anglicanism in particular) is to be presumed legal. The judges are absolutely clear and explicit that that is not so.
So, for a religion to in fact be a state religion, conduct required by that religion must be presumed legal, or perhaps even actually always legal. But conduct judges accept is required by Christianity is not presumed legal in England. Therefore, Anglican Christianity is not, de facto, the state religion in England.
What, then, of the parish system, or the Bishops in the Lords, or the Queen being the Supreme Governor of the Church? Mere flummery and deceit, if adherents of the state religion cannot legally conduct themselves in accordance with its orthodox requirements. It is rather like the difference between a ritual monarchy and a constitutional monarchy. If the monarch has no constitutional role, but is merely a device for pageantry, then de facto the constitutional system is not monarchy. Similarly, if being a “state religion” is purely a matter of appearance, and has no legal impact, then in the constitutional sense there is no state religion.
Worse than that, actually. For if the pageantry of the state religion is not matched by legal substance, then it is a damaging pretence, for it makes people believe that there is in fact some substantive state religion when there is not. The Anglican Bishops etc then become qualitatively equivalent (though obviously not – or not yet – equivalent in degree) to the placemen priest-spies of the Soviet era, whose role was to placate the truly religious and keep them quiet and in a place the authorities could observe and control them.
When did this happen? When did we decide that Anglican Christian conduct was no longer to be presumed legal? When was the public debate, or the debate in Parliament on that? Is that truly what either the public or the British Establishment wants?
Anglican Christians have become overly fixated on narrow points — about this moral issue or that. What we need to spend more time highlighting is the over-arching point: that Anglican Christianity has ceased to be the state religion in any but a pageantry sense, and almost no-one has noticed or complained.