Debates over the relationship between Church and State might sound like something you only find in history books. Well if you don’t like history don’t worry – the lash-up between bishops and bankers continues to this day. In 2012 the entanglement of Church and State is a question which has significant implications for our democracy and ability to spread progressive ideas about sexuality and family.
Our unelected, unaccountable and uninspiring Head of State, Elizabeth Windsor, is by default the Supreme Governor of the Church of England (a throwback to 1534, when King Henry VIII decided he needed another wife and the Pope wouldn’t let him, so he made his own church, with him in charge) she is also automatically a member of the Kirk (Church of Scotland).
The relationship between the Queen and the established Church means England has Anglican Christianity as its official state religion (which is why the monarch is ‘defender of the faith etc. etc.) A complex web of rules and traditions, inherited from previous generations, maintains this disagreeable situation:
- We still have prayers in Parliament and local Government.
- 26 unelected Bishops of the Church of England still have a place in the House of Lords.
- The existence of faith schools permits the indoctrination that makes a mockery of our country’s supposed ‘freedom of worship’. Worse they spread bigoted and reactionary ideas, creating artificial barriers between people.
As socialists, we defend both the freedom to worship and the freedom not to worship. It’s not nice to be persecuted because of your religious beliefs, but we don’t fight against religious hatred out of a sense of ‘right and wrong’. Attacks motivated by religious, national or cultural differences are divisive and one of the biggest barriers to uniting working-class people against our common enemy – capitalism and the capitalists.
The promotion of Anglican Christianity (which gives legitimacy to the conflict between protestants and catholics in Northern Ireland) by the Con-Dem Coalition, is a crucial part of reinforcing people’s ‘national identity’ – encouraging them to view different faiths with suspicion, rather than seeing that they have more in common with workers from other cultures and religious backgrounds, than they do with their bosses, priests or politicians.
Headlines in Daily Mail such as “Christianity Under Attack” are designed to rally middle England around ideals of “faith, flag and family” (the motto of the Cornerstone Group in the Conservative Party, to which 30 Tory MP’s subscribe).
The ruling classes happily use the cause of Christianity as well as the little-England fanfare of the Jubilee to whip up nationalistic sentiment and ensure that ordinary people put the interests of ‘their’ country first… But the interests of Britain are very often the same as the interests of British capitalists who own and control the economy. Cuts and job losses are profitable to them. Racism and nationalism help undermine resistance. The working-class has no use for any of these, and we have the power to bring about a new society based on co-operation and solidarity, rather than fear and prejudice.