A major report released on Monday sparked fury among ministers and the Church of England after it suggested that Britain was no longer a Christian country and called for Hindu, Muslim and other non-Christian representation in the symbols of the country’s establishment.
Titled ‘Living With Difference’, the report notes the decline in Christian affiliation in recent decades, increase in the number of people with non-religion beliefs and identities, and the increase in the number of people of non-Christian affiliation.
The Church of England said it was “disappointed” with the report, and said: “The report is dominated by the old fashioned view that traditional religion is declining in importance and that non-adherence to a religion is the same as humanism or secularism”.
The report by the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life recommends overhaul in several areas, include the media, law and education. It calls for representation in the House of Lords for non-Christian religions such as Hinduism, Islam and limiting the number of bishops in it.
The 150-page report is taken seriously because of the seniority of its composition. Chaired by former high court judge Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, its membership includes prominent judges, religious leaders and senior academics such as Bhikhu Parekh, lecturer in Sikh Studies Jagbir Jhutti-Johal, Hindu chaplain at Oxford Shaunaka Rishi Das, former secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain Iqbal Sacranie and former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
“The pluralist character of modern society should be reflected in national forums such as the House of Lords, so that they include a wider range of worldviews and religious traditions, and of Christian denominations, other than the Church of England”, the report says.
It adds: “All those responsible for national and civic events, whether in the public sphere or in the church, including Coronation, should ensure that the pluralist character of modern society is reflected”.
Similar changes should be made in education, employment, law, media and the BBC, the report says, and wants the BBC Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the Day’ to be extended to “include contributions from those who will speak from a non-religious perspective, including humanists”.
Calling for a Magna Carta-like declaration, the report says: “A national conversation should be launched across the UK by leaders of faith communities and ethical traditions to create a shared understanding of the fundamental values underlying public life”.