The Church of England and Disestablishment

There are calls to disestablish the Church of England as the state church of England.  According to the Office for National Statistics, only 46.2% of the people in England and Wales surveyed in 2021 practiced Christianity.  According to the Church of England, only 1.7% of the people in England attended the church’s worship services one or more times a month in 2021. Organized religion is increasingly irrelevant to the people in England, and secularists argue that the government should not have an official church that is not even relevant to most people in England.

Although most English people do not attend church services and are not members of the Church of England, the government is unlikely to cede to demands to remove the state church. A government with a state church is not going to disestablish it just because most of the citizens are not members of it.  The Church of England did not get established due to popular demand, and it will not get disestablished because people demanded it get disestablished.

 The Church of England is also involved in the Parliament of the United Kingdom.  Twenty-six Anglican bishops sit in the House of Lords.  People who support the Church of England can argue that it is good to have bishops in the House of Lords because they can defend or criticize bills based on their moral values.  People who do not support the Church of England can argue that having bishops in the House of Lords is unfair because the church does not seem as relevant in the 21st century. According to Techne UK, 62% of the people surveyed believe that Anglican bishops should not have seats in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Pro-reform politicians can introduce a bill to remove Anglican bishops from the Parliament, but it is especially difficult to get that kind of bill signed into law when the Parliament has influential bishops that can speak against it.  According to the National Secular Society, religious leaders have had seats in the House of Lords since the 14th Century.  It is undemocratic, but unelected representatives have had seats in the House of Lords for so long that it is considered normal.

It was common for nations to have official state religions centuries ago, but most nations currently have no official religion.  According to the Pew Research Center, 43 countries have an official state religion and 40 countries have a preferred religion, but 106 countries have no official or preferred religion and 10 countries have governments that are hostile to religions.  When more people leave organized religions, the number of countries with no state religion might increase.

In a nation that has an official state religion, it often does not matter how popular the religion actually is with the citizens.  It is undemocratic and exclusive to have a state religion, but a government does not have a state religion to make the nation more democratic and inclusive.  The Church of England might not have a lot of support from the citizens of England, but it had enough support from the government of the United Kingdom to still exist since it was founded in 1534.

Even when most people in a nation with a state religion do not support the state religion, there is not a whole lot that they can do about it.  A government with a state church is not going to disestablish the church when it gives the government more power and when the government considers it a good organization.  People can call for the disestablishment of a state church, but the government will need to enact legislation that will disestablish a state church in order for that to occur.

Frank Decapio
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Frank is a writer at the Commoner.  He has degrees from Duquesne University, Eastern Gateway Community College, and Indiana Wesleyan University.  He likes to listen to rock, jazz, metal, and Italo disco music.  He writes about many subjects, and he wants to make inventions

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