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Tag Archives: Church of England

The holy alliance to capture the British constitution

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The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, have joined the holy bandwagon, declaring Britain is a Christian country and, as Grieve put it, those denying the fact are “absurd” and “ignoring both historical and constitutional reality”. The British constitution has once more become the battleground for a religio-political struggle. History is being rewritten to dismiss secularists from the temple of democracy.

Cameron took his lead from Baroness Warsi, who returned from a spiritual sojourn in Rome in 2012 to start her crusade against “militant secularism”. Faith is good, so good that the Queen that same year dedicated her Jubilee to rebranding the Protestant Established Church as an umbrella organisation – with her responsibility in it redesignated as “a duty to protect the freedom of all faiths in the country”.

And Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester, has claimed Magna Carta and the 1689 Bill of Rights as Christian documents – along with other good things such as the abolition of slavery, industrial legislation and “reform of the nursing profession”. Secularists have nothing to do with great beacons of British humanity and liberty, was his implication.

Well, up to a point, he’s not wrong. Christians were indeed instrumental, for example, in campaigning against slavery – just as Christians were deeply involved in the African slave trade.

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Bideford council prayers ruling fails to ban Christianity (shock)

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Let us be clear. Britain remains a Christian nation, as Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has insisted – or just as much of a Christian nation as it was before Mr Justice Ouseley ruled that Bideford Town Council had no legal powers to hold prayers during council meetings.

Nor has there been any curtailing of “the right to worship … a fundamental and hard-fought British liberty,” as Pickles suggested. There is not, for example, any ban on Church of England clerics coming within five miles of London; no likelihood of vicars being burned at the stake; no exclusion of members of the Church of England from public office – all milestones (applied by the English state to Catholics and Dissenters) along the road towards establishing the “hard fought British liberty” of worshipping according to the rites of the Anglican state religion (in England, of course, not elsewhere in these islands, where there was a certain amount of resistance to having such British liberty imposed).

But enough of the rant. What actually has Mr Justice Ouseley done if he has not disestablished the Church of England and its communicants? What he has done is look at the powers of local authorities under the Local Government Act 1972 and found that they do not include the power to call elected representatives to a brief act of Christian worship. Such calls are, in the old terminology, ultra vires of the legislatively sanctioned powers of the Town Council.

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