It called for national and civic events, right up to the coronation of the monarch – now a ceremony conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Church of England’s most senior cleric, in which the new king or queen pledges allegiance to the church – to be adapted to reflect the “pluralistic” nature of modern Britain.
Although the Commission had been drawn from a wide variety of faiths, Baroness Butler-Sloss said that they had all agreed on the way forward – which she described as not minimising Christianity’s place in British public life, but adding to it with other faith traditions.
Government should recognise the negative practical consequences of selection by religion in schools, and that most religious schools can further their aims without discriminating on grounds of religion in their admissions and employment practices, and require bodies responsible for school admissions and the employment of staff to take measures to reduce such selection.
The report says “Three striking trends in recent decades have revolutionised the landscape on which religion and belief in Britain meet and interact”. Vital to the future of Britain as a cohesive society will be the ability of people of all religions and non-religious beliefs and identities to act together for the common good’. Now it is fourth behind Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism.
The commissioners are The Rt Hon Baroness Butler-Sloss of Marsh Green GBE (chair), Dr Edward Kessler MBE (convenor and vice-chair), Bishop Dr Joe Aldred, The Very Revd Dr Ian Bradley, Dr Shana Cohen, Andrew Copson, Shaunaka Rishi Das, Professor Gwen Griffith-Dickson, Mark Hammond, The Rt Revd Professor Lord Harries of Pentregarth, Dr Jagbir Jhutti-Johal, Professor Francesca Klug OBE, Professor Maleiha Malik, Professor Tariq Modood MBE, Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, Professor Lord Parekh of Kingston upon Hull, Brian Pearce OBE, The Revd Canon Dr Angus Ritchie, Rabbi Dr Norman Solomon, and The Revd Dr Robert Tosh.
There also needs to be an overhaul of how religious education is taught, it argues.
Executive director Keith Porteous Wood said: ” Disestablishing the Church of England should be a minimum ambition for a modern Britain in the 21st century. In England, one-third of schools are government-funded faith schools, majority Christian.
The report makes a series of a recommendations to reflect a shift in religious beliefs in British society.
“We want a crowded marketplace in which all traditions make their voices heard”, he also said.
In Northern Ireland, more than 90 per cent of children attend schools that are either Catholic or Protestant.
What is indisputable is that we are now part of a globalised, interconnected and increasingly unsettled world in which the disputes within and between religions in other nations – from the Middle East to Africa and Asia – are reflected back into the United Kingdom, sometimes creating or exacerbating tensions between different communities here. We know, for example, that the response of many schools to the horror of the Paris attacks will have been in the context of collective worship.
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