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Magda Hassan
10-07-2011, 01:06 PM
Government proposals create a new, independent and unaccountable bloc for Church of England in ParliamentGovernment proposals to keep reserved seats for Bishops in the House of Lords go against what people want and create a new, independent and largely unaccountable bloc for the Church of England in Parliament, suggests evidence provided the British Humanist Association (BHA) to the Joint Committee scrutinising the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill and White Paper.
The BHA’s submission argues that the proposals, presented to Parliament by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in May, do not simply maintain the status quo but give new powers to the Church of England, decrease accountability and even increase proportionately the number of Bishops to have an automatic place in a reformed chamber. The BHA has strongly criticised proposals which would exempt Bishops from the rules on serious offences, leaving them unaccountable to Parliament on the most serious matters.
BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘At the same time as the Government sets out its plans to create a more democratic and accountable House of Lords, it proposes to retain the deeply undemocratic reserved places for the Church of England in our Parliament and to ensure they sit on a different basis from others, with different rules. Astonishingly, that even includes exempting the Bishops from the serious offence provision and those on expulsion and suspension, meaning that on the most serious matters, Bishops in the House of Lords will be accountable to the Church of England and not to Parliament. We believe these and other proposals to retain a privileged place for the Church are not legitimate and cannot be justified, and we urge the Joint Committee to reject them.’
An ICM survey conducted on behalf of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust in March 2010 found that 74% of the British public – including 70% of Christians – believe it is wrong that Bishops have an automatic right to a seat in the House of Lords http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/survey_on_bishops_icm.pdf
Notes
For further comment or information, contact Andrew andrew@humanism.org.uk or 020 7079
3584.
The BHA will publish its submission when it has permission from the Joint Committee.
Some further figures from other polls http://www.humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-belief-surveys-statistics:
42% of people questioned said that the Government paid too much attention to religious groups and leaders (ICM December 2006) http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2006/dec/23/religion.topstories3 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2006/dec/23/religion.topstories3%20)
For more information read the BHA’s briefing on Bishops in the Lordshttp://www.humanism.org.uk/_uploads/documents/1bha-briefing-bishops-in-the-lords-2011-final.pdf.
Key points include:
- The presence of Church of England bishops in the House of Lords as of right entrenches a privileged position for one particular branch of one particular religion that cannot be justified in today’s society, which is not only multi-faith but increasingly non-religious.
- The claim that Bishops are uniquely qualified to provide ethical and spiritual insights is factually incorrect and offensive.
- The presence of Church representatives in the legislature has ceased to be an accurate reflection of UK society and, indeed, increasing numbers of people are opposed to political privileges for religion
http://www.humanism.org.uk/news/view/906