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New Book

Civil religion in the UK, Canada, Australia and the Commonwealth

By Norman Bonney,
Manchester University Press, October 2013

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Monday, 28 November 2011

Representing Religion Officially in State Activities is Socially Regressive

Yet again proposals have come forward, this time from the Archbishop of Canterbury, for widening official religious representation in the House of Lords. As if 26 Bishops of the Church of England were not enough the divine now wishes to add representation for other groups of religious believers to the House of Lords, the unelected chamber of the UK Parliament.

In a newly published paper in the Political Quarterly, Norman Bonney, demonstrates how the official representation of non-Anglican religions at the wedding of Prince William Windsor in 2011, only included one woman (a representative of the Salvation Army and the Free Church Federal Council), no Afro-Caribbeans and statistically substantially over-represented Jews and Roman Catholics and under-represented Muslims. He points out how these unequal outcomes could well arise from the closer access to power that some religious groups have compared to others.

The author adds that any attempt to add to existing religious representation the House of Lords risks working against the ambitions of the Cameron Conservative government to promote social mobility and advance the position of women - women seem particularly disadvantaged in many religious denominations - especially those that restrict the priesthood and religious hierarchy to men.

'The Sacred Kingdom and the Royal Wedding of 2011' Political Quarterly. 82, 4, Autumn 2011, 628 -635.