Search This Blog

New Book

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

By Norman Bonney,
Manchester University Press, October 2013

Advance online order deals with Amazon and Blackwells

Friday, 23 November 2012

Secularism challenges religious privilege not religious expression

Towards a free market in religion

Secularism is not hostile to religion but it does challenge religious privilege which is so entrenched in many ways in our society.

Secularism is not against freedom of expression, religious or otherwise, but it is does challenge privileges which are granted by the state to some religions or denominations in the public sphere.

Secularism opposes religious privileges such as powers granted to some faiths and denominations to propagate their doctrines in state funded schooling or to act as purportedly national churches at official state  ceremonies.

One particular form of religious.privilege is the right to conduct marriage ceremonies on behalf of the state. In Scotland a wide range of denominations can do this: in England and Wales the range is much more restricted.

The removal of the privilege of some religious denominations to register marriage on behalf of the state would mean all marriages would firstly,as in France, have to be legally registered in a state civil registration process without religious features and in non-religious premises. Then the new partners/spouses would then be free to celebrate their union in any way that they could negotiate with any particular faith or denomination. Religious denominations would then be freed of legal regulation of their marriage/partnership celebrations.

Religious denominations should not expect that they can conduct marriage registration on behalf of the state and then claim that they should only be able to pick and choose which forms of marriage they will recognise and celebrate. If they want that freedom then they should not expect to exercise their current role in the civil registration of marriage.

It is strange how conservatives are so fond of market principles but are not prepared let them operate in religious matters.

Let us have a free market in religion and remove the monopolies and privileges granted by the state to some, but not all, religious denominations.