No religion should have any role in the state - and that includes the church of england

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12 February 2008

If it was not for the media, no-one would have heard of the remarks on the Islamic Sharia law, made to a learned Oxford audience by Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury. But, for the gutter press, this was an ideal opportunity to whip up the xenophobic and racist prejudices on which it thrives, and it sure did. Hence the furore.

Williams' remarks were about giving a legal value to some aspects of Sharia law and a degree of legal recognition to the Sharia courts which are operating on British soil. This, in Williams' view, would bring both "communities" under a single system.

Why should anyone be surprised by the head of the Church of England making such a proposal? Isn't it in the interest of the Church of England to reinforce the role of religion in the state? The Anglican church is bound to seek reinforcement from other religions, if only to justify its own continuing position in the British state.

Because this is where the real scandal lies, a scandal the media keep quiet about. 21st century Britain still lives under a state religion. As to the British legal system, it is still impregnated with its religious past, up to and including its ceremonial trappings.

Of course, the Church of England has had to adapt to new circumstances. Since the rulers of the land no longer owe their power to "God", but to wealth, the Church has become an economic power in its own right, in fact the country's largest landowner, with a whole business empire. So, while church audiences are shrinking, dividends, income from subcontracted public services (thanks to Blair) and state-backed legitimacy keep the Church of England going.

What is significant is not the content of Williams' remarks, but the fact that he made them at all. Because they merely echo a general trend among political rulers in today's world, who try to bring back religion to legitimise their criminal policies in front of the public. Bush is a case in point and so was Blair. But it is also the policy of this Labour government which is always so quick at identifying so-called "communities" with one religion or another. Williams is only adapting to the same trend, with the aim of strengthening the state role of religion.

But should the Church of England be allowed to retain its parasitic role in the state and in society? Should our children have to opt-out of religion classes in state schools, as is the case today, rather than opt-in? Should bishops be allowed, by right, into the House of Lords (in fact should this House and all its parasitic appointees exist at all)? In short, should there be a state religion in this country?

The long and short answer is a definite "no". Religion - all religions - should be a private matter and nothing more than that.