Saturday, February 23, 2008

Separation of Church and State...Brittish Style

When most Americans hear the phrase "separation of church and state," they regard it as a uniquely "American" conundrum waiting to be solved. This couldn't be farther from the truth. Anyone can see by my last post the need for the issue to be raised in Iran. Iran's new buddy, Russia, has witnessed Putin's reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church as an instrument for promoting nationalism. In both cases religion has been used to accommodate a political agenda.

Lately eyes turned towards England when Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, made some controversial suggestions towards religious inclusivity. To put it simply, the Archbishop, realizing the devout Muslim population in England is not only growing but there to stay, suggested that elements of Sharia should be adopted to foster social cohesion. This would mean that two forms of law would coexist within England. For example, a lawbreaker who is Muslim may be punished differently than a lawbreaker who is Christian.

I was not surprised to read the reaction of emergent demigod, Brian McLaren. McLaren lauds the idea, seeing the issue more as an issue of accommodating varying religious beliefs, which is admirable. But perhaps an insider perspective is more in tune with issues, as is described in the Economist.

The issue is complex since the Church of England is so much more intertwined than would be possible in the United States. As the Economist points out, law is the highest order in England. To a Brit, making exceptions of any kind is absurd an offensive. And perhaps even more of an issue, is the fact that such a prominent Church leader has the wherewithal to make such a political call. In the United States a media heyday ensues anytime church leaders make political suggestions, let alone creating policy (were it possible outside any congressional position).

The Economist solution? Cut them loose. Sever the relationship between parliament and the Church of England. What do you think? Does a fluid law based on religious affiliation encourage social cohesion? Or could jealousies over privilege and punishment ferment in this environment? Should the church be completely separate from the State? If that were to happen, would that encourage social cohesion?

***After making such bold statements, the Archbishop public declared that many aspects of Sharia Law are appalling. That is why he only suggested "elements" of Sharia be allowed. The Archbishop is certainly not making many new friends these days.

1 comment:

Addison said...

everything depends on what would benefit me the most. if i was in power, i'd want to stay that way and call off the muslims... if i didnt have any power, id say "bring it on"... as far as the economy is concerned... to really fix it, gotta get rid of the bank of england...good luck. props to austrian free market economics. :)