National Secular Society report on Disestablishment

The National Secular Society has published a report, Separating Church and State: The Case for Disestablishment.

The report notes that:

“The available evidence does not suggest that there is any great support for disestablishment, but neither does it point to substantial support for the status quo. The current situation is that most people are simply indifferent to the issue.”

However, its authors see problems ahead, particularly in relation to the Accession of the Prince of Wales. In short:

“A decision on the part of the Prince of Wales to retain a coronation oath overtly committing him to uphold the tenets of the Anglican faith will be antagonistic for the non-Anglican majority of the UK population. On the other hand, attempting to avoid this difficulty by adopting the title ‘Defender of Faith’ will antagonise many supporters of the Church of England, especially the significant proportion that desires greater control over their own internal affairs.”

The report suggests, however, that the arguments for disestablishment are “compelling” and the long-term prospects of it happening are “positive”. It also argues that disestablishing the Church of England would benefit the Church itself, by freeing it from having core elements of its internal governance subject to an external body’s approval.

Unsurprisingly, the report calls for initial steps including the removal of the bishops’ right to sit in the House of Lords, an end to Anglican prayers in both Houses and the removal of the existing legislative relationship between Parliament and the Church.

[Full disclosure: whether or not the Church of England should be disestablished is a matter on which I genuinely have no opinion either way.]

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "National Secular Society report on Disestablishment" in Law & Religion UK, 11 December 2017,

4 thoughts on “National Secular Society report on Disestablishment

    • To use internet slang, “MRDA” (i.e. “Mandy Rice-Davies Applies”); this is unsurprising, since the NSS has actively campaigned for the disestablishment “for more than a century”. However, the NSS might equally say “Well he would, wouldn’t he?” about the various reactions (unofficial) from the Church!

      With regard to the Report’s launch, coming the week after the NSS tweeted “In attacking secular schools over their ‘lack of values’ yesterday, it appears the Archbishop of Canterbury was channeling Hitler” , was not a good move.

  1. If HMG has no ‘bandwith’ to tackle the really pressing domestic problems of the nation, it surely hasn’t for this.

    • Though, as I said at the end of my post, I genuinely don’t have a view one way or the other, I certainly think that, when compared with getting Brexit right (and all the fallout from it), running the economy and generally preventing HMS UK from hitting an iceberg, disestablishment is a pretty low priority.

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