Separation of the Church of England and State

The American constitution reads:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

which has been generalized as a “separation between church and state”. In contrast, England has an official state religion, Church of England, in which the twenty six bishops are an official part of legislative duty called the Lords Spiritual as a part of the House of Lords in parliament. However, the laws in America and United Kingdom are very similar because they both incorporate religious aspects in some way.

Lords Spiritual

For example, most states in the US do not allow gay marriage with the main reason being that it re-defines the definition of marriage and therefore undermines its validity. The biggest opponents to gay marriage are the various religions that find it against their beliefs. They take their own beliefs and fund campaigns to ensure, their standards (of only a man and a woman getting married) are upheld. In this way, each religion is upheld in US court based on the amount of funding they can contribute to specific candidates in office or specific propositions and various other campaigns. Additionally, people that are observant in various religions vote in the democratic system set up by the US. Their votes reflect their religious opinions and have an effect on the future of the country.

Contrasting to the use of funding and voting to incorporate religion, the UK works it into the voting and discussion process in parliament. This means that religion is given a formal voice but also that it is monitored by the fact that it is only the highest delegates that participate. When it comes to gay marriage, the Church of England is opposed (similarly to the religious groups in the US). The fact that there are delegates however, allows them to have a conversation with politicians who have a high priority to make it happen (to please constituents and get re-elected). Due to this ability discuss, the UK is planning to put in a clause that allows religious organizations to decide whether they want to perform marriages for same sex couples.

In general, although the US tries to separate legal issues and religion, they cannot silence those in the population that feel that religion should mandate everyday life. In that way, religion will always be incorporated into the way people vote and therefore the type of legislation that is passed. The UK formalizes this process by having a few people that represent those individuals that are a part of the Church of England- they are educated individuals that are able to speak to non-religious politicians so that a compromise can be met.

In my opinion, the effect is very similar, especially looking at the issue of gay marriage. Both systems have taken time to examine how laws affect their religious beliefs (and vice versa). Religion is a big part of people’s lives and therefore it can never be separated and it is delusional to think that religion plays no part in legislative decision making.


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