Church and State

Substitute teacher Clydeen Tomanio said she remains committed to the party she’s called home for 43 years. “There are some people, and I’m one of them, that believe George Bush was placed where he is by the Lord,” Tomanio said. “I don’t care how he governs, I will support him. I’m a Republican through and through.” (

Andrew Sullivan says that “For the first time, one of the major parties is, at its core, a religious organization.”
The separation of Church and State is, of course, a key tenet of American democracy, enshrined in the First Ammendment. However, I heard an interesting, if counter-intuitive theory recently, which hold that this is precisely why religion has so much political influence in the USA. (Hat-tip: Barney).
Here in the UK, The State has an official religion. Our coins tell us that The Queen is ‘F.D.’ Fidor Defensor, defender of the Faith. By this, we mean the cheap, Store’s-Own-Brand of christianity, as purveyed by the Church of England. It is one of those institutions that consitutes The Establishment, that elusive and ill-defined body that runs our lives. Bishops over here are free to make political statements… but when they do, it seems slightly unseemly. Just like the Royals, they really should be above that sort of thing. Can’t be seen to be taking advantage of your position, old chap.
There are no such constraints in the US system. Religious groups are free to support whoever they wish with money and endorsements. There is no need to be fair in this distribution. The paradoxical result is that religion and religious dogma has a greater influence over policy in the US, than here in Blighty. If Ms Tomanio voiced her support for Tony Blair in such a manner, she would be considered part of the lunatic fringe and laughed out of the country. Its not that the British are all aetheists – far from it. It is just that in our system, God is part of the Establishment. She doesn’t make endorsements.
To those paranoiacs that fear an Islamic Revolution in the UK, may I suggest the following: We institutionalise an Islamic Church – or Mosque – of the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister, via the Queen, can appoint its head, and we will give him or her a knighthood. This should ensure that the moderates prevail, and any whisper of even the idea of Sharia Law will be deafened out… by the sound of our collective tut-tutting, and the flapping of lace curtains.
1 penny, showing the inscription F.D.

2 Replies to “Church and State”

  1. No, I think our system is subtler than you give it credit for. England has an established church, Scotland has a different one, neither Wales nor NI has one at all. The arrangement is rather like that of the different US states at the time the Constitution was written.

  2. Yes, its not a direct correlation. Nevertheless, Rowan Williams and his crew are most certainly part of ‘The Establishment’ so I think the point remains.
    I also recall the indignation when Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor endorsed Michael Howard’s stance on abortion. The debate he sparked was as much about whether religion should mix, as about the actual issue of abortion – And the Catholic Church is certainly not part of The Establishment (well, not our Establishment, anyway). In the US, no-one in the media would question the propriety of a religious leader opining on pretty much anything. Would they?

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