Does the Church have a role to play in political debate today?

Jessica Collett,

As a convinced atheist, it is expected of me to have an automatic knee jerk reaction to this question – a most determined ‘No, of course not!’ ala Richard Dawkins. And yes, in this particular debate I am arguing against the church playing a part in the political sphere; however, this is not based on my personal beliefs or that I hate religion. The church does have a definite role to play in the political debates of this country – as a strictly outside establishment, a moral compass for those in power, but to not have a covert influence in decision making. The church should not play a part in politics because it represents a severe conflict of interest on their part.

The church should remain objective in matters such as the St Paul’s protest because there are no benefits for them taking sides. No matter what course of action they could have taken (such as perhaps letting the campers stay in the church itself or immediately summoning the police to excise them) they would have incurred the anger of those either side of the matter. This is to abandon their role as a movement which was firmly established in defending the poor and the disenfranchised. Having solidarity with either side is to alienate the other – something that is the course in politics.

The church in England is far too varied and diverse for them to take a clear stance in politics. Sure, we have a national church which is formally and perpetually joined to our government through our monarch, but this is one of hundreds of denominations within Britain. Are they all supposed to take a stance in political debates? This could lead to people rejecting the authority of law and taking only the authority of God and their particular church. I think it extremely unlikely that we could ever end up in a situation similar to the American far right but seeing the difficulties posed by such politicised religion there we should try and avoid this state of affairs as much as possible. There have been scandals over couples not permitting gay people into their hotels; it would be extremely backwards if a religious faction were allowed to oppose legislation for climate change in political debates. The church should be above having a political agenda. The archbishop of Canterbury should not be allowed to stamp out his own agenda for change because he is a moral focus point for all Anglican Christians, not just the ones to happen to agree with his viewpoint.

It should also be remembered that the church is an emotional body and the world of politics is not and should not be subject to emotions. Politicians cannot be allowed to be swayed by emotion; ruling a country means making the most difficult, horrendous and cold decisions for the good of your people. The church must be relied upon to provide a spiritual heart for believers, and as such, should never choose to play a part in authority.


  1. The Church should not be given an automatic role in politics, but if the people voted for the Church to have a role, then it should have a role. Allow democracy to govern the extent of its role and influence.

  2. Interesting take on it.
    I feel ill at ease having bishops in the House of Lords, and thus involved in the law making process.

    For me, it is no different to the Mullahs of Iran influencing policy making.

    Religion for me is about an individuals relationship with their supreme being(s).

    I have no issue in religious leaders voicing an opinion, but they have no place in the legislative process.


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