UK’s growing debate over the role and relevance of the church in the state has found a voice of support from the country’s Hindu community.
“To disestablish the church would not only weaken the British democracy but it will alienate the church from its own internal reforms that are as necessary,” said Anil Bhanot, managing director of the UK’s representative organisation for Hindus.
“Furthermore from our Hindu minority point of view we would feel left stranded alone since the church by reason of its disestablishment would have no obligation to look after us for our engagement in the political process,” he said.
“What establishment does is that it ensures there is a mutual respect for each other’s different modes of work, different stances on policy, and that ultimately by giving a small, a tiny proportion of the parliamentary space, an inclusivity of faith which otherwise would be assigned to the wilderness, takes its rightful place in forming policy,” he added.
The debate over the role of religion in the country’s polity has highlighted divisions between politicians. The disestablishment of the church would undo a constitutional settlement that has stood since Henry VIII rejected the authority of the Roman Catholic Church in 1534.
The Queen holds the title of Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Reverend Justin Welby, had also waded into the debate, saying Britain was not a Christian country if solely measured by the number of people attending churches, but that the country was undeniably “shaped by and founded on” Christianity.
In its reaction, Hindu Council UK traced the links between religion and politics to ancient India, saying: “There were instances where the King would summon a Rishi, a Seer, from his ashram in the forest to debate an issue for a short period and then let him go back to his ashram. It was a softer advisory relationship. That is what the Church’s Establishment is all about.”
The view of the Hindu community comes days after British Prime Minister David Cameron courted criticism for describing UK as a “Christian country”.
Cameron’s increased religious rhetoric in recent weeks has included an article written in the ‘Church Times’ in which he said Britain should be “evangelical” about its Christianity and a separate claim made earlier this month that the Conservative party’s “Big Society” initiative was continuing Jesus’ work.
“It is the case that Christians are now the most persecuted religion around the world,” he said most recently at an Easter reception in Downing Street.