by John Bingham and Steven Swinford
LONDON — Britain is no longer a Christian country and should stop acting as if it is, a top-level inquiry into the place of religion in society has concluded, provoking a backlash from politicians and the Church of England.
A two-year commission, chaired by the former senior judge Baroness Butler-Sloss and involving leading religious leaders of all faiths, calls for public life to be systematically de-Christianized.
It says the decline of church-going and the rise of Islam and other beliefs mean a “new settlement” is needed for religion in the U.K., giving more official influence to non-religious voices and those of non-Christian faiths.
The report triggered a quarrel Sunday night as it was condemned by cabinet ministers as “seriously misguided,” while the Church of England said it appeared to have been “hijacked” by humanists.
The Commission on Religion and Belief in Public Life document says:
• Faith schools are “socially divisive” and the selection of children on the basis of their beliefs should be phased out
• The number of Church of England bishops in the Lords should be replaced with imams, rabbis and other non-other non-Christian clerics as well as evangelical pastors
• Acts of worship in school assemblies need to be be abolished and replaced with a “time for reflection”
• The coronation service for the next monarch ought to be overhauled to include other faiths
• Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4’s should include non-religious messages.
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