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Backtracking on secularisation

9 February 2008

Father David MacGregor has linked together a number of reports in his Contact Online blog about the Archbishop of Canterbury’s views on introducing Sharia law into Britain, which has set a herd of cats among the pigeons. Here’s an example of what people have been saying Contact Online Weblog: Archbishop backtracks amid calls to resign

The Archbishop of Canterbury was facing a crisis of confidence in his leadership yesterday after calling for parts of Islamic law, or Sharia, to be introduced into Britain.

Amid growing calls for his resignation, including from members of the General Synod of the Church of England, Dr Rowan Williams hastily backtracked, claiming he had never called for a parallel jurisdiction of Sharia for Muslims. But his moral authority, already undermined by the dispute over homosexuality, looked further in jeopardy as prelates from overseas provinces of the Anglican Communion joined in the criticism.

Now if Muslims in Britain can live under Sharia law, how about Christians in Britain being allowed to live under Canon Law rather than civil law, as they were in the Middle Ages? Except, of course, that in an age of religious pluralism the Church of England and the Church of Scotland should not have a monopoly. Roman Catholics should be able to live under their own Canon Law, Orthodox under theirs, and so on. Secularists and the religiously indifferent could, of course, continue to live under Civil Law.

Hasn’t that been tried in some places? How well does it work? And what happens when people under one system have a dispute with people under another? Which legal system would prevail?

It’s certainly an interesting backtracking from secularisation.


PS: It’s sometimes useful to check what someone like the Archbishop of Canterbury actually said rather than all the media hype. Check the Archbishop’s Lecture – Civil and Religious Law in England: a Religious Perspective.


This post has been moved from Blogger, because of the Blogger bug that refuses to record the correct posting time on anything posted after noon.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. 10 February 2008 6:43 am

    Just a point on the blogger bug ! This seemed insoluble. But my guru and I worked on getting the PM time right by using the DRAFT copy which did have the right PM time. I have no idea what happened, but now my blog does AM and PM properly !

  2. 10 February 2008 3:29 pm

    Thank you for including the link to the actual address of the Archbishop. I should have done it along with the rest.

  3. 11 February 2008 6:52 am

    You wrote: “It’s certainly an interesting backtracking from secularisation.”

    I see today in the Daily Telegraph:

    Janet Daley in an article in the London Telegraph 11/10/08 entitled ‘Removing the state from Dr Rowan Williams’ has this t6o say in a longish piece. Is this what you were meaning Steve ?

    “He has laid bare the question that should never have been asked if the prevailing fuzzy compromise between established church and state was to remain tenable: how can a revealed religion officially accept that its position is subservient to secular law? Answer: it can’t – not without surrendering its understanding of absolute truth.”

  4. 11 February 2008 12:35 pm


    Yes, spot on, and thanks for the heads up. I think it deserves a separate post, though!

  5. 11 February 2008 11:56 pm

    Is that not how Israel operates?

  6. 12 February 2008 7:43 am


    Yes, I think it is how Israel operates. It may also be how Palestine operates.

    I’m not sure how Cyprus operated before the Turkish invasion, but there may have been something similar there too.


  1. Backtracking on secularisation? Archbishop of Canterbury and Sharia law « Notes from underground

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