“However, more recently [Charles] has travelled to the Vatican for the canonisation of John Henry Newman and to India, to celebrate the 550th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. These visits and expressions of ecumenical sympathy for the religions of others will only get bolder, now that he is finally able to make the judgments for himself.” Daniel Finkelstein in “The Times’.
The thing about Cardinal Newman, of course, is that he was an apostate moving from the Established Church, of which the then Queen was head, to the Roman Catholic Church. For Charles to attend his canonisation was frankly bizarre. Maybe he felt it was OK to mark the Sainthood of a man who had rejected the Church of which his mother was now head but it was unclear what message was being given.
Charles has always had a fluffiness about religion which his “Defender of Faith” (singular) suggestion illustrates. If you imply some equality in religions you cannot have an Established Church. You can’t with intellectual logic predicate one true religion (the Church of England) and acknowledge the credibility of other faiths as alternatives as well.
Less than one fifth of Britons adhere to the Church of England and even fewer to other Christian sects like Catholicism and the Non-Conformism (see pie chart above). Nearly half of the country has no religion at all. This fact also argues for the disestablishment of the Church.
The American Constitution asserts Freedom of Religion although this at the time it was drafted really meant freedom of Christian worship. When adherents to non-Christian faiths began, much later, to come to the United States the Constitution gave them comfort though that was a bit serendipitous. None of the Founding Fathers were Jews or Muslims or Hindus nor for a century or more were immigrants.
Donald Trump’s Islamaphobia was unconstitutional and shameful and unworthy but it concentrated the mind. Unlike Britain The United States has no established church or religion. The Christian faith is implicit in the rituals and no non Christian has ever been elected to high office. But the Constitution protects all. We are much more singular.
Whilst our formal behaviours are singularly C of E our society is not. Religion is on the decline and secularism is increasingly the norm. King Charles may try and address the paradox implicit in the fact that four-fifths of us reject the Church to which the State adheres.
Those of us who reject all religions should not in any way deny the rights of believers. But in a curious way to view the subject from a secular standpoint can be helpful. To argue freedom of worship and religious equality whilst being a devoted member of one religion is a stretch. To do it when you’re Head of the Church is even more strange !