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Religion in the Public Forum

  • Roger Trigg (a1) (a2)

Must the state be neutral to all religious and philosophical positions? This article argues that that is an impossibility and that the most basic principles of our democratic society, such as our belief in the importance of individual freedom and equality, are Christian in origin and need their Christian roots. The relevance of recent judgments in the European Court of Human Rights and in English courts is discussed. In particular, exception is taken to views of religious belief that see it as subjective, irrational and arbitrary. It is argued that religion needs to take its place in the public arena, and that the national recognition of the Church of England through establishment is an important means to that end.1

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1 This is a revised version of a paper delivered at the Ecclesiastical Law Society's Conference on Establishment, Leeds, April 2011.

2 See Munoz, V, God and the Founders: Madison, Washington and Jefferson (Cambridge, 2009).

3 Waldron, J, God, Locke and Equality: Christian foundations in Locke's political thought (Cambridge, 2002), p 11.

4 State, Religion, Secularity and Human Rights, Report to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, doc 11298, 8 June 2007, para 16, <>, accessed 1 June 2011.

5 Leyla Sahin v Turkey [2005] ECHR 4474/98 at para 107.

6 Folgerø and others v Norway [2007] ECHR 15472/02 at para 95.

7 See Ronchi, P, ‘Crucifixes, margin of appreciation and consensus: the Grand Chamber ruling in Lautsi v Italy’ (2011) 13 Ecc LJ 287297.

8 Lautsi and others v Italy [2011] ECHR 30814/06 at para 47.

9 Ibid at para 68.

10 Concurring judgment of Judge Bonello in ibid at para 2.3.

11 Ibid at para 2.2.

12 McFarlane v Relate Avon Ltd [2010] EWCA Civ 880 at para 21.

13 Ibid.

14 Ibid.

15 Ibid at para 22.

16 For a discussion of this in connection with religion, see articles in Biggar, N and Hogan, L (eds), Religious Voices in Public Places (Oxford, 2009) and also Trigg, R, Rationality and Religion: does faith need reason? (Oxford, 1998), ch 1.

17 See Ayer, A, Language, Truth and Logic (second edition, London, 1946).

18 See Trigg, R, Rationality and Science: can science explain everything? (Oxford, 1993), ch 1.

19 R (Johns) v Derby City Council [2011] EWHC 375 (Admin) at para 36.

20 Ibid at para 36.

21 Ibid at para 38.

22 Ibid at para 39.

23 McFarlane at para 22.

24 I wrote against different forms of relativism, and their internal inconsistencies, in Trigg, R, Reason and Commitment (Cambridge, 1973).

25 Parochial Church Council of Aston Cantlow v Wallbank [2004] 1 AC 546 HL at para 61.

26 Morris, R (ed), Church and State in 21st Century Britain: the future of church establishment (Basingstoke, 2009).

27 The Religious Dimension of Intercultural Dialogue, Report to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, 25 March 2011, doc 12553, para 53, <>, accessed 1 June 2011.

28 See Trigg, Rationality and Science, especially ch. 5.

29 For a further discussion of these issues see Trigg, R, Religion in Public Life: must faith be privatised? (Oxford, 2007) and R Trigg, Equality, Freedom, and Religion (Oxford, forthcoming).

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Ecclesiastical Law Journal
  • ISSN: 0956-618X
  • EISSN: 1751-8539
  • URL: /core/journals/ecclesiastical-law-journal
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