Religion news 15 May 2024

Image credit: CC BY-NC Bilde: Rui Vieira

Election data shows people who are religiously affiliated are more likely to vote

The Theos think tank has analysed data from the British Election Survey on the correlation between religion and voting in elections, which indicates that voters who are religiously affiliated are more likely to vote on polling day than non-religious voters. Researchers have looked at voting patterns among all Christian denominations and those of other faiths, identifying which groups consistently vote to the right, which have become floating voters after long traditions of supporting Labour and which political events caused sudden change. For some groups there is no clear party preference, with support mirroring general voting patterns. The authors’ conclusion is that there is no doubt that religion counts, even when demographic variables are taken into account. The reports will be explored in a Religion Media Centre briefing at 1200 today, with commentators quizzing the report authors on their findings. To get the zoom link: [email protected]

In multi faith Britain, 73 per cent have friends from different faiths

A poll for the Institute for the Impact of Faith in Life has found that 60 per cent believe that the UK welcomes religious diversity and that good relations exist between faith groups, with 73 per cent having friends from different faiths. Despite this, confidence in religion as a force for good in society is low, with only 36 per cent agreeing. However, among Muslims, 83 per cent said religion is a force for good and politicians should listen to what faith leaders have to say on social and political issues.  There was low trust in the media with 51 per cent saying it is unbalanced, and 71 per cent saying it is biased.  Among Christians, there was a sharp generational divide on the role that Christian heritage plays in British culture. 74 per cent of over 65s thought it was important, but only 46 per cent of 18-24 year olds agreed.  The survey was carried out by Whitestone Insight among 2,064 UK adults on-line between 1 – 2 May 2024. 

34 British rabbis call on Israel to halt Rafah attack

Thirty-four UK rabbis have issued a statement calling on Israel to halt its attack on Rafah and to accept a ceasefire. The Jewish Chronicle reports that the signatories, mostly from Progressive congregations, say they are “deeply concerned for the fate of the 133 Israeli hostages still held in Gaza and the suffering of all in the region”. They fear that the ongoing war puts at risk both the hostages’ lives and those of many Palestinians. The statement says they stand in solidarity with protesters in Israel demanding an end to the war, a halt to the invasion of Rafah, a bilateral ceasefire by both Israel and Hamas, the release of all hostages and urgent aid to be provided to Gaza.

Na’amod accuses Board of Deputies of deafening silence over Israel’s actions in Gaza

The Jewish group Na’amod, which seeks to end the Jewish community’s “support for Israel’s occupation and apartheid, and to mobilise it in the struggle for freedom, equality and justice for all Palestinians and Israelis” has urged people to stop contributing to the Board of Deputies of British Jews because of its “deafening silence” over Israel’s actions in Gaza. The Jewish Chronicle reports a Na’amod spokesperson saying the BoD has “failed to engage or represent members of the community with critical views of the Israeli occupation and its breaches of international law…At this time of unspeakable death and horror, they have been deafeningly silent about the consequences of Israel’s actions in Gaza. Instead, they have been complicit in a right-wing project to repress public outcry and calls for an end to the violence. It’s a disgraceful failure of moral responsibility.” There has been no repsonse from the Board of Deputies.

Top business leaders join campaign for high quality Religious Education in schools

Leaders from the Bank of England, University College London and the Peter Jones Foundation have joined a Call to Action asking the government and schools to improve the teaching of Religious Education.  The campaign is led by Lord Bilimoria, former vice president of the CBI and Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, who says high quality RE in schools is important for an inclusive, global facing workplace. He believes it allows young people to engage with the complexity of modern belief, helps avoid misconceptions, and produces students ready to work with people around the world from all walks of life. There is a statutory requirement for all schools to teach religious education up to year 13, but a 2022 study by the National Association of Teachers of RE found that up to 500 secondary schools were not fulfilling their obligation. 

70 per cent of school leaders surveyed want collective worship banned

The National Secular Society commissioned a poll of 2,000 school leaders and found 70 per cent disagreed with the law requiring all schools to hold daily acts of collective worship, which must be “wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character”.  Just 12 per cent of senior leaders support the current law. The NSS has urged the government to “recognise the divisive and deeply unpopular nature” of the collective worship law and repeal it, saying it adds to religious tension.  Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union the NAHT, agreed that the law must be removed: “School leaders know the benefits of bringing children together, for example in an assembly, to share values and experiences. But they must be given the flexibility to develop an approach that works best for their school, supporting and upholding the values of their unique community.”

Publication of Makin review into John Smyth, delayed again

The publication of the Makin review into John Smyth, a barrister and evangelical Anglican who groomed boys from public schools and Iwerne Christian summer camps and then beat them with whips in his shed, has once more been delayed. The story of abuse came to light on Channel 4 news in 2017 and the report was commissioned in 2019. It was expected to be published in 2020 but has been repeatedly delayed as new information came to light. The Iwerne camps identified future leaders of the Church of England, one of whom is now the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. Campaigners say at least nine current bishops are implicated in safeguarding concerns over the decades, with accusations that people knew of the incidents but nothing was done. It’s reported that only two clergy have been sanctioned. The Church Times quotes the review author, Keith Makin, explaining the delay is due to a late substantial change, and that the last stage in the process, allowing people criticised in the report to see it and respond, is yet to be completed, so no date of publication can be given.

Hyper wealthy Sir Paul Marshall “won’t use The Telegraph as a vehicle for religion”

The Guardian has an article on Sir Paul Marshall, entrepreneur, philanthropist and evangelical, describing his links with Holy Trinity Brompton and the Conservative party,  and charting his plan to buy The Telegraph. Jim Waterson, political media editor, says Sir Paul’s bid for the Telegraph, backed by the US billionaire Republican donor Ken Griffin, is due imminently, and the winner is expected to be named by July. The article quotes a source close to Sir Paul, “downplaying the idea that he would use the paper as a vehicle for religion, insisting that he sees the Telegraph primarily as a business venture, although it aligns with his values”. Article is here

Arts curator appointed to encourage innovation in cathedrals

The Association of English Cathedrals has launched a new partnership with a consultant arts curator who will offer support and advice to cathedrals exploring the use of visual arts to tell their story and attract new visitors. She is Jacquiline Creswell, who has been curating art in sacred spaces for more than 15 years, including the “Am I My Brother’s Keeper” sculpture series on inter-connectedness. Her role is to work with cathedrals identifying opportunities, curating and delivering projects. She said she’s looking forward to workiing in great buildings and sacred spaces, as “art has the power to attract and engage people who are otherwise outside the formal structures of faith, belief and belonging”.


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