Religion news 16 May 2024

The Crown of Thorns spire of St Michael's Parish Church, Linlithgow. Image credit: Images Above Ltd

Religion is a factor in how people vote and needs more research

A report “Religion Counts”, from the Theos think tank, has found that religion is a factor in how people vote, even when demographic variables are taken into account. Analysing data from the British Election Study, researchers found that voters who are religiously affiliated are more likely to vote than non-religious voters. The results were unpacked in a Religion Media Centre briefing, where the authors said Anglicans who attend church regularly are the most likely group to vote. Overall, people who say they are Church of England, vote consistently to the right, with a clear preference for the Conservative Party over the past ten years. Catholics are floating voters, with their traditional support for Labour swinging to the Tories in 2019-2020, a trend that is now reversing. There is no clear party preference among other Christian denominations.  Muslims tend to vote Labour – though this may chnage because of the party’s stance on the Gaza conflict. And non-religious Britons vote more consistently for Labour. Zara Mohammed, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, told the briefing there was a disconnect and voter apathy evident in some communities, though younger Muslims were more engaged. Dr Siobhan McAndrew, from Sheffield University, observed that  religious people have supercharged networks and a very strong sense of motivation to become involved in electoral politics. Paul Buckley, Theos head of political engagement, said much election data severely under represents religious groups in its sweep and more research is needed.  View the briefing again on our YouTube channel here.

Trussell Trust foodbanks double food parcel distribution

The Trussell Trust which supports a nationwide network of food banks and provides  emergency food and support to people facing hardship, says more than 3.1 million emergency food parcels were distributed by food banks in the last year. This is the highest number ever distributed by the network in a year and nearly double the number compared to five years ago. Between April 2023 and March 2024, the number of people that used a food bank for the first time was 655,000. The Trust was set up by a Christian couple and many foodbanks are operated within and by local churches.

Isle of Man moves closer towards allowing assisted dying

Moves to allow assisted dying in the Isle of Man have moved a step closer after a vote in the island’s House of Keys, an elected parliament of 24 people. They have rejected a motion to stop NHS staff from having a role in assisted dying, after being told it would prevent health records being shared with the providers of the intervention.  A new clause in the bill would forbid doctors employed at the same surgery from countersigning the documents for assisted dying to go ahead. London-based hospital consultant and campaigner against assisted dying, David Randall, told the parliament he was not convinced that the legislation could be made safe for the most vulnerable, expressing concern on consent and coercion. The Isle of Mana’s medical society has opposed the bill. It will be discussed again on 11 June and needs to go through several further stages before requiring assent. Jersey will discuss assisted dying on 21 May.

Christian group says sex education should not start til age 15

The Education Secretary Gillian Keagan is expected to publish changes to sex education in an announcement today. Children will not receive sex education until they are nine years old, and other subjects such as contraception, gender identity and abortion, will not be taught until they are 13. The conservative Christian group the Family Education Trust, told Premier Christian News that the changes don’t go far enough, suggesting the better limit for much of this subject matter is 15, with gender issues best approached in an adult setting.  The Times reports that teachers will be warned that gender ideology is highly contested and they should focus on the “biological” facts about sex.

US Jewish professors campaign against adoption of IHRA definition of antisemitism

 The Religion News Service reports that around 1,200 Jewish university professors have signed a statement rejecting the IHRA definition of antisemitism which the US Senate is considering codifying in federal law. The statement from the Concerned Jewish Faculty Against Antisemitism has been delivered to key congressional leaders and the White House, saying the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism conflates antisemitism with criticism of the state of Israel. Among the signatories is Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Tribe, journalist and professor Peter Beinart and Yale law and history professor Samuel Moyn. The  statement says: “Criticism of the state of Israel, the Israeli government, policies of the Israeli government, or Zionist ideology is not — in and of itself — antisemitic.”

Archbishop of Canterbury receives GCVO for role in coronation

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has received the Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) in recognition of his role in the Coronation. The ceremony took place at Windsor Castle, after which he thanked the huge number of people who contributed to the coronation and said receiving an award was a privilege.

Gleaming gold spire renovated to dramatic effect

The ”Crown of Thorns” spire of St Michael’s Parish Church in Linlithgow, West Lothian, (pictured) is once again gleaming gold following a £400k restoration project that saved it from potential collapse. The new cladding, a bronze alloy, returns the spire’s colour to the golden glow of the original structure which was built only 60 years ago, 1964. The spire is visible from the M9 and the Edinburgh-Glasgow trainline and its striking presence has been photographed multiple times. The finish has been sealed to prevent future damage from rain.

Beach opens in New Jersey on Sundays, ending 150 year religious ban

 A beach in New Jersey, which has been closed to the public on Sunday mornings to preserve the sabbath day, is finally to be opened  after the threat of court action by the state. The area is owned by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association and from 1870, belonged to a Methodist retreat group, which held services in an auditorium on the site, on Sunday mornings. The state of New Jersey is challenging the rule, threatening fines and taking the association to court. AP report here


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