General Article What is 'Christian Britain'?

Topic Selected: Religion
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By Jonathan Chaplin

In their judgment in the Johns fostering case a couple of weeks ago, Justices Munby and Beatson declared that, although England has an established church, ‘the laws and usages of the realm do not include Christianity, in whatever form’.

Whether or not the case ought ever to have been brought in the first place – the Evangelical Alliance questions this – the judgment is troubling at several levels. Whatever one’s views of the appropriate criteria for fostering or whether the Johns met them, the case is a good deal more complex than some commentators have recognised. Although the judgment brings up a number of contentious points, perhaps the biggest question it raises is whether there is any longer a meaningful sense in which we can speak of Britain as ‘Christian’.

There are (at least) four senses of the term ‘Christian Britain’. The first is sociological. A nation could be termed ‘Christian’ if a significant majority of its population adheres to Christianity. I...

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