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Professor Paul Weller
"We are now within a more religiously plural society"
 real 28k

Monday, 10 April, 2000, 13:49 GMT 14:49 UK
Church link with crown questioned
bishop
The study is examining religious discrimination
The Church of England's link with the monarch and the State may have to end, a report commissioned by the Home Office has said.

The study says the historic links may have to be severed before the Prince of Wales is crowned King.

The interim report on religious discrimination in Britain's multi-cultural society hints that the 1,000-year-old Coronation ceremony may no longer be appropriate.

It has also examined whether the establishment of the Church of England, which links the Church with government - causes a "disadvantage" to other faiths.

The report, commissioned by Home Secretary Jack Straw from a research unit at the University of Derby, is looking at religious discrimination towards individuals in work, school and society as a whole.

It is also examining the effects of Britain's ceremonies and institutions on other Christian denominations and other faiths.

"The interim report is saying the Coronation is an event which symbolically focuses a lot of issues around national identity," said Professor Paul Weller, who is leading the research team.

"The Church of England has a prime role but beyond that, within the Christian tradition and more broadly, it raises questions about what role they might have.

"These are questions that weren't in sharp focus in the 1950s as there was no minority population of the size we have today."

State events

The Prince of Wales has already opened a debate about the monarch's role as "Defender of the Faith" and has suggested that the phrase, "Defender of Faiths" would be an appropriate description of his future role as the head of a multi-cultural country.

Professor Weller's report says: "Looking to the future, Coronations are state events which, historically, have expressed the close symbolic relationship between Established religion and the state.

"The religious composition of society has changed significantly since the last Coronation and the next Coronation will therefore highlight a series of very important issues and complexities, which it would be best to begin giving consideration to as soon as possible."

On religious discrimination, the report suggests extending, amending or abolishing the laws on blasphemy in English and Scottish law.

But a spokeswoman stressed that no recommendations had yet been put before Mr Straw.

The full report is expected to be completed in the autumn.

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