Monday, 17 September 2007

Rowan Williams: Charles should only be defender of the Anglican faith

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In a major interview with the Daily Telegraph this weekend, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams insisted that, on becoming king, Prince Charles should continue the monarch's role as "Defender of the Faith", i.e. the Anglican faith, rather than taking on the title "Defender of the Faiths".

Charles first expressed a wish to represent the multitude of faiths in 1994, and has since suggested that his coronation should be a "multi-faith" ceremony. Williams dismissed this idea, saying: "The acts of worship we perform have their integrity. I don't want to see amateurish messing around compromising what's going on".

Dr Evan Harris, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon and a prominent secularist, condemned the archbishop's comments: "When Rowan Williams defends the role of the monarch of Defender of the Faith, he is not defending religious freedom in general, but instead trying to cling on to vestiges of an intolerant, anti-Catholic, Protestant fundamentalist and rather savage era of British history."

Of course Harris is correct to condemn the current status of the monarch as the "defender" of one faith, but do we really want Charles taking on the enhanced title of "Defender of the Faiths"? Surely we've already got enough clerics and self-appointed faith leaders speaking up on matters of religion and the state without King Charles wading in as well? From the humanist/secular perspective, perhaps the real issue here is that it's time the monarch ceased to have any involvement in matters of religion? It ties in with the argument for why we shouldn't have bishops, or any other religious figures, automatically represented in the House of Lords. I refer you back to Jake Bromberg's excellent discussion of this from the May/June issue of New Humanist.