The Consultant's Report on the Church of England

In the 1980s, privatisation vastly changed the size and composition of the State. In the 1990s, the government is completing the privatisation agenda. It is breaking new ground as regards the management of the State itself. The concept of citizenship is replacing that of subjecthood as government attempts to make its remaining monopoly services more responsive to the consumer. The introduction of the Citizen's Charter underlines these attempts. John Major's commitment on becoming leader of the Conservative Party to 'constitutional evolution' has signalled that constitutional reform may be back on the agenda. Despite the triumph of the ideas of economic liberalism, there remain differences of view concerning the values which a capitalist society must hold. Ideologically, the divide is between those who make a virtue only of economic freedom and those who see economic freedom as part of a more general freedom.

The second group believe that morality itself should be privatise,d and all behavioural choices, economic or moral, should be left to the individual (provided, it is usually added, they do not harm others). It follows that the State should also play no role at all in religion, one of the key sources of moral values. This may upset those who, following Adam Smith, think capitalism demands a set of common moral values. Had Smith been alive today, he might have complained that religious organisations are often not forthright enough in urging moral standards upon the nation.

This report puts this debate into a practical context. It suggests a way of reconciling the two sides by taking account of the right of the individual to set his or her own moral standards, at the same time as giving religious groups and others the opportunity to spread their values more widely.

It examines whether, in a modern liberal society, one religious body should be given privileged status by the State and seeks to redefine religion's role within the framework of our unwritten constitution. It also presents a challenge to the Church of England and other religious and charitable organisations to take on functions which historically have belonged to them, but which have only relatively recently fallen within the competence of the secular State.

 

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