In response to a consultation on how to reduce the number of peers sitting in the House of Lords, the British Humanist Association (BHA) has branded the automatic presence of 26 bishops of the Church of England in the chamber as ‘unfair, unjustified, and unpopular’.
The consultation was launched by the new ‘Lord Speaker’s committee on the size of the House’. In its response, the BHA explains the privileges afforded to the bishops, above and beyond those of regular peers in, for example, a right to speak, access to seats in the chamber, and scrutiny of legislation. It is explained that:
‘Their presence is unfair, in privileging one denomination of one religious group over those of other religions and beliefs. It is unjustified, in that there is no logical rationale for such provision. And it is unpopular, with over 70% of the public, including of Christians, believing they should be removed.’
During the last major proposals for wholescale reform of the Lords, the BHA ran the ‘Holy Redundant’ campaign, arguing for the removal of the bishops. Government officials subsequently reported receiving more correspondence as part of their consultation processes about the place of the bishops than any other issue.
BHA Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘Surveys show that of all the groups that could be appointed to the House of Lords, religious leaders, including those of the Church of England, are far and away the least favoured group. With just 1.5% of the population attending a Church of England church in an average week, it is completely out of step that 26 clergymen from this one denomination are given automatic rights to sit in the House – something that is the case with Christian leaders in no other country in the world.
‘Given that the size of the House of Lords as a whole is now being looked at, it seems to us that an easy way to reduce the size would be to remove the bishops.’
For further comment or information please contact BHA Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7324 3072.
Read more about the BHA’s campaigns around bishops in the House of Lords: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/secularism/constitutional-reform/bishops-in-the-lords/
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.