The combination of secularisation of the public space and immigration into the UK from Majority World regions has stimulated a series of legal cases and political debates that have centred around the limits of religious practice and manifestation in the public space.
Whether it be concerns over radicalisation and separatist aspirations, the influence of faith schools, contests over religious dress or symbols in the workplace, or the freedom of conscious issues relating to beginning and end of life issues, it seems that peoples of faith in the UK are caught in the classical problem of the demand of citizenship and loyalty, versus their conscience arising from their dogmas and doctrines.
In one sense this is not a new problem in Britain: historically, the state used its instruments of power to defend official truth claims. From the Dissolution of the Monastaries onwards, this brought some people into conflict with the state. But as a series of laws expanded the range of ‘officially accepted’ religious worldviews, and as the secularisation process grew in pace and scope, the state moved from defending ‘truth claims’ to seeking social harmony. At the same time contractural relationships between ruler and ruled developed, moving British people from ‘subject’ to ‘citizen’ status. These parallel developments changed the shape of the way that religion was understood and accepted in the public domain: developments that occurred as peoples from other faith backgrounds, notably Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs began to arrive in the UK in substantial numbers.
This day school will explore these developments, the issues that lie behind them and the potential for conflict or peaceful accommodation in the short to medium term.