“Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”
David Cameron is far from the first to complain of bishops’ involvement in politics. The clergy’s role in the House of Lords vote last night on Child Benefit and the government’s proposed Welfare Benefit cap should be a thing of the past, according to one Purley-based campaigner
Toby Keynes is the chairman of the Liberal Democrats’ Humanist and Secularist group, which is opposed to the ConDem coalition’s reform proposals for the bishops’ role in the Lords for being anti-democratic.
Keynes wrote recently:
It’s time for the Bishops to go!
Humanist & Secularist Liberal Democrats are supporting the British Humanist Association’s campaign to end the privileged position of Bishops in the House of Lords.
The coalition government has published a draft Bill and White Paper on reform of the House of Lords which contain proposals to keep reserved seats for Bishops in a partially elected chamber, albeit at a reduced number in line with an overall reduction in size of the House.
The government’s proposals do not simply maintain the status quo but actually contain a number of new privileges for the Bishops including – astonishingly - to exempt them from provisions on serious offence, and those on expulsion and suspension.
The government attempts to excuse this by stating that “it is anticipated that such members would be subject to the disciplinary procedures established by the Church of England”.
In other words, the government believes that the Bishops sitting in our parliament, with full voting and speaking rights as any other member, should be accountable to the Church and not to parliament.
These proposals are so outrageous that even the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, have strongly opposed them in their submission to the Joint Committee scrutinising the draft Bill.
We believe that this is an affront to democracy, and that in effect the government’s package of proposals on Bishops in the Lords would create a new largely independent, and largely unaccountable, bloc for the Church of England in Parliament.
The draft Bill is currently being looked at by a parliamentary committee and there is still time to make changes.
To do some extra reading, and to equip yourself with the facts, data and arguments you need to protest against keeping an automatic place for any Bishops in parliament, please read more about our campaign or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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- ‘Not about punishing people but about fairness’: Duncan Smith launches last-ditch appeal to bishops not to derail plans to impose benefits cap of £26,000 a year (victimsofatoscorruption.wordpress.com)
- Lib Dem peers help inflict Lords defeat over Coalition’s benefit cap plan (libdemvoice.org)
- ‘No legitimate reason to keep Bishops in the Lords’: British Humanists to give evidence to Committee (humanism.org.uk)