- 11 December 2012 : Census data shows decline in Christian population.
The release of results from the 2001 census for England and Wales on religion led to media debates about compositional changes in religion and ethnicity. Christianity is still by far the largest group ; 59% (33.2 million), but has declined since 2001 when 72% (37.3 million) said they were Christian. The second largest response category was no religion at 25.1%, which increased 10 percentage points since 2001. The largest minority religion was Islam at 4.8%, which has also increased considerably from 3.0% 2001. Over 240,000 people highlighted an ’other religion’ on their census form - including 176,632 Jedi Knights. The question wording has been criticised for overestimating the number of religious people, and there have been campaigns by the Humanist association to make more people state “no religion”. The number of religious people is still higher than in nationally representative surveys where the question is worded differently.
Read more about the census results in the Guardian.
- 07 December 2012 : Churches and other Religious organisations to host same-sex weddings.
Churches and other Religious organisations will be able to host same-sex weddings under new legislation to be unveiled next week. The Prime Minister David Cameron is supporting a compromise that allows gay marriages to be held in places of worship, but does not oblige religious organisations to hold same-sex weddings. The main churches in the UK oppose the reform, but some faiths, including the Quakers, Unitarians and liberal Judaism, support it and have said they would like to conduct the ceremonies. Civil partnership will still remain an option for gay couples.
Read more about this in the Guardian.
- 05 December 2012 : Mega-mosque plans rejected in East London.
The Tablighi Jamaat group’s plan to build a 9,000-capacity venue in West Ham, east London, was rejected by members of Newham Borough Council at a planning meeting. If permission had been granted, the mosque would have become one of the biggest Islamic centres in Western Europe. The council rejected the plans on the grounds that the proposed mosque was too big and would have an impact on traffic and important historic buildings nearby.
Read more about this in the Huffington Post.
- 05 December 2012 : University Christian group changes position concerning female speakers.
A university Christian union that came under attack for not allowing women to teach at its main meetings has now said it will allow both sexes to preach at all events. An internal email from Bristol University Christian Union (BUCU) revealed women could not teach at its weekly meetings, and could only teach in some other settings with a husband. The union has now released a statement saying it would now allow women to teach at all its events. The controversy emerged soon after the unpopular decision by the Church of England not to allow female bishops, which has sparked debates about the role of women in Christian organisations in Britain.
Read more about this in the Guardian.
- 04 December 2012 : The UK Scout Association is considering an alternative oath for atheists.
The 105-year-old movement for children is launching a consultation to see if members would back a Scout Promise for those who feel unable to pledge a "duty to God". Alternative versions of the oath already exist for the Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist faiths, but this is the first time such an adaptation has been considered. The initiative follows complaints from the National Secular Society in March this year that atheist children were being excluded or having to lie to join the movement.
Read more about this at the BBC.
- 21 November 2012 : The general synod of the Church of England has voted narrowly against the appointment of women as bishops.
The measure was passed by the synod’s houses of bishops and clergy but was rejected by the House of Laity. It needed two-thirds majorities in each of the synod’s three houses, and the votes were 4 for and three against with two abstentions in the House of Bishops, 148 for and 45 against in the House of Clergy, and 132 for and 74 against in the House of Laity. Supporters vowed to continue their campaign but it could be five years before a similar vote can be held.
Read more at the BBC.
- 16 November 2012 : A Christian demoted for his opposition to gay marriage has won a legal case against his employer.
Adrian Smith lost his managerial position at the Trafford Housing Trust, had his salary cut by 40%, after posting in February on Facebook last year that gay weddings in churches were "an equality too far". The comments were not visible to the general public, and were posted outside work time, but the trust said he broke its code of conduct by expressing religious or political views which might upset co-workers. Smith said the trust acted unlawfully in demoting him, and Mr Justice Briggs ruled in his favour at the high court on Friday.
Read more in the Guardian.
- 08 November 2012 : The Bishop of Durham, Justin Welby, was named as the next Archbishop of Canterbury.
The 56-year-old bishop will become the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury and the nominal leader of 77 million Anglicans worldwide. He replaces Rowan Williams, who steps down next month after 10 years in the post. Popular and media reactions have been mixed. His privileged background and education at Eton and Cambridge has drawn much comment, as has his earlier career in the oil industry. Bishop Welby is a conservative, known to oppose gay marriage but he supports the ordination of women as bishops.
- 18 October 2012 : The first private clinic to offer abortions to women in Northern Ireland
The first private clinic to offer abortions to women in Northern Ireland has opened, but an anti-abortion group has already called for it to be shut down. In Northern Ireland medical abortions can be carried out only within the first 9 weeks of pregnancy, and only in cases where continuing the pregnancy would have a serious, permanent or long-term effect on the physical or mental health of the woman. The new Belfast clinic offers treatments within the law. These are already available on the National Health Service. In the rest of the UK the abortion limit is 24 weeks, and in 2011 over 1000 women from Northern Ireland travelled to England and Wales for terminations. 40 protesters from a range of religious denominations held up placards outside the new Marie Stopes Clinic on the opening day, and an anti-abortion group has called for it to be shut down.
Read more about the opening and protest on the BBC
- 11 October 2012 : The BBC’s news coverage of religion is to be the subject of an independent review.
Accusations of left-wing and liberal bias in coverage of issues concerning religion, particularly Christianity and Islam, as well as other controversial topics like immigration and the European Union, has led to concerns about the impartiality of the BBC’s news coverage. The independent review will be led by former ITV Chief Executive Stuart Pebble, and published in 2013.
Read more about the critiques and the review in the Guardian.
- 06 October 2012 : The archbishop of Canterbury steps down at the end of the year
The archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, steps down at the end of the year, and the Crown Nominations Commission have met to put two names forward as his successor. The rules for the CNC state that a successful candidate must secure a majority of two-thirds when the CNC votes, i.e. at least 11 votes, and so far the commission have not reached a conclusion on who the two candidates should be. The nineteen members of the commission consist of three bishops, five priests and eleven laypeople, four women and fifteen men. The archbishop of Cantebury is leader of the Church of England and symbolic head of the Anglican communion. His role also holds a number of other functions. He is the bishop in Kent, he sits in the house of Lords and chairs the Synod and other church meetings in England. If the Queen should die it is he who will crown her successor, and he has a role in national religious seremonies and interfaith dialogue internationally.
- 17 September 2012 : A public consultation launched by the government’s fertility regulator.
A public consultation about controversial new medical procedures to avoid serious genetic diseases resulting from mitochondrial mutations has been launched by the government’s fertility regulator. The proposed new techniques produce IVF embryos that carry DNA from both parents as well as mitochondrial DNA from a healthy female donor. British law currently prohibits such genetic modification of embryos, but the legislation may be rewritten as early as next year after a parliamentary debate that will be informed by the public consultation.
Read more about this in the Guardian
- 12 September 2012 : discrimination against same-sex couples for adoption
The adoption agency Catholic Care has made a fourth appeal to permit discrimination against same-sex couples, challenging the Charity Commission’s refusal in a case that began in 2008. The charity relies on funding from the church, and claims that if it is forced to allow same-sex couples to adopt its child beneficiaries, it will lose so much donor support that it will be unable to continue providing the adoption service at all. The Charity Commission has stated that allowing Catholic Care to restrict its services to heterosexual couples would set a dangerous precedent for other adoption agencies.
Read more about the case in Third Sector News
- 16 August 2012 : A man with locked in syndrome lost his High Court case to allow doctors to end his life without fear of prosecution.
Tony Nicklinson, from Wiltshire, suffered a stroke in 2005 which left him paralysed. He could only communicate by blinking and described his life as a "living nightmare". Mr Nicklinson said he would appeal against the decision, but died only six days later after refusing food and water. Nicklinson, was the public face of the right-to die movement and had a twitter account used for campaigns and interviews with the press. The case went further than previous challenges to the law in England and Wales on assisted suicide and murder. Another man with locked in syndrome, known only as Martin, also lost his case to end his life with medical help, and is continuing to campaign for the right to assisted suicide.