HUMANISTS in Parliament have called for the abolition of the Lords Spiritual and prayers before the start of business in the House of Commons and House of Lords.
In a report published on Tuesday, Time For Reflection, the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) also argues that Parliament should have no part to play in the governance of the C of E, and that the Government should not appoint the Second Church Estates Commissioner.
On the subject of bishops in the House of Lords, the report says: “The UK is one of only two sovereign states in the world to give seats in its legislature to religious representatives as of right, the other being Iran. This state of affairs has a negative impact on the UK’s ability to advocate for freedom of religion or belief around the world. . .
“Any implication that religious leaders should be appointed purely as a result of holding a particular position in their religious hierarchy, as is the case with the Church of England bishops, should be opposed.”
Crispin Blunt, a Conservative MP who chairs the APPHG, said in a statement: “This report highlights the dated nature of our system where non-Anglican MPs and peers like me can be put at a disadvantage because they don’t wish to attend prayers.
“It is now time for us to consider how prayers as part of our procedures could be replaced, perhaps with an inclusive time for reflection, ensuring all parliamentarians get the same rights so that everyone can take part in the day’s business without having to compromise values important to them.”
The report argues: “Those members who choose not to participate in prayers often struggle to get a seat and are therefore less likely to be called to speak in the debate. This practice fundamentally disadvantages conscientious members who do not wish to participate in prayers, and by extension their constituents, who have democratically elected them to represent them and have just as much right to have their MP speak in the most important debates as all other UK citizens.”