PUBLIC DEBATE: Should the state be completely separate from religion? Abdullah al Andalusi & Bishop of the House of Lords vs Former UK Prosecutor & Secularist Professor

MDI is pleased to announce the release of a debate held at Warwick University on the topic of Secularism, religion and politics. Despite the debate getting a little heated, it remained completely respectful with very robust back and forth.

The debate featured on the Secularist side, a professor and the former UK prosecutor Nazir Afzal, who is famous for prosecuting the ‘Rochdale rape gang’ case. On the other side, arguing against Secularism, is MDI’s Abdullah al Andalusi, and the Lord Bishop Christopher Cocksworth, a member of the UK Parliament’s upper house, the House of Lords.

Context for the Debate

Despite the widespread advocacy of complete Secularism by both the post-colonial political elite and Western backed advocacy groups, touted as the solution to the problems throughout the Muslim world, key countries in the West, such as the UK still have a state religion – and a state established Church, the Church of England, who’s head of the Church is also head of the state, the Queen of England. Further to that, the UK has 26 permanent seats for the ‘Lords Spiritual’ (Anglican Bishops) in the upper house of its Parliament, who vote on British laws, including the Law of England and Wales. In addition to all this, the Church of England have their own courts (called ‘Ecclesiastical courts’) that carry legal force in English law (but whose cases are now restricted only to Church property or impropriety by clergy members) [1].

While the UK government, and House of Commons is de facto a secular institution, by a strict definition of the term ‘Secular’, the UK isn’t a Secular country or state (in theory it is a semi-theocracy). This has caused much complaint from Secular advocacy groups in the UK, who complain that the UK must disestablish its Church and separate completely from any religious considerations, privileges or accommodations.

To discuss the context of the UK, and the merits of Secularism in any country across the world, the Warwick Debating Union held a debate on the motion ‘This House Would Completely Separate Religion from State’.

The speakers in proposition to the motion were:

Steven Kettell is an Associate Professor in Politics and International Studies, and founder and Co-Executive Editor of British Politics. His research focusses on the politics of secularism, non-religion and the role of religion in the public sphere.

Nazir Afzal was Chief Crown Prosecutor for the North West of England and formerly Director in London.

The speakers in opposition to the motion were:

The Right Reverand, Lord Bishop of Coventry, Christopher Cocksworth is the Bishop of Coventry, and a member of the Lords Spiritual at the House of Lords [UK Parliament].

Abdullah al Andalusi is an international speaker, debater and the co-founder of the Muslim Debate Initiative.


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