As King Charles ascends the throne, one of the first laws he may rubber stamp is the new Public Order Bill. Lois Mclatchie asks: Could it signal the death of Christian Britain?
The King’s Coronation Oath will only be slightly tweaked from the promises made by Queen Elizabeth II – so was confirmed in Parliament earlier this week. Charles III won’t name each of the territories of the realm as his mother did but, rather, refer to them collectively. Other parts of the Oath remain intact.
Despite the lobbying efforts from those who would like to see a secularised Crown, the new king will still swear, laying his right hand on the Bible, to “use the utmost of his power” to maintain “the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel”.
It’s a win for those who support the maintenance of our Christian cultural tradition. But does this king really view himself, or his kingdom, as needing God?
Instead of truly embracing multiculturalism, Britain has become the defender of all faiths but one
Not only is Charles the first monarch to begin his reign in the 21st century, he’s the first to come to power in a Britain where Christianity is, according to the latest census data, a minority faith.
Our new demographic configuration is well represented in leadership. Rishi Sunak is a practicing Hindu. Humza Yousaf is the first Muslim to lead Scotland. Pictures of him opening his Bute House residence with a largely all-male Islamic prayer ritual were roundly applauded as a landmark of our democratic progress. Yousaf’s religious identity was no barrier to opportunity - although his rival, Kate Forbes, may not agree that she was treated with equal tolerance. We no longer live in a society where authorities police personal beliefs - the last person hung for blasphemy in Scotland was in 1697.
Amid all these positive signs of tolerance, then, it’s funny that one of the first laws that the newly-crowned King Charles will rubber stamp may criminalise typically-Christian prayer – depending on what you pray for.
The Public Order Bill, soon to reach his desk, could criminalise individuals who pray near abortion facilities – even in the privacy of their own thoughts. It will roll out censorial ‘buffer zones’ across England and Wales, while Scotland follows suit with a similar proposal.
Already, in Birmingham, a priest and a charity volunteer have undergone criminal trials for praying silently in censored public spaces which local authorities have mandated to be pro-life free. Neither person expressed their view audibly. But their refusal to agree in their minds with the state orthodoxy on a controversial issue like abortion put them in the crosshairs of the law.
This is not a one-off issue. New policies in the pipeline both north and south of Hadrian’s wall are also set to ban Christian prayer in other contexts – specifically, prayer by pastors or parents where someone has come to them for advice about their gender or sexuality.
A new dogma
We might no longer be under the societal dominance of the Church – but there’s a new dogma in town. In the most iconic example of the new religious imposition, when the Scottish National Party repealed their archaic Christian blasphemy law in 2019, they deftly replaced it with a parallel “hate speech” ban.
Nobody likes to feel insulted. But imposing a ban on discussion hardly promotes tolerance
Once implemented, this could pave the way for sweeping penalties against the expression of Christian belief on important social issues like gender, marriage and sexuality – if somebody subjectively interprets words to be “stirring up hate”. Nobody likes to feel insulted. But imposing a ban on good faith discussion hardly promotes tolerance within the marketplace of ideas.
Instead of truly embracing multiculturalism, Britain has become the defender of all faiths but one. King Charles might be uttering Christian lip service in the Abbey, but he chose to emblazon the invitation to his coronation with an emblem of the green man - a pagan deity symbolising rebirth and Spring.
Perhaps his ascension does declare the death of a Christian Britain amid a spiritual winter, and the re-emergence of our nation in another form. But if there is no room for individuals to flourish outside of the dominant ‘Church of Woke’, perhaps it’s time to consider if the new orthodoxy really is a tolerant one.
God save the King. God save us all.