UK Web Archive blog

18 October 2012

Religion, the state and the law in contemporary Britain

Another in a series of forthcoming new collections is one that I myself am curating with the working title of 'State, religion and law in contemporary Britain.'

The politics of religion in Britain looks like a much more urgent area of inquiry in 2012 than it did a decade ago. In large part due to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and 7/7, questions about the nexus of faith and national identity have found a new urgency. At the same time, older questions about the place of faith schools and of the bishops in the House of Lords, or of abortion or euthanasia have been given new and sharper focus in a changed climate of public debate.

The period since 2001 is also marked by a massive upswing in the use of the web as a medium for religious and religio-political debate, both by the established churches and campaigning secularist organisations, and by individuals and smaller organisations, most obviously in the blogosphere.

This collection is therefore trying to capture some representative sites concerned with issues of politics, government and law that touch on the disputed role of religious symbolism, belief and practice in the public sphere in Britain.

The collection is still ongoing and suggestions are very welcome, to peter.webster@bl.uk, or via the nomination page. So far, the collection is rather weighted towards Christian voices and organisations, and suggestions for sites from amongst other faiths would be particularly welcome.

I've attempted to capture some representative general voices, such as the blog of the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, which deals with religious issues; the public theology think-tank Theos, and the National Secular Society.

We have already harvested some interesting sites relating to specific issues and events, such as the official site for the 2010 Papal visit to the UK, and some of the dispute at the time about the appropriateness or otherwise of spending public money on the security arrangements for the visit, from the BBC and elsewhere.

An issue at the 2010 General Election was the place of the bishops in the House of Lords, and the Power2010 campaign pressed for that to change, as did the British Humanist Association.

An issue that has come to prominence in recent weeks is that of the appropriate time limit for abortion, and we have twelve archived instances of the site of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child, stretching back as far as 2005.

Comments

There is increasing evidence that respect for law has diminished in this country, whether that in turn is linked with religion being more polarised between non-believers and extreme believers is also an interesting point. Time will tell but interesting times certainly.

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