RELIGION AND TOLERANCE
Everyone in Britain has the
right to religious freedom. Although Britain is historically a Christian
society, people are usually very tolerant towards
the faiths of others and those who have no religious
In the 2001 Census,
just over 75 per cent of the UK population reported that they had
a religion. More than seven people out of ten stated
that this was Christian. Nearly three per cent of
the population described their religion as Muslim,
and one per cent as Hindu. After these, the next largest
religious groups are Sikhs, Jews, and Buddhists.
Although many people
have a religious belief, this is not always matched
by regular attendance at services. It is estimated
that regular church attendance in England is between
eight and eleven per cent of the population. Church
attendance in Scotland however, although declining, is almost
twice the level for England
The established church
The Church of England, or Anglican Church as it is also
known, came into existence in 1534. The King installed
himself as head of the Church, and the title of Supreme
Governor has been held by the King or Queen ever since.
The monarch at the
coronation is required to swear to maintain the Protestant
Religion in the United Kingdom,
and heirs to the throne are not allowed to marry anyone
who is not Protestant. The Queen or King also has
the right to appoint a number of senior church officers,
including the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the
head of the Church. In practice however, the Prime
Minister makes this selection on the recommendation
of a special committee appointed by the Church.
Other Christian groups
Further splits in the Church took place after the Reformation,
giving rise to a number of different Protestant denominations.
These included the Baptists, Presbyterians, and the
Society of Friends (or Quakers), all of which continue
today. In the eighteenth century the Methodist movement
developed, working in particular amongst poorer members
In Wales today, Baptists
and Methodists are the two most widespread denominations.
In Scotland there are more than a million members
of the Presbyterian Church, the established Church
of Scotland, known
as the Kirk.
About ten per cent of the population
of Britain are Roman Catholic.