‘Why I think religion should be privatised’

Church for sale: A glimpse into a UK under Joey Barton’s rule
by Joey Barton

Joey Barton is a professional football player. He is also a prolific tweeter — with millions of followers — a French speaker, philosophy student and Question Time guest.

Taxpayers’ money sponsors religion, but it shouldn’t, says Joey Barton. Churches should all be privatised, and their land given back to the state if they cannot fund themselves.

If I were prime minister I would privatise religion. All public money would be withdrawn from religion, and taxpayers’ money will cease to sponsor religion in any and every form across the country.

My government would immediately dis-establish the Church of England, because there definitely should not be an official state religion in the UK. Church of England bishops will lose their right to hold unelected positions in our House of Lords. I would also cease to subsidise the livelihoods of Church of England bishops and priests.

Land and buildings which were given to the Church would be returned to the state under my power. If the Church of England wanted to continue to use their land and churches, then they will have to pay a commercial rent to the government for the privilege of using what will revert back to state property.

“My government would promote a spirit of tolerance and mutual understanding, standing neutral on religion.”

The Church of England should earn their keep in the competitive religious marketplace. If a particular church can attract enough paying Christians to fund the running costs of their church, and the salary for their priest and land rent to the state — great. Then it can survive. But if a church cannot be economically self-sufficient on these terms then the land and church building should be returned to the state immediately. The state can then put the valuable land to good use, perhaps to build houses, a school or a hospital instead.

All taxpayers’ funding for faith-based state schools will also cease. If parents want to teach their children in their own homes then they are free to do just that. However, what they tell their children in the privacy of their own home will not be backed up by taxpayer-funded faith schools any longer. It is not the state’s business to subsidise the training of a child for one religion, and I will not be doing this as prime minister of the country.

My government would promote a spirit of tolerance and mutual understanding by standing neutral on the issue of religion. The ghettoisation of religious teaching in state schools, and the ghettoisation of religious communities which one-sided and narrow religious teaching promotes, will end.

All taxpayer-funded schools should be pluralist in their approach to religious education. Children should be told about all of the major world religions, minority religions and cults. Children should be told about the different kinds of Gods that humans have worshipped throughout history and in all corners of the earth. Equally as important, children should also be told about those who think life is best lived in accordance with godless, secular and humanist values.

If I were prime minister, children (and then broadly educated adults) would be completely free to make up their own mind about religion, based on the most comprehensive religious education possible.

The state should neither be for or against religion, and this is what I would aim to achieve in power. People will continue to be free to indulge in religion in their own time and with their own money. However, religious people should cease to expect taxpayers to subsidise their particular religious thinking and lifestyles. The government should not waste public money on religion, because we can better serve the common good by spending money saved on much needed social housing, the NHS and a pluralist education for all.

You Decide

  1. Should churches be responsible for themselves financially?

Activities

  1. Come up with pros and cons of a world where religion is privatised. In pairs, compare your ideas.

Word Watch

Sponsor
Faith schools are currently state-funded, meaning taxpayers pay for them. But a 2014 poll found that 58% of the public want the government to abolish such state funding. Taxpayers’ money also goes towards the upkeep and maintenance of churches.
Neutral
Prime Minister David Cameron is a Christian, and he often talks about our status as a Christian country, and the values we should therefore uphold. Pupils are taught in RE that Britain is traditionally a Christian country.
Secular
Secularism is defined as being non-religious: a secular state keeps all religions out of public life. The UK is not a secular state, but its neighbour France is — the French call it la laïcité.
Humanist
Humanism emphasis the value of human life based on reason, placing rationalism above faith. Humanism believes in treating everyone equally, regardless of religion.