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State and Religion in Great Britain: Constitutional Foundations, Religious Minorities, the Law and Education

This article examines the relationship between the State and religion in Great Britain. After summarizing the key features of the constitution of the UK and discussing the evolving relations between Church and State, the article describes the religious landscape both in general and in terms of minority religious groups, focusing on Muslims (the second largest religious group in Britain after Christians). The main features of British law pertaining to religion are then discussed, followed by an assessment of the impact of religion on education in terms of the ownership and management of schools, religious education and religious worship. The concluding section reflects on the main debates and controversies.

State and Religion in Great Britain Constitutional Foundations Religious Minorities
Representatives of different religions carry a banner emphasizing the religious pluralism during an interreligious march for peace. AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS
 

Introduction

This article examines the relationship between the State and religion in Great Britain. It begins by outlining Great Britain’s constitutional foundations and then sets the Church-State dynamic in the different regions of Great Britain within an historical context. Next it describes the current (and much changed) religious landscape and the various religious minority groups that are present in the country. Particular attention is paid to Muslims, who now comprise the largest religious group in Britain after Christians.

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