During the last few months, I have been blogging about the data that is now being released from the 2011 Census. It is really a treasure trove of information (if you like this sort of thing) and more detailed data set to be released in the next few months which I am looking forward to reading. Sadly, there is talk of the 2011 Census being the last of its kind, which I think would be tragic.
My last post on this data was on the various religions in the Porthleven and Helston South Cornwall Council Division. Now (thanks Abi) I have the full breakdown of all the various religions/beliefs in Cornwall. Some of the religions I have never heard of, but actually have a few million believers!
So here is the top ten religions/faiths/beliefs* in Cornwall and their believers/followers:
- Christian – 318357
- Jedi Knight – 2169
- Buddhist – 1726
- Pagan – 1429
- Muslim (Islam) – 855
- Hindu – 556
- Spiritualist – 532
- Mixed Religion – 530
- Jewish – 389
- Humanist – 224
You could argue Mixed Religion is not a religion, but from the Census, 23,000 people in England and Wales classified as having Mixed Religion. The real surprise is Jedi, coming in at number 2. I know I had to recheck to make sure it was right.
Now here is the list of the other religions/faiths/beliefs* (with links) that are listed on the Census for Cornwall.
As for those who you would class as having no religion (158,104), or religion not stated (45,356) this total is 203,550. There is also those who call themselves Atheist (309) and Agnostic (439).
So there you have it, it is certainly interesting reading especially when you find out about that religion and just how many followers some of these less well-known religions actually have.
*I am sure people will say some of these list are not ‘real’ religions, but who am I to say what is and what is not a religion!
I have said before how much I like the ONS website and the 2011 Census; and the latest set of data I have had a look at is religion. It makes for interesting reading and shows a downward trend from 2001. Here is the breakdown of people’s religion for the Cornwall Council Division (Porthleven and Helston South) I cover:
- Christian: 2,456
- Buddhist: 12
- Hindu: 1
- Jewish: 4
- Muslim (Islam): 6
- Sikh: 2
- Other religion: 28
- Mixed Religion: 1
- Own Belief System: 2
- Pagan: 16
- Spiritual: 1
- Spiritualist: 3
- Taoist: 1
- Wicca: 3
- Other religions: 1
- No religion: 1,237
- Agnostic: 2
- Atheist: 3
- Humanist: 2
- Jedi Knight:14
- Religion not stated: 278
I must point out, I am not one of the 14!
Prayers being on the official agenda of any council meeting was not seen as hotly contested issue. Those who disagreed with them stood outside until they were completed. While this for some was not desirable, it was accepted as a compromise. However, the recent High Court case concerning Bideford Town Council and the National Secular Society has certainly put the fox in the hen-house. The ruling, subject to the full legal explanation, makes it unlawful for prayers to be part of the official agenda.
The Chairman of the Council, Pat Harvey with great diplomacy, has temporally removed prayers from the official agenda for the forthcoming council meeting on the 21st February and the following meeting in March. This will allow the council to understand fully the impact of the ruling and to make sure the council is not acting in an unlawful way. My understanding is the Judge presiding over the case has given Bideford TC the right to appeal. So, all could change again if this appeal is upheld.
As you would expect, this news of prayers being removed has not gone down well with many Cornwall Councillors. Some have called for the ruling to be ignored, others have claimed a minority have dictated to a majority. Of course there is a one or ten who have welcomed the removal of prayers.
For the last few days I have thought about this ruling and I can to a point, see both sides views on this emotive subject. My view is it has never concerned me to see prayers on the council agenda, likewise it will not worry me not to see them on the agenda. The is because my indifference to religion. For many years I have struggled to understand some of the actions people of faith/religion do in the name of that certain religion. This is not just recent events, but also historical events too. Being well-travelled, I have been luckily to have visited not only many holy sites of Christianity, but also those of other faiths. One recurring theme at all these sites is war and suffering.
From these experiences I would now class myself as apathetic when it comes to religion. I neither fully believe, nor can completely dismiss God; or some sort of other deity. Many of my friends take similar viewpoints to me or take a more established view of being in the atheist camp or in the religious camp. Either viewpoint is not wrong. What is wrong is not respecting those different thoughts and trying to dictate what is the right viewpoint.
Lastly, could this ruling could lead onto an even bigger debate of Church and State being so closely connected? Maybe that is a debate no-one wants to start, especially in a court of law.
For the last few months there has been a Judicial Review going through the High Court on prayers being part of the official council agenda. This case concerns Bideford Town Council with the case being brought before the High Court by the National Secular Society (NSS) after a compromise solution could not be agreed upon . The judgement today of prayers being ‘unlawful’ as official business will have a far-reaching impact on various Local Authorities.
In the judgement:
Mr Justice Ouseley, directed: “I do not think the 1972 Act […] should be interpreted as permitting the religious views of one group of councillors, however sincere or large in number, to exclude, or even to a modest extent, to impose burdens on or even to mark out those who do not share their views and do not wish to participate in their expression of them. They are all equally elected councillors”.
It will be interesting to see what action Cornwall Council take in-light of this ruling. From within the Council there has been a concern from a growing number of Councillors who leave the chamber when prayers take place. Staff in principle can also leave the room, but many who I have spoken to feel they cannot. For the record I stay in the room out of respect, not by any firm religious conviction. The compromise could be prayers take place before the official meeting takes starts.
This ruling will also affect Town and Parish Council’s. Not all have prayers as the two town council’s I attend (being a member of Porthleven’s) only Helston Town Council has prayers, where as Porthleven does not.
No doubt there will be many e-mails, letters and phone calls for ‘guidance’ on this matter to council legal officers and organisations like the Local Government Association and Cornwall Association of Local Government (CALC). I think it will be a busy(er) few weeks for them!