Tuesday 15 May 2012

Britons Support The Sovereign's Role as "Defender of the Faith", poll suggests

A poll by Comres commissioned by B.B.C. local radio to coincide with the Diamond Jubilee suggests that 73% of Britons favour the maintenance of the Sovereign's historic role as "Defender of the Faith" and Supreme Governor of the Church of England. In total, almost 80% of Britons appear to believe that the Sovereign has an important role to play in matters of faith.

These findings will come as a blow to republicans, many of whom have argued for years that the Sovereign's Christian faith is divisive and incompatible with a multi-faith society. Whatever one's personal views on religion, the Comres poll demonstrates that many non-Christians approve of the values and principles according to which The Queen has led her life and believe that the essence of these values are not restricted to adherents of any single faith. Indeed, several non-Christian religious leaders have stated their preference for a Head of State who is a person of faith, rather than a person without faith.  

Although the title of Fidei Defensor ("Defender of the Faith") was originally bestowed on the then Catholic King Henry VIII by Pope Leo X in 1521 in recognition of his book Assertio Septem Sacramentorum ("Defence of the Seven Sacraments"), the title was revoked by Pope Paul III following King Henry's break with Rome.  The Sovereign's current title of "Defender of the Faith" was conferred by Parliament for precisely the opposite purpose of the original papal grant (i.e., to defend the Protestant faith against Catholicism). Today, however, the use of "Defender of the Faith" in the Sovereign's formal Royal Titles and Styles may be taken as a reference to the Sovereign's status as Supreme Governor of the Church of England (as this role is not included in HM's formal styles and titles).

The Queen demonstrated the evolution of this role earlier this year, during a multi-faith gathering at Lambeth Palace, which was attended by leaders of Britain's nine largest religious faiths (including Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, Buddhists, Baha'i, Zoroastrians and Jains), in which Her Majesty said that the role of the Church was not "to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of all other religions, instead the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country."

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