Public wants less religion in politics and bishops out the Lords

26 December, 2017

A new survey conducted by YouGov for The Times has found that the British public overwhelmingly supports the removal of the bishops from the House of Lords, and more generally thinks that politicians should try not to be influenced by their religious beliefs when making decisions.

The poll, of 1,700 British adults, has found that 62% believe that no religious leaders should have ‘an automatic right to seats’ in Parliament, which 26 bishops of the Church of England currently do. Only 20% want to keep the bishops in some sense or other, with just 8% saying the bishops should retain their present unique right, while 12% say that other religious leaders should gain the same automatic right as the bishops.

The public was also asked whether politicians ‘should feel free to use their religious beliefs to inform their political decisions’, or should ‘keep their religious views separate and not allow them to influence their political decisions’. 65% support the latter option, while just 14% support the opposite.

This year has seen proposals to reduce the number of peers in the Lords, but the proposals leave the bishops untouched – meaning that they will make up a higher proportion of seats in a reformed chamber.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘It’s clear that the public doesn’t currently believe our politics is secular enough, and this includes very strong support for removing the bishops from the House of Lords. With just 3% of young adults saying they belong to the Church of England, how can it be right that the Church maintains its unique privilege of automatic seats for its clergy in parliament? The UK and Iran are the only two sovereign states to afford religious leaders such rights, and it is past time that this and other Church privileges in public life are brought to an end.’


For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on or 020 3675 0959.

Read more about the Humanists UK’s campaigns around bishops in the House of Lords:

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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