By Hilary White
LONDON, November 2, 2007 ( – Like the wicked Sherriff of Nottingham in the 1991 film “Robin Hood Prince of Thieves”, a Labour party think tank wants to cancel Christmas on the grounds that it is a “white” holiday which offends Britain’s immigrants. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), described as the ruling party’s “favourite” policy office that has shaped many Labour policies, says Christmas “should be downgraded to help race relations.”
  The IPPR also proposes secularized “birth ceremonies” in which the state and parents agree on the best way to rear children; the abolition of sitting Anglican bishops in the House of Lords; an end to “sectarian” religious education and flying flags other than the Union flag.
  The report says that the state should “recast the civic oaths and national ceremonies” such as the coronation of the monarch and the ceremonies surrounding the opening of Parliament, “in a more “multi-religious or secular form and make religious education less sectarian.”
“Even-handedness dictates that we provide public recognitions to minority cultures and traditions. If we are going to continue as a nation to mark Christmas – and it would be very hard to expunge it from our national life even if we wanted to – then public organizations should mark other religious festivals too.”
  Much editorial ink has been employed in recent years in the British press examining Britain’s “identity crisis” that, it is said, has crept into the national consciousness since the social revolution of the 1960’s swept away the old social and religious certainties.
  The report, that was commissioned to study “identity, citizenship and community cohesion,” says, “We can no longer define ourselves as a Christian nation, nor an especially religious one in any sense. The empire is gone, church attendance is at historically low levels, and the Second World War is inexorably slipping from memory.”
  Britain, however, despite rapidly declining church attendance, remains one of the few countries in the developed world that officially retains Christianity, in the form of the Church of England, as its established state religion.
  Sayeeda Warsi, the opposition Conservative party spokesman, said the proposals are more likely to damage cohesion. “You don’t build community cohesion by throwing out your history and denying the fundamental contribution Christianity has played and does play to our nation.”
  In an editorial in today’s Daily Telegraph, Rowan Pelling wrote that the IPPR is proposing to destroy Britain’s Christian heritage by “stealthy and incremental corrosion.”
“Who exactly are we offending by stating this country is a Christian nation? After all 72 per cent of citizens in England and Wales …were happy to describe themselves as Christians at the last census in 2001. Yet somehow the majority of Brits seem to conspire in agreeing that any open admission of Christian belief is so downright embarrassing that it is easiest just to let the secular mob destroy our traditional jollies.”
  Pelling says that as a mother, “I’d love to make angel wings from coat hangers and tinsel and sing ‘Away in a Manger’ but my culture is increasingly sidelined.”
  While the IPPR claims a need to change Britain’s ancient institutions to favour recent immigrants, the actual make-up of Britain’s population remains overwhelmingly white and Christian. According to the 2001 census, the population is 92.1 per cent white. 71.6 per cent of Britain’s population, of all races, claim membership in some Christian denomination. Muslims, Hindus and “other” makes up 5.3 per cent. “Unspecified or none” accounts for the religious beliefs of the remaining 23.1 per cent. 


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