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Is There a ‘Religious Right’ Emerging in Britain?

Is There a ‘Religious Right’ Emerging in Britain?

This report examines whether there is a “Religious Right” emerging in Britain today. (2013)

Recent years have seen an increasing number of claims that a US–style Religious Right either exists or is rapidly emerging in Britain. This report examines whether or not the claims are accurate. 

Superficially, it argues, the case looks quite strong: there is evidence of greater co–ordination among Christian groups with a strong socially–conservative commitment, in particular relating to human sexuality, marriage, family life, and religious freedom, about which they are vocal and often willing to resort to legal action. This is a familiar picture within US politics. 

However, on closer inspection, research and analysis suggest that it is highly misleading to describe this phenomenon as a US–style Religious Right. For a number of reasons – economic, social, ecclesiastical and theological – Britain does not have, and shows few signs of developing, the kind of theo–political culture that has characterised American politics since the late 1970s. 

Drawing on electoral and social data, and a number of interviews with those organisations accused of being part of the nascent British Religious Right, this report is a vital contribution, and corrective, to a debate that is growing in importance and temperature.

Andy Walton with Andrea Hatcher and Nick Spencer (2013).

“This is a measured and thoughtful piece of research, contributing to a topic where there is too much heat and too little light in contemporary debate. It assesses the presence – or, rather, the current absence – of a coherent ‘Religious Right’ in British politics through a detailed comparison with the characteristics of the movement in the US. This report should be read in its entirety by academics researching the role of religion in British life as well as by journalists, commentators and members of civil society groups who engage with faith issues.” Ben Clements, Lecturer in Politics, Leicester University

“The notion of a ‘Religious Right’ in this country makes good copy. That is why the idea is appropriated – or more accurately misappropriated – by the media. This carefully researched report suggests a more apposite interpretation of the data. It is to be warmly welcomed.” Grace Davie, Professor of Sociology, University of Exeter

“This report gives a reliable overview of evidence concerning the purported rise of the Christian Right in Britian. Drawing on new research, it profiles several new Christian groups. By placing them in context, it shows why rumours that an American style movement is crossing the Atlantic are greatly exaggerated.” Linda Woodhead, Professor of Sociology of Religion, Lancaster University

Andy Walton with Andrea Hatcher and Nick Spencer

Andy Walton with Andrea Hatcher and Nick Spencer

Andy Walton is a writer and broadcaster, and works for the Contextual Theology Centre in east London. 

Andrea Hatcher is Associate Professor at Sewanee:
The University of the South. 

Nick Spencer is Director of Research at Theos.

Watch, listen to or read more from Andy Walton with Andrea Hatcher and Nick Spencer

Britain, Conservative Party, Politics


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