Trojan Horse Plot and Other News

 

Trojan horse plot

Two-thirds of the British public think there is substance behind the allegations of a ‘Trojan horse’ plot whereby hardline Muslim groups have attempted to take over certain schools in Birmingham. However, opinion is divided about where blame for this state of affairs lies. These are among the findings of a poll conducted by YouGov for The Sunday Times, in which 2,134 adults aged 18 and over were interviewed online on 5 and 6 June 2014 (i.e. before the formal release of Ofsted’s reports on the 21 schools on 9 June). The data tables were published on 8 June at:

http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/lwiuydgoju/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-x140606.pdf.pdf

The opening questions were generic, YouGov’s panellists initially being asked whether it was acceptable for state schools with a majority of pupils from Muslim families to set rules reflecting their interpretation of Islamic religion and culture. Overwhelmingly (85%), this was deemed unacceptable, with still higher proportions among UKIP supporters (95%), the over-60s (93%), and Conservatives (91%). Overall, only 7% defended the operation of Islamic rules in these circumstances, and no more than 11% in any demographic sub-group.

Interviewees felt almost as strongly (70%) that Government should limit the freedoms of individual schools to ensure that they do not make decisions which are bad for their pupils and that they are not taken over by extremists, with just 11% wanting maximum discretion for headteachers and governors to determine policies and practices in accordance with the needs of their local areas.

In the case of the Birmingham ‘Trojan horse’ allegations, a mere 7% believed they were false, with 28% undecided, and 65% convinced they were probably true, rising to 87% among UKIP voters, 83% of over-60s, and 77% of Conservatives. Blame for the situation in Birmingham was variously attributed to Muslim activists (32%), school governors (15%), central government (13%), Birmingham City Council (10%), and headteachers (5%), with 25% unable to express an opinion.

The survey also returned to the question of whether Britain is a Christian country, the subject of a recent public and media debate to which Prime Minister David Cameron made a major contribution. At the height of that debate, in late April 2014, the majority of respondents agreed that Britain was still a Christian country: 55% according to YouGov and 56% according to ICM Research. Now, however, only 40% do so, with a plurality of 44% claiming Britain is no longer a Christian country (the latter figure up 11% on YouGov’s previous poll). What a difference a few weeks (and the ‘Trojan horse’ affair putting Islam centre-stage) can make to the tide of public opinion! Only among Conservative voters (52%) does a majority subscribe to the reality of a Christian nation.

Marriages in England and Wales

The proportion of marriages in England and Wales solemnized in religious ceremonies is continuing to fall. It stood at 29.7% according to the provisional figures for 2012 published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on 11 June 2014, 0.2% less than in 2011. This was notwithstanding a rise of 4.6% in the number of religious weddings between 2011 and 2012, which was outstripped by a 5.5% growth in civil ceremonies. However, the Church of England and Church in Wales did improve their market share by a small amount (0.2%, reflecting the fact that Anglican weddings rose by 6.2% over the year). Until 1976 religious weddings surpassed civil ones. Selective trend data are shown in the following table:

 

1981

1991

2001

2011

2012

Civil

49.0

49.3

64.3

70.1

70.3

Church of England/Wales

33.6

33.5

24.4

21.9

22.1

Roman Catholic

7.4

6.4

4.2

3.4

3.2

Other Christian

9.5

10.1

6.1

3.5

3.3

Non-Christian

0.4

0.6

1.0

1.1

1.1

ONS also reported on the number of non-Anglican certified places of worship and those registered for the solemnization of marriage in England and Wales, in both cases as at 30 June 2011. Statistics are summarized below (it should be noted that registration of places of worship for marriage is not required in the case of the Society of Friends and Jews):

 

Certified

buildings

Registered

for marriage

% registered

Roman Catholic

3,623

3,269

90.2

Methodist

6,990

6,127

87.7

Baptist

3,261

3.046

93.4

United Reformed

1,604

1,542

96.1

Congregationalist

1,355

1,241

91.6

Calvinistic Methodist

1,144

1,052

92.0

Brethren

942

733

77.8

Jehovah’s Witnesses

927

838

90.4

Salvation Army

887

721

81.3

Society of Friends

364

NA

NA

Unitarian

176

161

91.5

Other Christian

6,469

4,442

68.7

Muslim

930

205

22.0

Jew

377

NA

NA

Sikh

229

170

74.2

Other non-Christian

516

301

58.3

The ONS statistical bulletin with supporting tables in Excel format (including full trend data back to 1837, when civil registration began) can be found at:

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/vsob1/marriages-in-england-and-wales–provisional-/2012/index.html

Charitable giving

The 26% of Britons who say they practise a religion are more likely to have donated money to a charity during the past month than the 73% who do not practise a faith, according to a ComRes poll for BBC Religion which was published on 8 June 2014. The sample comprised 3,035 adults interviewed by telephone between 28 February and 23 March 2014.

Practising a religion was defined as praying, reading a holy book weekly, or attending religious services at least once a month. Those most likely to do so were women (31%), the over-65s (35%), and Londoners (39%). The split between practising Christians and non-Christians was 19% versus 7%.

Of those practising a religion, 78% claimed to have given to a charity during the past month. This compared with a national average of 70% and with 67% of the non-practising. Not unexpectedly, the practising were also more likely to have seen or heard something from a place of worship or religious group during the previous month about donating to charitable or social causes – 39% against 12%.

Overall, 19% of respondents had been encouraged to give by a church or religious group, and this was especially true in London (30%). This was a greater proportion than had received encouragement to give money by government (8%) or a local political organization (9%), but it was far less than the 72% who had been exposed to an appeal by a charity.

Data tables from this survey are at:

http://www.comres.co.uk/polls/BBC_Religion_Charitable_Giving_March_2014_Great_Britain.pdf

Methodist statistics

The Methodist Church has just published its latest Statistics for Mission report, for the year to 31 October 2013, including a number of new measures. The report, which extends to 33 pages, is for consideration at the Church’s annual Conference, to be held in Birmingham from 26 June to 3 July 2014. Overall, the document does not make for encouraging reading (from the Methodist perspective). Indeed, an editorial in the Methodist Recorder (6 June 2014, p. 6) baldly states that the statistics ‘offer no cause for hope’ and that ‘even the most accomplished masseur of numbers would be unable to put any positive spin’ on them.

The picture for the past ten years can be summarized in tabular form as follows:

 

2003

2013

% change

Churches

6,229

5,071

-18.6

Ministers

2,108

1,815

-13.9

Members

304,971

208,738

-31.6

New members

4,483

2,496

-44.3

Deceased members

8,513

6,181

-27.4

Non-members

556,600

237,900

-57.3

Community roll

861,600

446,600

-48.2

Adult attendances

248,500

191,800

-22.8

Children’s attendances

77,900

32,700

-58.0

Baptisms

14,963

10,043

-32.9

Marriages/blessings

7,272

3,101

-57.4

Funerals

33,261

21,057

-36.7

Additionally, Methodism’s demographics remain skewed relative to society as a whole. A one-off survey of Methodist members in 2011 showed that only 31% were male and 69% female. In terms of age, just 7% were under 40, with 24% between 41 and 65, 51% from 66 to 80, and 18% 81 or over. The likelihood of ongoing decline is also suggested by the fact that two and a half times as many members now die each year as are recruited. On the other hand, 43% of churches seem to have recorded an increase over the triennium 2010-13 in either their membership or their attendance or both. The report is at:

http://www.methodistconference.org.uk/media/228157/conf-2014-37-statistics-for-mission.pdf

 


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