Discrimination, Identity, and Other News

The eight stories in today’s post feature a range of topics, but religious discrimination and religious identity especially stand out. It should be noted that the latest statistical bulletin for the Government’s Integrated Household Survey, covering the calendar year 2012 and published on 3 October 2013, did not report on the religious identity question.

Religious discrimination (1)

Perceived discrimination against Muslims has increased during the past three years, but they are still not the group most discriminated against in British society; that unenviable position is thought to be occupied by people with mental health problems, followed by gypsies, transsexuals, and immigrants. This is according to a YouGov poll published on 2 October 2013 and undertaken online on 29-30 September among a sample of 1,717 adult Britons. Interviewees were shown a list of groups and asked how much discrimination they thought each suffered in Britain today, the percentages replying ‘a lot’ or ‘some’ being combined in the table below, with comparisons for January 2011 (where available). Twelve of the 15 groups covered in both surveys were believed to have suffered more discrimination over the three years, only Christians and white persons experiencing a reduction, with no change for atheists (who were the group considered to be least discriminated against). Perceived discrimination against Muslims is now 32% more than against Christians, compared with a gap of 22% in 2011. Discrimination against Jews is believed to be up by one-third.

























Ginger haired












Mentally ill















Working class



The data table for the survey can be found at:


Religious discrimination (2)

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has recently published Identity, Expression, and Self-Respect, Briefing Paper No. 9 in its Measurement Framework series, with some accompanying data in Excel format. The paper considers five indicators in detail, the first of which is freedom to practice one’s religion or belief, which is quantified from the 2010 Citizenship Survey (CS) for England and Wales and from HM Inspectorate of Prisons statistics. In the CS 93% of adults overall felt able to practice their religion freely, but somewhat fewer among the under-45s, several ethnic minorities, and Muslims and Sikhs (for detail, see pp. 17-18 and the table accompanying measure El1.1). Breaks by religion are also sometimes shown in connection with the secondary analysis of data for the other four indicators. The briefing paper and tables are at:


Under a veil

The recent public and media debate about whether Muslim women should be permitted to wear the full face-veil or niqab started in connection with specific cases involving courtrooms and colleges. In canvassing popular opinion on the matter, ComRes therefore decided to take the prohibition of the veil in courts, schools, and colleges as ‘a given’, and to ask respondents whether female Muslims should otherwise be free to wear the veil. One-half (including 61% of over-65s and Conservatives, and 79% of UKIP supporters) thought the veil should not be worn even outside courts, schools, and colleges, and just 32% that it should be. The poll was undertaken by telephone for the Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror on 18 and 19 September 2013, among 2,003 Britons aged 18 and over, and the data can be found on pp. 113-16 of the tables posted at:


Religious identity (1)

Details of the religious self-identification of the UK’s regular armed forces personnel as at 1 April 2013 were published by the Ministry of Defence on 26 September 2013 in Table 2.01.09 of the 2013 edition of Statistical Series 2 – Personnel Bulletin 2.01. Although the proportion professing no religion has risen steadily, from 9.5% in 2007 to 16.4% today, the overwhelming majority of our service personnel continue to subscribe to some faith, and invariably (81.7% in 2013) to Christianity. Profession of no religion is highest in the Navy (22.3%) and lowest in the Army (13.5%), with 18.7% in the Royal Air Force. Non-Christians are under-represented in relation to society as a whole, which is probably mainly a reflection of the ethnic profile of the armed services. The full table is at:


Religious identity (2)

In our coverage of the 2011 Scottish religion census on 28 September 2013, reference was made to potential comparisons with national sample surveys of religious self-identification in Scotland. By way of example, we show below a ten-year percentage comparison from the Scottish Household Survey (SHS), which employs a larger than average sample. The 2012 data are extracted from p. 13 of the 2012 edition of Scotland’s People (published on 28 August 2013), those for 2001-02 from the dataset accessible via the UK Data Service (applying the random adult sample weights). Although the question asked is identical to that in the census (‘what religion, religious denomination, or body do you belong to?’), these statistics refer to adults only and are thus not directly comparable to the initial census results (which are for all ages). The SHS figures also omit non-responses (because the dataset for 2012 is not yet available). The general direction of travel, of course, is similar to the changes seen in the census between 2001 and 2011, with a big increase in the number of Scots professing no religion and a large decrease in support for the Church of Scotland.




No religion



Church of Scotland



Roman Catholic



Other Christian






Scottish marriages

Section 7 of Vital Events Reference Tables, 2012 [for Scotland], published by the General Register Office for Scotland on 27 August 2013, contains three tables dealing with Scottish marriages which will be of interest to BRIN readers:

  • Table 7.5 lists the number of marriages solemnized by celebrants from 50 different religious and belief traditions for each year between 2002 and 2012. The key stories are the steep fall in marriages conducted by the Church of Scotland (down by 50% over this period) and the Methodist Church (down by 70%) and the rapid growth in ceremonies conducted by the Humanist Society Scotland since they were legalized in 2005; by 2012 they had overtaken Roman Catholic marriages and were closing fast on the Church of Scotland.
  • Table 7.6 lists the number of civil and religious marriages (the latter disaggregated by Church of Scotland, Roman Catholic, and other religions) for each year between 1961 and 2012 and each quinquennium between 1946-50 and 2006-10. Whereas civil marriages represented only 17% of the total in 1946-50, by 2006-10 the figure stood at 52%.
  • Table 7.7 lists marriages by ‘denomination’ for 2012, when 51% were civil, 18% Church of Scotland, 10% Humanist Society Scotland, and 6% Roman Catholic.

The tables can be found at:


Time use

Since the earliest days of sample surveys, it has been evident that interviewees have a tendency to overstate their recalled religious activities. This is no more so than in the case of churchgoing where claimed attendance can exceed by a factor of two the totals arrived at by actual censuses of public worship. Steve Bruce and Tony Glendinning of the University of Aberdeen have sought to illustrate the point by repurposing diary data from English respondents (aged 16 and over) to the UK Time Use Survey, 2000-01, which was conducted by the Office for National Statistics. Participants, who were drawn from a random sample of households, were required to record their main and secondary activities for each 10-minute period on the day in question, which included Sundays (3,317 individuals appear to have completed Sunday diaries). Bruce and Glendinning’s methodology and findings are contained in a four-page report on The Extent of Religious Activity in England, which is being disseminated by Brierley Consultancy, an abridged version of which appears in the October 2013 issue of FutureFirst (contact peter@brierleyres.com to obtain copies of either or both versions). The authors conclude as follows:

‘There is little religion of any form practised, public or private. Less than 11% of adults in England engage in any religious activity whatsoever (including personal prayers and meditation and consuming mass media religious programming) of any duration at any point during a typical week. Only 8.25% of adults engage in any episodes of communal practice in the company of others. Less than 7% attend church on a Sunday. Read the other way round – 7% going to church on Sunday, 8% doing some communal religion and 11% doing any religion at all – these data offer little support for the claim that the decline of conventional churchgoing has been offset by an increase in alternative religious activities.’ Of course, it must be remembered that the survey embodied a snapshot of religious activity on the day the diary was completed, and that those who do not engage in such activity on one Sunday may do so on another.

Fossil free churches

This item is not a politically incorrect reference to the age or traditionalism of churchgoers but to a new campaign by Operation Noah (an ecumenical Christian climate change charity) to encourage churches (particularly the Church of England) to disinvest in companies seeking expansion in fossil fuel reserves. The campaign, and its accompanying report (Bright Now: Towards Fossil Free Churches), was launched on 20 September 2013 and underpinned by data from Christian Research’s Resonate panel, 1,520 churchgoers replying to its August 2013 omnibus. Although more than nine out of ten churchgoers agree that churches should invest their money ethically, the majority does not see climate change as a key issue relative to other priorities (such as women bishops). In the case of Anglicans, 63% want the Church of England to take the lead in addressing man-made climate change, yet only one-quarter supports the Church disinvesting in companies extracting fossil fuels. As with most Resonate polls, full data are not in the public domain, but Operation Noah’s press release can be read at:






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