About

The Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life was convened in 2013 by the Woolf Institute, Cambridge, to:

  1. consider the place and role of religion and belief in contemporary Britain, and the significance of emerging trends and identities
  2. examine how ideas of Britishness and national identity may be inclusive of a range of religions and beliefs, and may in turn influence people’s self-understanding
  3. explore how shared understandings of the common good may contribute to greater levels of mutual trust and collective action, and to a more harmonious society
  4. make recommendations for public life and policy.

The commission’s final report, Living with Difference: community, diversity and the common good, was published on 7th December 2015.

Call for evidence

This website hosts a selection of documents that were submitted to the commission in its call for evidence, 2013 – 2015. The commission received over 200 general submissions from interested organisations and the general public, encompassing all major religion and belief groups from across the UK. Additional submissions were received at the meetings the commission held around the UK.

The submissions on this website are organised by the different topics addressed in the commission’s final report. These are:

  1. The Changing Landscape
  2. Education
  3. Media
  4. Dialogue
  5. Social Action
  6. Law

Background Information

Chair

1. The commission was chaired by the Rt Hon Baroness Butler-Sloss of Marsh Green GBE, formerly President of the Family Division of the High Court. She was supported by Dr Edward Kessler MBE, founder and executive director of the Woolf Institute, as vice chair.

Patrons

2. The commission had four patrons: Professor Lord Parekh of Kingston upon Hull, emeritus professor of political philosophy at the universities of Hull and Westminster; Sir Iqbal Sacranie OBE, formerly secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain; the Rt Revd and Rt Hon Lord Williams of Oystermouth, master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and formerly Archbishop of Canterbury; and the Rt Hon Lord Woolf, CH, formerly Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales.

Steering group

3. Baroness Butler-Sloss was assisted by a steering group whose members included Dr Shana Cohen, deputy director of the Woolf Institute; the Rt Revd Professor Lord Harries of Pentregarth, emeritus Gresham professor of divinity, honorary professor of theology at King’s College, London, and formerly Bishop of Oxford; Dr Edward Kessler MBE, founder and executive director of the Woolf Institute and fellow of St Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge; and Professor Tariq Modood MBE, professor of sociology, politics and public policy at the University of Bristol, and founding director of the Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship, University of Bristol.

Membership

4. The commission’s membership reflected a range of backgrounds in terms of religion, conviction, occupation, age, gender and geographical location. Each member served in an individual capacity and not as an official representative or delegate of an institution. There is a full list of members at paragraph 10 below.

5. The commission met for six weekends over a period of two years, November 2013-June 2015. A pre-commission day event was held on 30 September 2013 to finalise terms of reference and modes of operation, and agree a preliminary schedule of themes and issues to be discussed at the weekend meetings, as well as agree an outline programme of work. The six weekend meetings were held on 22-24 November in 2013, 24-26 January, 16-18 May and 7-9 November in 2014, and 30 January-1 February and 29-31 May in 2015. Each weekend meeting was centred on specially commissioned papers.

Local and national hearings

6. There were five local public hearings arranged – in Belfast, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds and Leicester. In addition, there were two national public hearings – one in London and the other, focusing on young people, in Birmingham. At each the Chair was accompanied by 3-4 Commissioners. On each occasion there was a series of private meetings at which individuals or organisations were invited to give evidence, followed by a larger meeting with people involved in an open discussion and airing of views. A broad range of views was sought, including those of – for example – editors of local papers and borough or city councillors with lead responsibility for community cohesion. The commission also issued a general call for evidence from individuals and organisations. All evidence taken from the hearings and the general was fed into the final weekend meeting of the Commission before the final report.

Reporting

7. The commission reported on 7 December 2015.

Funding

8. The commission was funded by grants from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, the Open Society Foundation and the Woolf Institute.

Full list of members

9. The full list of members of the commission was as follows:

Bishop Dr Joe Aldred, staff member responsible for Pentecostal and multicultural relations at Churches Together in England and honorary research fellow at Roehampton University

The Very Revd Dr Ian Bradley, principal of St Mary’s College, St Andrews and reader in practical theology and church history at the University of St Andrews

The Rt Hon Baroness Butler-Sloss of Marsh Green GBE, formerly President of the Family Division of the High Court (chair)

Dr Shana Cohen, deputy director of the Woolf Institute, Cambridge

Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association

Shaunaka Rishi Das, director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and Hindu chaplain to the University of Oxford

Professor Gwen Griffith-Dickson, visiting professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College London and emeritus professor of divinity at Gresham College

Professor Mark Hammond, visiting professor in public policy at Canterbury Christ Church University and formerly chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission

The Rt Revd Professor Lord Harries of Pentregarth, emeritus professor of divinity at Gresham College, honorary professor of theology at King’s College London and formerly Bishop of Oxford

Dr Jagbir Jhutti-Johal, senior lecturer, Department of Theology and Religion, University of Birmingham

Dr Edward Kessler MBE, founder-director of the Woolf Institute and fellow of St Edmund’s College, Cambridge (convenor and vice-chair)

Professor Francesca Klug OBE, visiting professor at the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at the London School of Economics, former commissioner at the Equality and Human Rights Commission and forthcoming chair of Freedom from Torture

Professor Maleiha Malik, professor of law at King’s College London

Professor Tariq Modood MBE, professor of sociology, politics and public policy at the University of Bristol and founding director of the Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship, University of Bristol

Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, community imam in Leicester, co-chair of the Christian-Muslim Forum and assistant general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain

Professor Lord Parekh of Kingston upon Hull, emeritus professor of political philosophy at the universities of Hull and Westminster

Brian Pearce OBE, former director of the Inter Faith Network for the UK

The Revd Canon Dr Angus Ritchie, director of the Centre for Theology and Community, priest-in-charge at St-George-in-the-East and assistant priest at St Peter’s Church, Bethnal Green

Rabbi Dr Norman Solomon, senior associate at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, University of Oxford, and former president of the British Association for Jewish Studies and the Birmingham Inter-Faiths Council

The Revd Dr Robert Tosh, formerly senior producer of religious broadcasting at BBC Northern Ireland.

Secretariat

10. Day-to-day management of the commission’s business was supported by a secretariat at the Centre for Policy and Public Education at the Woolf Institute. Members included Mohammed Abdul Aziz, the Centre’s director and formerly senior adviser for race, religion and community cohesion at the Department for Communities and Local Government; Robin Richardson, a former director of the Runnymede Trust; Liran Morav, Simon Perfect and Austin Tiffany, research assistants at the Woolf Institute.