Union warned of “sinister plot” to disestablish Church in Fry debate

Olly Hudson 30 January 2015

The Cambridge Union Society has tonight heard that support for the disestablishment of the Church of England is part of a supposed “sinister plot” to launch “insurrection” in the UK.

Speaking in opposition to the motion “This House Would Disestablish the Church of England,” Chief Executive of the Conservative Christian Fellowship Colin Bloom suggested that opponents of the established church would, “cheerfully strangle the last monarch with the guts of the last bishop.”

The debate, which saw Stephen Fry speaking in opposition to the motion, saw clashes between the Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association, Andrew Copson, who claimed that the established church was “incompatible with an open, free and democratic society” and the Bishop of Leicester, Tim Stevens, who claimed the Church represented “something fundamental about our national character.”

In a surprise move, atheist Fry announced to the chamber, “I love the Church of England,” arguing that the continued existence of the Church had resulted in the UK becoming “the most secular country in Europe.”

The Reverend Giles Fraser, ex-canon of St Paul’s Cathedral, London, who resigned after refusing to condemn the Occupy St Paul’s protest in 2011, voiced concern that the Church of England has found itself “neutered” in its role as the official state church. Arguing that the state ought not to set the terms of religion, Fraser claimed that separation of the Church and state was necessary for it to be able to challenge government policy.

Echoing Fraser’s comments from across the floor, Reverend Stevens claimed the established church fulfilled an important role in pushing the government to address “the dire inequalities in our society”, while warning that we risked becoming a “more atomized, more fragmented,” and a “more individualistic” society without the influence of a strong Church.

In a post-debate tweet, Theo Pigott commented: “Wonderful to hear the iconic Stephen Fry articulating anti-disestablishmentarianistically at the Cambridge Union this evening.”

The final result of the debate saw the Ayes claim a decisive victory of 60% to the Noes 20%. The Union’s most popularly attended event of the term so far also saw a 19% swing in favour of the proposition.