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Why should the Churchill Archives Centre host a conference on faith and politics? After all, Sir Winston Churchill famously likened himself to a buttress, supporting the Church from the outside. Although he did also joke that he ought to be honoured by the founding of Churchill College, as it put him on a level with the Trinity.
While many modern British politicians might echo Alastair Campbell's famous phrase 'We don't do God', the truth is that faith and politics remain very closely intertwined. The established Church retains a unique position in our political framework, while faith groups play an important role in education, social care, and foreign aid, and politicians and policy makers struggle to reconcile systems founded in a Christian tradition with a society that is simultaneously increasingly secular and increasingly multi-faith.
Human rights and equal opportunities do not always seem to sit easily alongside religious freedoms and practices. Faith has both divided communities and underpinned political campaigns. Turn on the television or open the newspaper on any given day and you will see articles relating to political disputes based on faith issues - gay marriage, female bishops, faith schools, religious dress and customs, the radicalisation of youth, and the impact of fundamentalism and sectarianism, to name just a few. It seems undeniable that issues of faith continue to exert a powerful influence on British domestic and foreign policy in the modern era, and that politics and policy are also shaping religious institutions and faith issues.
This conference, underpinned by the holdings of the Churchill Archives Centre, will look at the different interfaces between faith and politics, and use expert witness testimony and academic analysis to explore how the events and decisions of yesterday are shaping the challenges and opportunities for the policy makers of the present and the future.
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Interview with Allen Packwood