A US-based Hindu group says that it is time for the British monarch to drop the “Defender of the Faith” title, which has been in use since the 1500s.
Britain is a multi-religious, multi-denominational and pluralistic society now and there are a substantial and growing number of non-believers, according to the Hindu group. For a monarch, all subjects should be equal, while titles like this seem to create a class structure and are highly irrelevant in the 21st century, said Hindu statesman Rajan Zed in Nevada (USA) on Friday.
“Defender of the Faith” is one of the subsidiary titles of the English and later British monarchs when it was granted on October 11, 1521 by Pope Leo X to King Henry VIII. After King Henry broke with Rome in 1530 and established himself as head of the Church of England, the title was revoked by Pope Paul III. However, in 1543, the Parliament of England conferred the title “Defender of the Faith” on King Henry VIII and his successors, now the defenders of the Anglican faith, of which they (except the Catholic Mary I) remain the supreme governors, notes Wikipedia.
Moreover, according to Zed, the British monarchy should not be in the business of defending the faith. “If some still thought that there was need to defend the faith, it should be left to individual religions and denominations and organizations of non-believers,” said Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism.
In the opinion of Zed, if King Charles III sincerely felt that all belief systems needed to be endorsed and shielded in an inclusive society, he should invite and allow equal time at his coronation to various religions and denominations to say prayers and conduct sacred rituals, as well as to non-believers to say appropriate greetings.
Zed further said that while monarchs are fully entitled to their personal beliefs and religious practices, they should not proclaim religious preferences in the public domain and promote one denomination over the others or give preferential treatment or unfair privileges. “Charles III is the king of all subjects, diverse believers and non-believers alike,” Zed said.
“If the monarch declares public allegiance to one denomination, doesn’t it send the signals that subjects who do not belong to that denomination are less than full-fledged citizens or step-citizens?” asked Rajan Zed.
Zed argued, “We are no longer in the 1500s. It is reportedly a drastically different faith landscape right now: people with ‘no religion’ are rising, the number of worshippers is dropping, and many religious buildings have gone out of service. If monarchy wants to remain relevant in the current multi-religious and non-believer society, it has to move with the times and reflect the aspirations of all subjects.”
Faith or non-belief or spirituality of each citizen is equally valuable and pertinent, and the monarchy should respect that, Rajan Zed emphasized.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Most Reverend Justin Welby, who is well aware of the religious landscape of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, should advise King Charles on this issue accordingly, Zed suggested, adding that the “Defender of the Faith” term should be taken out of use.
British and Commonwealth Hindus are a hard-working, harmonious and peaceful community and have made a lot of contributions to their nations and society and continue to do so. They have wished King Charles III the best and offered their wholehearted support to him as he embarks upon his journey as King, Zed said.