SNU Refused Representation at the Cenotaph

22nd June 2009 • by Editor

In October 2008, Steven Upton of The Spiritualists' National Union started an online petition, on the Number 10 web site, to allow a representative of the Spiritualists' National Union to place a wreath at the Cenotaph.

Steven Upton and Gordon Brown

Laying a wreath at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday in Whitehall has for a long time been an issue between the SNU and the British Government, considering that other major UK religious denominations are represented at the annual national service of remembrance.

The SNU petition was signed by just over 1900 Spiritualists, and read:-

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to allow The Spiritualists' National Union to have a representative to take part in the Remembrance Day parade and place a wreath at the Cenotaph.

"Over a number of years Spiritualists have unsuccessfully made representations to the government to be allowed to be represented among the religions which wish to pay respect to the fallen by laying a wreath at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday in Whitehall.

"Spiritualism serves the religious needs of the community in the same way as other established religious bodies and we ask that we be allowed to share in the same facilities and have accorded to us the same consideration and treatment as those of other, major religious denominations in relation to the annual national service of remembrance.

"The Spiritualists' National Union accordingly respectfully requests the Government to allow a representative to take part in the Remembrance Day parade and place a wreath at the Cenotaph in commemoration of those who gave their lives for their country."

Gordon Brown's Response

The Government's response was as follows:-

"Currently, fourteen faith leaders are invited to attend the Remembrance Sunday Ceremony and proceed into Whitehall, where they stand in observance during the two minutes' silence, the formal wreath-laying and the subsequent religious service. The current faith representation at the Remembrance Sunday Ceremony was agreed in 1999/2000, following consultation with the Chaplains-in-Chief to the three armed forces, who advised Government on the representation of faith communities in the armed forces. Officials continue to liaise with the Cohesions and Faiths Unit at the Department for Communities and Local Government who advise on faith representation more generally. There are no plans at present to change the faith representation at the Remembrance Sunday Ceremony, but the issue is kept under continuous review.

"The Ceremony is organised in such a way as to represent the feelings of all those wishing to pay their respects and recognise those who fought and died for their country. The wreath laid by Her Majesty The Queen is laid on behalf of the nation, and is dedicated to all those who have suffered and died in war. Spiritualist ex-service personnel are free to apply to the Royal British Legion to participate in the veterans' march past and represent members of their faith who served." Comments

Firstly, it's great to see Steven Upton fighting our corner. But it seems that the Government are taking the wrong advice, and should have at least consulted the 2001 Census data of religious adherents in the UK. Although not a concrete source of information with regard to the number of Spiritualists in the UK, it certainly is a more reliable means of estimating the popularity of UK Spiritualism than asking the Armed Forces Chaplains-in-Chief.

While it's not our place to question the neutrality of the Armed Forces Chaplins advising Gordon Brown, I suspect that they may have an interest in not assisting Spiritualism to gain any foothold at national ceremonies. I also suspect that during World War II, Spiritualism was far more popular than they would like to admit. I am sure Helen Duncan would agree!

But since we do have recent official census data concerning UK religions, let's look at the figures, as we all know that Gordon Brown enjoys number crunching!

Number of Religious Adherents in the UK (2001 Census)

1. Christians = 42,079,000
2. Muslims = 1,546,626
3. Hindus = 552,421
4. Sikhs = 329,358
5. Jews = 259,927
6. Buddhists = 144,453
7. Spiritualists = 32,404

Now, I know that that British MPs have been having one or two mathematical problems recently, but the best source of data for religions representing the British people actually places Spiritualism as the 7th largest main religion in the UK. A figure which, at the time of writing, is eight years out of date. So perhaps a reliable indicator for the growth of Spiritualism would be the number of churches and centres there are in the UK. Which I believe has increased in the last eight years! The SNU alone has over 360 churches and centres in the UK, without even counting the numerous independents and also the Christian Spiritualists.

If we go back to the statement that Gordon Brown's Government have made mentioning the "fourteen faith leaders", I am wondering how many denominations are actually represented from Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc. ?? There must be more than seven sub-denominations for Spiritualism to be left out in the cold; outside the lucky fourteen. It seems that Spiritualism is also forgotten in the 2001 Home Office Citizenship Survey that only specifically names the top six UK religions.

So despite the number of British Spiritualist servicemen and women who undoubtedly served in the two World Wars, and despite the facts presented in the 2001 UK Census, Gordon Brown is content to base his decisions upon what the Church of England and Roman Catholic chaplains are telling him.

This is a sad day for Spiritualism. I urge all Spiritualists in the UK to contact their MP and ask...
"Why is the UK's 7th largest religion not invited to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph, while 14 other religions are?"


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