British Support Queen Elizabeth's Role as 'Defender of Faith,' Poll Finds

As Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, which marks her 60-year anniversary as head of the British monarchy, a poll has found that most British people agree that she should continue to have an important faith role in the country.

Around 73 percent of respondents to a poll conducted by Comres agreed that the queen should keep her title as "Defender of the Faith," which was first given to Henry VIII. The title makes her the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, making her formally superior to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Only 25 percent of respondents said that they do not think Queen Elizabeth II should play any faith role or have any faith title at all.

Earlier this year, the queen celebrated the first of her Jubilee events with a multifaith reception at Lambeth Palace, where she shared that she believes the Church of England's role in the country is often misunderstood and underappreciated, the BBC reported.

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"Its role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of all other religions, instead the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country," she said.

"What we saw in Leicester was the power of that arrangement to hold people together from different faiths, if you disestablish the Church and disconnect the Church from the monarchy, it gives the impression there are almost no values we share in common at all," the Bishop of Leicester, the Right Rev. Tim Stevens, said of the multifaith event.

Some, like Graham Smith of the campaign group Republic, which wants to get rid of the monarchy, have suggested that Queen Elizabeth II's role does not benefit a multicultural society.

"Our head of state has even recently spoken out in defense of the Church of England. I think that's not right in a society where most people don't identify with that," Smith said.

Farooq Murad, the general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, has insisted, however, that the queen's role in the Commonwealth means that other faith communities feel comfortable with her leadership of the Church of England.

"The largest Muslim countries, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, are part of the Commonwealth and (people) arrive here having heard of the British monarchy from their fathers and grandfathers to the extent that many of them fought for the British Empire -- we feel strong Christian values are good for us, we are very much on the same grounds," Murad said.

The Right Rev. Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, who gave the sermon at the wedding of the Duke and the Duchess of Cambridge last year, warned against attempts to try and take away Queen Elizabeth II's role as "Defender of Faith."

"If you have a political culture which rigidly excludes the voice of faith from rational dialogue in the open, what you do is push that huge energy into places where people speak words of fire together and that is one of the ingredients for growing fanaticism," he said.

Comres interviewed 2,591 adults in England by telephone between March 30 and April 15, 2012 for the poll, and said the survey is demographically representative of all English adults.

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