Sometime ago I was asked if I would give my support to the campaign to make Buddhism the State religion of Thailand. I was reluctant and did not believe that a State religion was a good thing. I thought that it damaged the religion that was chosen and that because of that favouritism for one and the resultant bias others would be discriminated against. But as I thought about it and began to write I realised that we in this country have discovered a powerful argument in its favour.
On the one hand, it can be argued that any religion is better off without the baggage of national, cultural or political ties; and that the ethnic and religious diversity within a nation is safer when there is not a dominant, national religion.
But on the other hand, it can as well be argued that a nation without a national religion is one bereft of moral compass and encouragement to virtue and integrity; and without a national religious commitment the diversity of faiths and the freedom to practise a religion of choice is neither understood nor protected.
Here in England the Church of England is the established religion headed by the Monarch and the latter of those two positions has been our experience. Religion has been protected, not only the national, established church but the various minority faiths as well. We are free to practise our religion of choice and diversity is respected. For example, in February I was invited to attend, along with the leaders of other faiths working in prison chaplaincy, a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is keen to understand and support our work.
Providing therefore that it is tolerant of other faiths, I have come round to supporting the establishment in law of a national religion.
Buddhism exemplifies and actively promotes loving-kindness and compassion, tolerance and understanding and has long been at the heart of Thai culture making a priceless contribution to its welfare and development. I believe, therefore, that it deserves to be recognised as the national religion of Thailand.