A charity in Scotland is planning to drop the word church from its title, saying that it creates “unnecessary barriers” to accessing public funding.
The chairman of Perth-based Churches Action for the Homeless (CATH) says he has been told “off the record” that their perceived religious identity has made it more difficult for them to receive grants.
Now trustees have asked the charity’s supporters to suggest a new “fully inclusive” name for the group.
But others have criticised the move. CATH patron Rt Revd Vincent Logan, Roman Catholic Bishop of Dunkeld, said: “CATH owes its origins to churchgoers.
“I am not aware of anyone having been asked about their beliefs before being offered help, nor of anyone being discriminated against.”
Prejudice against Christian groups who receive public funding has hit the headlines in recent times.
Last month a humanist group in Devon called on the county council to stop funding Devon Faiths Forum because it thought public money shouldn’t be spent on consulting a “minority”.
Also last month, the Government hinted that it may halt work on a charter for faith groups which could have banned them from evangelising if they received a public grant.
The Government shift was opposed by the British Humanist Association who reacted by calling for the Equality Bill to ban public funds going to religious groups who promote their faith.
A Church of England Bishop recently accused the Government of having a pro-Muslim bias when it comes to funding. Rt Revd Stephen Lowe said: “Christian groups in particular have suffered irrational prejudice against their funding applications”.
In March it was revealed that in Scotland Muslim groups receive more public money for ‘equality’ than all other religious groups put together.
Earlier in the year, a Christian care home in Brighton won back £13,000 of public funding which had been withdrawn because it wouldn’t quiz its elderly Christian residents on their sexual orientation every three months.
The funding was restored after a legal action against Brighton and Hove Council.
In September last year the Archbishop of York spoke out against Government intolerance against Christian groups when it comes to funding community initiatives.
He warned of “a chill wind that blows around grant makers and managers of funds” when considering faith groups.
In July 2008 Hazel Blears, then Communities Minister, said Christian groups should be used in providing public services as long as they promise not to share the gospel.
In 2005, one Christian-run shelter for the homeless was threatened with the loss of £150,000 of funding unless it stopped saying grace at mealtimes and putting Bibles out for use by guests.
Teen Challenge UK, an organisation in Wales that helps drug addicts, had £700,000 of funding withdrawn. During a debate in the House of Commons, Bob Spink MP said: “The organisation’s grant was removed essentially because it has Christian roots and is run by Christians.” The Welsh Assembly denies that this was the reason.
CATH’s supporters will vote on a change of name at the annual general meeting in October.
One supporter told Tayside newspaper The Courier: “If some funding bodies have felt that because CATH was founded by churches this presents barriers, it is surely a terrible indictment of today’s values in society.”