The Archbishop of York has spoken of Government “intolerance” against Christian groups when it comes to funding community initiatives.
Dr John Sentamu, the second most senior figure in the Church of England, was speaking at a Westminster event organised by Youth for Christ.
He told the audience that faith is a key motivation for charitable and voluntary work in Britain, yet faith groups appear to be viewed as “tainted and unsuitable for receipt of funding” by public bodies.
Christian groups “are working at the coalface of pastoral care and social practice,” he said, “motivated by nothing more than their love of God and the love for their neighbour”.
Many are working with the elderly, children and the disabled. Dr Sentamu said there are 22,000 religious charities helping people in England and Wales, while churchgoers contribute more than 23 million hours of voluntary service each year.
But he warned of “a chill wind that blows around grant makers and managers of funds” when considering faith groups.
He said: “We must resist any trend in national or local Government where the decision as to whether a solution works is not based on results, but upon the intolerance that sees a project motivated by faith as being tainted and unsuitable for receipt of funding.
“Rather there should be a recognition of the valuable work being carried out by groups motivated to serve the common good by a belief in dignity of all as God’s creatures in which his divine spark resides.”
The Archbishop added: “Of course there will be those who will say the Church has no role to play in service delivery and that faith has no part to play in the solution. But the facts tell a different story.
“The Church has a role to play because it is based in the community. It does not drive in to places of strife in the morning and leave before the lights go down.”
In June, a Cambridge University study accused Government ministers of “planning blind” on community projects because they had no evidence of the work Christian groups carried out, despite “focusing intently” on Muslims.