Minister says Govt will stop suppressing faith

Wed, 21 Jul 2010

The state will no longer try to clamp down on Christianity, the Government Minister for Communities has said.

Eric Pickles, speaking at a meeting of faith leaders, declared: “The days of the state trying to suppress Christianity and other faiths are over.”

Earlier this month Andy Burnham, a candidate for the Labour Party leadership, said his party needed to apologise for creating a culture which sidelined Christians.

Encouragement

Faith leaders at the meeting with Mr Pickles expressed their encouragement at the Government’s position.

Mr Pickles, who is MP for Brentwood and Ongar in Essex, also commented that the new Government values “the role of religion and faith in public life”.

He praised “faith communities” for making a difference to “every single neighbourhood in the country”.

Mr Pickles said that was something “that has not been sufficiently recognised by central Government”.

Appreciated

Mr Pickles, who in the run up to the General Election was Chairman of the Conservative Party, also commented: “Some see religion as a problem that needs to be solved. The new Government sees it as part of the solution.”

According to a press release on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s website, participants at the meeting were encouraged by the Government’s willingness “to see Church and faith communities as providing a model to be appreciated, rather than as a group to be shaped by government”.

The Faith in Society meeting included the Chief Rabbi and Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, along with representatives from the Hindu and Sikh religions.

Arrested

Earlier this year Christian street preacher Dale Mcalpine was arrested after he described homosexual conduct as a “sin” during a private conversation with two Police Community Support Officers.

The Crown Prosecution Service decided to drop the charges after reviewing the evidence.

In December Christian hoteliers Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang faced a criminal trial in Liverpool Magistrates’ Court following a complaint over a conversation about Christianity and Islam.

The judge dismissed the case against the Vogelenzangs and declared them innocent.

Marginalised

Last October it emerged that a Christian grandmother, Pauline Howe, was investigated by police for ‘homophobic hatred’ after objecting to a ‘gay pride’ parade in her home town of Norwich.

And in 2005 Christian pensioners, Joe and Helen Roberts, were interrogated by police because they had expressed opposition to their local council spending public money on ‘gay rights’ projects.