Blears: faith groups can’t do social work if they evangelise

Christian groups should be used in providing public services as long as they promise not to share the gospel, says Communities Secretary Hazel Blears.

In a White Paper entitled ‘Communities in control: real people, real power’, Mrs Blears outlines Government plans to commission services from faith-based groups.

However, during a Commons debate on the issue, Mrs Blears said that this will come with strings attached.

She acknowledged in the debate that “many people are motivated by faith of all kinds to do great acts of social good”.

“However,” she continued, “I am concerned to ensure that if faith groups become involved, they do so on a proper footing – not by evangelising or proselytising, but by providing services in a non-discriminatory way to the whole community”.

Mrs Blears said that she planned to draft a charter for Christian groups along the lines of the one provided by Faithworks for churches and Christian agencies providing community services.

The charter requires groups to pledge to provide “an inclusive service to our community” in a number of ways. One of these is: “Never imposing our Christian faith or belief on others.”

There have been cases of Christian groups being denied funding for the services they provide because they refuse to compromise on their ethos.

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Teen Challenge UK, an organisation in Wales that helps drug addicts, had £700,000 of funding withdrawn.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.

Caring for Life, a Christian group providing help for homeless and vulnerable people, has also had problems accessing funding.

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