A prominent Christian charity is set to receive £5 million in Government funds, which will be the largest public grant allocated to a church group in recent years.
The Tablet, a Roman Catholic newspaper, has revealed that the Church of England’s Church Urban Fund is expected to receive the money later this year.
The news is likely to be welcomed by many Christians who have become increasingly concerned at the way in which Christian groups have disproportionally struggled to access public funding.
In 2007 a Christian care home, run by Pilgrim Homes, had £13,000 of public funding withdrawn after staff refused to question the elderly residents about their sexual orientation every three months.
In 2008 Hazel Blears, former Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, suggested that Christian groups should only be allowed to provide public services if they refrain from evangelising.
In March 2009 it was revealed that Islamic organisations in Scotland were receiving more public funding for ‘equality’ than all the other religious organisations in Scotland put together.
And Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, has previously criticised the former Labour Government’s intolerance of Christian groups when it came to funding community initiatives.
While the Government has not yet confirmed the grant, they agreed that they did want to use church groups to help realise David Cameron’s idea of a “Big Society”, where grassroots volunteers get involved with their local communities.
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “Faith communities make a vital contribution to national life and all faith groups can have an important role to play in building the Big Society.”
The grant also appears to be in line with previous comments by Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, about the impact which faith groups can have upon society.
Speaking at a meeting with faith leaders last month Mr Pickles said: “For years, faith communities have been quietly making a huge difference day-in and day-out, to every single neighbourhood in the country – something that has not been sufficiently recognised by central Government.”
“Some see religion as a problem that needs to be solved. The new Government sees it as part of the solution. I want to send an important signal that we value the role of religion and faith in public life. The days of the state trying to suppress Christianity and other faiths are over”, he continued.
The Church Urban Fund was established in 1987 with the aim of tackling poverty in the country’s poorest areas.