Government failing to support faith groups

Despite ministerial pledges of support for religious charities, there has been little evidence of this so far, says the Evangelical Alliance (EA).

Measures such as the new Equality Bill threaten to strip these groups of their identities, EA’s Head of Public Affairs Don Horrocks told Third Sector magazine.

“The Government indicates that it is considering introducing measures that will show its support for Christian charities,” he said.

“After all, it needs the faith sector to help deliver public services.

“But the proof will be in the pudding. I haven’t really seen any evidence of it yet.”

Instead, Mr Horrocks said the new Equality Bill was a sign of increasing prejudice towards Christian groups.

He said the Bill “could potentially force Christian groups, by threat of legal action, to effectively have their faith identities emasculated so they are prevented from delivering their services in a Christian way”.

The Equality Bill seeks to change employment law so that churches and religious groups can no longer require staff such as youth workers to live consistently with the Bible’s teaching on sexual ethics.

It also introduces a new duty for local authorities to promote ‘equality’ across grounds including sexual orientation and transsexualism. Any organisation which refuses to sign up to their local authority’s equality agenda could lose public funding.

At an EA event last year Hazel Blears MP, then Communities Secretary, said the Government wanted to fund faith groups to carry out more public services, but only if they promised not to use the money in evangelism.

At the time, the National Secular Society commented that “hidden beneath the flattering and emolient words was a clear message: we need your help to run welfare services on the cheap.

“This message was also tempered by the announcement that public money would come with firm conditions attached”.

The EA’s Dr R David Muir said: “The Government wants the social action and welfare that faith groups provide, but there is a danger that they also want faith groups to leave their beliefs at the door.”

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