Minister says Government is not sidelining believers

The Government’s Minister for Communities has denied Christians are being marginalised in Labour’s Britain.

John Denham, who describes himself as a “secular humanist”, said to a group of church leaders that that neither faith nor believers were being sidelined by the Government.

Earlier this month Baroness Warsi, the shadow minister for community cohesion, said there was a “growing intolerance and illiberal attitude towards those who believe in God”.

But Mr Denham contradicted this saying: “It has been suggested more than once that there is a secular agenda; a secular conspiracy even, at the heart of Government and the state which seeks to marginalise faith and marginalise believers. I don’t believe that is the case.”

Mr Denham’s department has a wide ranging remit, including the Government’s public policy on faith.

He said that unlike his predecessors in the role of Communities Secretary, he was not a “practising member” of faith.

He said: “I, on the other hand, would see myself as a secular humanist.

“Coming into this job, I thought it would be of interest to me certainly and, I hope, to you to explore the relationship between faith and Government from that perspective.”

Mr Denham added: “It would be wrong to suggest that faith organisations alone are responsible for defining, shaping and transmitting values”.

He continued: “It is not necessary to have faith to be deeply, morally and profoundly altruistic.”

In March, former Prime Minister Tony Blair warned UK Christians they live in an age of “aggressive secularism” and criticised recent “ludicrous decisions” which saw them punished for expressing their beliefs.

In the same month, his wife, Cherie Blair, said: “Christians are often being marginalised and faith is something few people like to discuss openly”.

In July two writers warned that an influential elite class of secularists is making it increasingly difficult for Christian views to be heard in politics.

The Daily Telegraph commentator Ed West said groups like the National Secular Society are gaining success in their campaign for a “state where religion is only allowed in private”.

Tim Montgomerie, the editor of a Conservative blog, warned of “a secular fundamentalism that is trying to push people of faith outside the public square”.

Mr Montgomerie added: “My own hunch is that the intolerance of Christianity is largely an elite class thing.

“Most Britons – even if they don’t go to church – still have a deep affection for the Christian faith and Jesus’ teachings.”

Earlier this month Baroness Warsi said the Government has allowed intolerance against Christians to grow.

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference, she said: “Under Labour, the state has become increasingly sceptical of an individual’s religious belief.”

She pointed to cases of Christians being sidelined because of their faith.

“We’ve all seen the stories,” she said, “how appalling that today in Labour’s Britain a community nurse can be suspended for offering to pray for a patient’s good health.

“How awful that a school receptionist could face disciplinary action for sending an email to her friends simply asking them to pray for her daughter.”

She was referring to the cases of nurse, Caroline Petrie, and school receptionist, Jennie Cain.

Baroness Warsi continued: “At the heart of these cases lies a growing intolerance and illiberal attitude towards those who believe in God.”

Related Resources