New faith minister worries secularists

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has been handed the responsibilities of Faith Minister in a move criticised by a secularist campaigner.

David Cameron announced the change following the departure of Baroness Warsi earlier this week.

In April this year, Pickles sparked debate by saying that militant atheists should “get over” Britain being a “Christian nation.”


He has previously taken a strong stance on matters involving religious liberty.

While addressing the Conservative Spring Forum, the Government minister called on atheists to stop imposing their “politically correct intolerance on others”.

And in a speech last year, he warned that traditional religious freedoms were being threatened by secularists.


He said: “In recent years long standing British liberties of freedom of religion have been undermined by the intolerance of aggressive secularism.”

In February 2012, Pickles fast-tracked new laws to override a High Court’s decision to ban councils from having prayers at official meetings.

A local atheist ex-councillor had sued Bideford Town Council over prayers being said at meetings. The Christian Institute’s Legal Defence Fund supported the Council.

Cause for concern

Pickles’ actions after the case led to a circular, which said that all major local authorities in England could continue to hold prayers at formal meetings.

Writing on the Huffington Post website today, Stephen Evans, campaign manager at the National Secular Society criticised the appointment.

Under the headline “Eric Pickles’s Appointment as Faith Minister Should Give All Secularists Cause for Concern”, he accused Pickles of “wilfully misrepresenting secularism”.