Secular bias hits funding for faith groups

A secular bias in the public sector means faith groups don’t have equal access to public funding for community projects, academics say.

An “anti-Christian prejudice” means public officials are suspicious of giving grants to faith-based providers of services.

The academics examined the findings of years of research into the charitable sector.


They concluded that the public is missing out on services provided by religious groups because of the bias.

Dr Adam Dinham, who teaches at the University of London, said: “People and authorities which commission services from faith-based providers are often concerned they will have strings attached. If they can find other services to use, they will do.”

He added: “It goes back to a general concern about ‘what’s in it for them’.


“If you are coming at it from a point of subconscious secularism, you may have suspicions and not feel very relaxed about it.”

Dr Sarah Johnsen, a senior research fellow at Heriot-Watt University, echoed this sentiment.

Speaking about faith-based organisations (FBOs), she said: “The Commission on Integration and Cohesion recently noted that commissioners administering public funds often feel ‘squeamish’ about supporting FBOs, given anxieties that they might use taxpayers money to promote religion, or discriminate against certain groups.”


Dr Johnsen said there was “no foundation for such anxieties”. Both academics presented their findings during the Westminster Faith debates last week.

As far back as 2008 the Archbishop of York has spoken of the Government’s “intolerance” against Christian groups when it comes to funding community initiatives.

Dr John Sentamu, the second most senior figure in the Church of England, said faith is a key motivation for charitable and voluntary work in Britain, yet faith groups appear to be viewed as “tainted and unsuitable for receipt of funding” by public bodies.

Christian groups “are working at the coalface of pastoral care and social practice,” he said, “motivated by nothing more than their love of God and the love for their neighbour”.

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