Friday, July 18, 2008

Blears: faith groups can’t do social work if they evangelise

The Christian Institute reports, 'Christian groups providing community services should not evangelise, says Government Minister Hazel Blears.

In a White Paper entitled ‘Communities in control: real people, real power’, Mrs Blears outlines Government plans to commission services from faith-based groups.

However, during a Commons debate on the issue, Mrs Blears said that this will come with strings attached.

She acknowledged in the debate that “many people are motivated by faith of all kinds to do great acts of social good”.

“However,” she continued, “I am concerned to ensure that if faith groups become involved, they do so on a proper footing – not by evangelising or proselytising, but by providing services in a non-discriminatory way to the whole community”.

Mrs Blears said that she planned to draft a charter for Christian groups along the lines of the one provided by Faithworks for churches and Christian agencies providing community services.

The charter requires groups to pledge to provide “an inclusive service to our community” in a number of ways. One of these is: “Never imposing our Christian faith or belief on others.”

There have been cases of Christian groups being denied funding for the services they provide because they refuse to compromise on their ethos.

In 2005, one Christian-run shelter for the homeless was threatened with the loss of £150,000 of funding unless it stopped saying grace at mealtimes and putting Bibles out for use by guests.

Teen Challenge UK, an organisation in Wales that helps drug addicts, had £700,000 of funding withdrawn. During a debate in the House of Commons, Bob Spink MP said: “The organisation’s grant was removed essentially because it has Christian roots and is run by Christians.” The Welsh Assembly denies that this was the reason.

Caring for Life, a Christian group providing help for homeless and vulnerable people, has also had problems accessing funding.'

Has she read this charter?

The Faithworks Charter says,'We will provide an inclusive service to our community by:

1. Serving and respecting all people regardless of their gender, marital status, race, ethnic origin, religion, age, sexual orientation or physical and mental capability.

2. Acknowledging the freedom of people of all faiths or none both to hold and to express their beliefs and convictions respectfully and freely, within the limits of the UK law.'

Faithworks contradicts Blears. Christian providers must be free to express their faith

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