Response to ‘Quality and Equality: Human rights, Public Services and Religious Organisations’

I have this evening posted a response to the British Humanist Association’s report ‘Quality and Equality: Human Rights, Public Services and Religious Organisations’. You can find it on our website – which is www.faithworks.info

Please take a few moments to read my response and let me know what you think. The role and and contribution of faith groups to the welfare and social needs of communities across the length and breadth of the UK is undeniable. The BHA report suggests that faith bodies are not fit or appropriate agencies to deliver these services. I fundamentally disagree and fear that the report of the BHA caricatures both humanists (which is unfortunate given the invaluable contribution of many humanists to society and communities across the UK) and Faith communities (for exactly the same reasons).

The BHA report smacks more of polemic than reasoned argument and I would value your views on two key questions.

  1. Do you think faith groups can deliver good public services?
  2. If they are removed from public service provision, what would you do with the immense gulf and financial crisis that would confront the UK Welfare system as a result?

2 comments

  1. Given the shenanigans of bourgeois parents to get their kids into religious schools – when they can’t be bothered to send them to Sunday school – and given the recent protestations about having to deal with gay people as fellow humans, it’s hardly astonishing that many people of different religions and none are deeply suspicious of the moves to get a bigger slice of the welfare contracts pie.
    After all, if the Freemasons were doing the same, do you think that would pass without murmur?
    While I think your response is reasonable (I don’t really it my shoulder to it, but you have written dispassionately and in a balanced way), this mistrust has to be addressed.
    Who of us doesn’t think Oxfam does good work? Yet if Oxfam were to run a homeless shelter, I’d worry about their overheads, money going into rebranding, and worry about how much the homeless people were getting from the taxpayer.
    There will also need to be strict safeguards and publicly-available accounts, otherwise there will be suspicion that money was being diverted to the churches themselves, e.g., through topslicing for vestry admin etc.
    While all who promote religious provision of welfarism think it’s a good thing, we’d do well to remember that this isn’t warranted by scripture. Charity is freely giving, not taking money from taxpayers on threat of imprisonment and letting other people spend it on a worthy cause while getting salaries for themselves. That’s a job. It may be a worthy job, but it isn’t in itself an act of charitable mercy.

  2. While many of us will know genuine acts of charity performed by individual Christians, we will also remember the acts of sham charity performed in the main by Christian institutions, proselytising by offering shelter or food on condition that the recipient pray or read the Bible or some such.
    Since some Christian institutions have ‘form,’ you’ll need good PR. On the other hand, there are Christian agencies that are completely open and nondiscriminatory and good Samaritan, yet they are excoriated by some of their fellow Christians for not being fundamentalist enough and for having feeding the hungry as a priority rather than outlawing contraception (I’m thinking of Cafod here), so it’ll need some good PR within the churches as well.
    And a tone without self-righteousness. I’ve seen government documents that drone on about how ‘people of faith’ (remember ‘people of colour’?) are better than other people at compassion etc.
    Talk about the meek inheriting the earth… 😉

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