In his Telegraph piece entitled "God help needy Christian charities", Charles Moore today highlights how Christian-inspired social work gets a raw deal from councils and quangos. He points to how a potential foster mother and grants for two voluntary projects that helped people of any faith or none, have been knocked back purely on the grounds of them being Christian.
Christian faith is the driving force for many social projects, but as Charles says:
"None of this means that Christians cannot serve
people of other beliefs, or people whose actions they think are sinful.
In fact, the whole of Christian charity is based on the idea that we
are all sinful and that you should show particular consideration to
those – prostitutes, drug addicts, drunks, prisoners etc – broken down
by a sinful world. But it does mean that if the public authorities
start demanding Christians’ assent to anti-religious doctrines, they
cannot give it. And that means that such
catechising, if rigorously applied, will prevent Christians from doing
the benevolent public work that the Government itself welcomes."
Tim, Joseph Loconte and I discussed this very issue on 18 Doughty Street recently. Of course, one of the biggest tests of David Cameron’s rhetoric about the voluntary society was the recent issue over Catholic adoption agencies, although I’m not sure we need to debate that again here!
Although the vast majority of faith-based social work is Christian this isn’t just about championing Christian charities over others – they just need to have a level playing field:
"Another oddity is that "faith groups" of other
religions – most notably Islam – seem to attract much less persecution
from government and local councils than does Christianity. This is
because such groups have been encouraged under the banner of helping
ethnic minorities, whereas Christians in Britain, at least outside
London, are predominantly white and Anglo-Saxon. Ethnicity gives you a
free pass. Many of these charities of other faiths
are excellent, but few cater for the general population in the way that
Christian ones do. In that sense, they are less "diverse" than
I’d attribute some of this phenomenon to what Americans like to call "self-loathing liberalism", in which the majority culture and religion is constantly apologised for. Whatever the reasons behind it, it is a crunch issue that lies at the heart of the now-fashionable political agenda of social responsibility.