Monday, 10 November 2008

Labour's bad faith....

. Liberal Democrat Voice brings to peoples attention proposals in the Communities in Control white paper;

"Among the voluntary organisations we want to help in different ways to build stronger communities, there is a particular role for faith based groups. Britain has a strong tradition of faith-based organisations working to improve local communities. This reflects the importance placed on charitable acts, social action and civic duty in all religions practised in the UK. There are over 23,000 religious charities in the UK and many more faith-based organisations, involving tens of thousands of people motivated by their faith, working at a local and national level to provide support and services to communities. At times there has been reluctance on the part of local authorities and agencies to commission services from faith-based groups, in part because of some confusion about the propriety of doing so. Building on the Faithworks Charter, we intend to work with faith communities to clarify the issues and to remove the barriers to commissioning services from faith-based groups."

Now, the Conservatives often rattle on about something similar and I vividly remember Chris Huhne on Question Time nodding vigorously when a prominent member of the clergy (I think it was the Bishop of York) said the same thing.

Put simply it's a very bad idea. As has been pointed out on LDV there are many more non-faith based organisations of a similar variety so why faith-based ones should be given preferential treatment is beyond me. The very fact that they are shows how this is a violation of the states secularism. It is probably true that there are many good people in these organisations who just 'want to serve' but that doesn't change the fact that organising these things on the basis of sectional privilege is wrong.

No matter how you dress it up these organisations do exist in part to promote their chosen religion. Furthermore, the experience of faith schools is that no matter what rules and regulations are put in place this particular prejudice will colour the provision of service and that these organisations will make their own rules and still continue to take from the public purse. Secularism means the complete separation of all religious matters from state affairs and that includes the provision of the services the state provides; it is a key principle and needs to be defended here.

15 comments:

Aaron Trevena said...

No preferential treatment here, it's pretty clear in the quote shown, that it's about removing obstacles and exclusions that exist for faith-based groups but not secular ones.

Following your logic, it's ok for secular groups like say the BNP or National Front to provide this stuff but not ok for say groups like Christian Aid, or Buddhists.

I don't believe in special treatment for religious groups either but you shouldn't discriminate just because of their beliefs - otherwise you could equally discriminate against secular groups because you dislike their agenda

Darrell G said...

Aaron,

Of course what you say does not 'naturally follow'. The BNP and National Front are political organisations and would be subject to the same criticism as faith-based organisations; that they represent sectional interests.

If I may say so Aaron the key difference between secularism and religion and even atheism is that it is universal and covers both faith and lack of it. Secular groups do not have an explicit agenda...faith-based groups do...

Aaron Trevena said...

So are the BNP or Lib Dems secular?

They certainly have an agenda, as will any business (or as is often the case the owner, or chief executive).. why do you think that businesses make political contributions, or have been involved in setting up 'Academy' schools - not good karma, they want (and get) knighthoods, peerages, direct contact with political leaders and other preferential treatment.

At least with the religious organisations what you see is pretty much what you get. Heck any faith-based charity will have a very clear agenda and will meet strict criteria laid down by the Charity Comission, for instance Christian Aid has a pretty clear agenda and it's pretty much the same as, say Medecins Sans Frotieres.

Darrell G said...

Aaron,

Programmatically yes they are; that doesnt mean that they don't contain members who *personally* are members of a certain religious group but that is all fine and dandy because that is putting religion in it's place...where it should be, as a matter of personal choice...not public policy.

They would still not be able to perform these functions because they are political parties...

As to all you say; as I have said the expereince is that faith-based organisations play footloose and fancy free with rules and regulations especially in the instance of faith-schools....there is no way on this earth faith-based organisations should receive money from the public purse...by all means let them continue as private charitable concerns but not a penny nor a cent of public money...

thomas said...

hmm, well, doesn't everyone have an agenda? Where do you draw the line? Religions are at least nominally non-partisan, though that tends to be a politically contentious view too - individual places of worship all have their own politics depending on the make-up of their congregations...

Darrell G said...

Thomas,

Not their own sectional agenda ie, promoting their own religious belifes. I dont see how religions being non-political makes the difference...for me secularism is a cornerstone of democracy...incidentally I would be happy to write a section on this bit as part of your series if you feel there should be...

thomas said...

doesn't it all depend on what those beliefs entail in practice?

thanks for the offer, but I think I've been delegated the chapter on 'becoming active in your community' which this quote is from (I've got to do one bit having kicked it all off).

That said, this bit is probably one of the most controversial sections and some prelim discussion might be good as I'm drafting at the moment, so input is appreciated.

If you want to kick-off the controversy early feel free to trail it in the comments on the current thread.

The problem is that much of the pastoral work which has been regulated by govt recently is one of the main reasons for religion's existence and it would be extremely damaging to open up a cleavage between state and religion by forcing people to choose between them rather than allowing the current status quo of multi-layered identities to continue.

If you look at the good work many churches do on anti-poverty or anti-war campaigning for example, or the sunday schooling, prison visiting and bereavement counselling done by priests, nuns or those who've taken religious orders its clear there is an important function for the religious estate which has evolved out of historical legacy and cannot be ignored. Chaplaincy in the armed forces is another vital role which cannot be outsourced nor should it be underestimated - especially at around rememberance time.

Darrell G said...

Thomas,

Since you seem not to mind I think I will kick off some controversy and since as you say this is likely to be a controversial idea make it the subject of an entire article if that would not overrun anything you are doing too badly??

I think it needs to be made crystal clear what I am for and against here. I welcome churches doing the work you say they do however where the bone of contention is in the fact that I object to *public money* being given to these organisations for performing these works. If they so wish to do then fine; on their own watch and funds without state support.

It is the prospect of them being 'commissioned' that impinges upon the secularist priciple in my eyes....

thomas said...

Darrell,
I don't mean to be rude, but you've written here and Mark Pack has written on this over at LDV, so if you want to do kick off can you do it in the comments please (post links if you want).
The thing is I think LC would really benefit from running this experiment tightly and having a focussed response to the white paper as I don't think it benefits anyone to drown the world in Hazel Blears!
I'm sure this will come up strongly, so you're fire and ire will be much appreciated if it comes in the right place.

Darrell G said...

Thomas,

No, I know you dont thats why I asked first to find out what would best fit in with your plans :)...

I think there is a wider issue here as I tried to tease out in this piece because the position in the Blear's white paper isnt an uncommon one in politics....

thomas said...

Thanks. This is important because if this experiment is successful in drawing a large, authoratitive and constructive response then it could be a strategic way in which LC gets a leg up on dale and guido - I think having a more formalised practical debate is a way which will make LC more relevant and suck more people into engaging with the ideas on offer rather than being swayed by the cynical tittle-tattle available elsewhere.

I want to do my write-up as neutrally as possible because I remain to be swayed by the debate which I hope will be forthcoming and I want it to be as open as possible to as wide an audience as possible - if it flies we may well even see some official names turn up (such as Blears herself) - which would be exciting!

Anyway, can I ask you what you know about Operation Black Vote... it was part of the Labour's strategic electoral plan in the London Mayoral election. There were suspicions that it was used to channel official funding for partisan purposes and it connects very closely with some of Blears' proposals - now that would be an explosive investigative piece which would show how positive measures can be subverted!

Darrell G said...

Thomas,

Well, I certainly hope so :)...having said that I think we should stop trying to compete with both on their terms (as I said y'day on Lib Dem Voice. Guido in particular has the kind of 'Sun' shock! horror! appeal to his blog which I wouldnt want any of 'ours' to have....

Yes it would...we do need to get recognition for leftist blogs..and this is one thing where Iain and Guido are ahead...

I have to confess not an awful lot...but you have raised some curiosity in what you say there...it would be a very good article....

thomas said...

Darrell, can you do some research on it in the meantime then OBV, Lee Jasper mayoral elections etc. There was lots of it about online in Andrew Gilligan, C4 and I'm sure LDV and LC covered it too - Errol Brown and the non-existent community radio project etc.

I'm sure it would make a good post for you and it might even result in a true scoop if you could show bad habits on funding are continuing!

Darrell G said...

Thomas,

Yep certainly will over the next few days...you've got me intrigued now :)

thomas said...

Wonder if you want to have a look at this link:
http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/about/CI/CP/Our_Society_Today/News_Articles_2008/TheCharityCrunch.aspx?ComponentId=29543&SourcePageId=25416

Does it tie in with your experience of employment in the charity sector?

Might make a good post...