Faith Communities and the State

Faith communities and the state: how the government is getting it wrong.

14 March 2007, Committee Room 4, House of Commons

There are a number of models for how government, politicians and policy specialists can engage with people of different beliefs in modern Britain.

In thinking about these, the All-Parliamentary Humanist Group will be joined by Simon Barrow, co-director of the Christian think tank Ekklesia, and by a representative of the new organisation British Muslims for Secular Democracy.

Why has the government chosen to engage with ‘faith communities’ in the way that it has, privileging them as communities of identity, extending the right to run state-funded schools to them and encouraging their involvement in the provision of public services and in the formation of public policy? What alternative models for engagement are there?

The situation here appears more complex than in other western countries, both because of the establishment of the Church of England and its consequences (not least our large number of state-funded Christian schools) and because of the great diversity of belief that exists in the UK today. Things have been further complicated by the difficulties posed by hard-line Islamism.

These and other issues will be explored.

For further details, contact Andrew Copson of the British Humanist Association: 020 7079 3580.