UK Charities Face Funding Discrimination Because Of Faith

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

London ( - One in five churches in Britain believes that local or national authorities have discriminated against them when it comes to grants for charitable work - because they are unashamedly Christian.

Red tape, suspicion and in some cases, blatant discrimination on the part of local officials have affected their ability to carry out their projects.

A survey of more than 2,000 church leaders, published on Friday, also showed that the vast majority of churches believe the government should support welfare projects based on how successful they are, not whether they are being carried out by people of faith.

The release of the survey formed part of the launch of a major new campaign to pressure the next government to back faith-based charity initiatives. UK churches run more than 130,000 community projects.

Both the Labor government and Conservative opposition have expressed support for faith-based welfare, with the Conservative Party in particular enthused by its operation in Texas under then Governor Bush.

The Faithworks Campaign, headed by Baptist minister Steve Chalke and supported by a range of churches and Christian charities, wants the next government to put its rhetoric into action.

"The church has long been a major provider of committed and excellent community support," Chalke said Friday.

"Yet many churches are revealing a picture of having to battle against extraordinary odds to win support from local government."

"What will the next government do to create a positive and uniform situation across the UK for faith-based projects, without lessening its commitment to state welfare?" he asked.

In an endorsement of the campaign, the Anglican Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, said the Christian faith for some time had been "banished from the mainstream of public life by those who have peddled different philosophies."

With the beginning of the new century, however, "we have come back to the indisputable truth that faith works. Faith transforms individuals as well as communities."

The campaigners referred to an instance in which a city-based project with a strong track record of work supporting single mothers had been offered local authority funding - but only on condition it remove the word "Christian" from its name.

They want to get the message across that being driven by faith is an asset, not a liability, to charitable work.

They don't want faith-based projects to enjoy an unfair advantage, simply a "level playing field" when it comes to applying for public funds.

In a "campaign message" supporters are asked to take to their local politicians and media, Chalke said: "Faith is good, not bad, progressive not regressive, empowering not enslaving. It is a force for society's health, not harm ...Faith is the very engine that accounts for our compassionate work. It cannot be excluded without compromising our raison d'etre."

Last December a Conservative lawmaker claimed that Labor local councils were routinely penalizing church-based charities applying for funding, while ethnic-based groups were having a much easier time.

"It is very hard to get money from local government if you are a Christian organization. If you go to central government they say, 'We are sorry, but you are Christian'. But if you are a minority organization, you can get it more easily," Andrew Rowe said.

Labor lawmakers denied the allegation.

More than 100 million pounds ($?) in government funds are allocated to charities and community organizations each year. Much of the money is distributed through local authorities.

The Faithworks Campaign has the support of the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Archbishop Cormac Murphy 'O Connor, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, and the Evangelical Alliance, which represents some one million evangelical Christians.

The Alliance's director, Joel Edwards, said Friday: "Rumors about the church's untimely death have been rumbling around influential places for a long time. The Faithworks Campaign is an exciting opportunity to put such rumors to rest."

See Earlier Stories:
\plain\lang2057\f2\fs23\cf0 Bush Religious Advisor Shares Faith-Based Ideas with UK Conservatives (21 June 2000)
Battle for Britain's 'Spiritual' Vote Gathers Pace (June 22, 2000)

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow