BHA responds to Eric Pickles’s integration strategy
Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for State for Communities and Local Government (CLG), in launching his new strategy on integration and community cohesion, Creating the conditions for integration, today said that Christianity should be restored to the centre of public life. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has responded that Mr Pickles’s comments are ‘based on fabrications’ and ‘misguided’.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Mr Pickles said that:
‘[I]t’s sad to see how, in recent years, the idea of tolerance has become twisted. A few people, a handful of activists, have insisted that it isn’t enough simply to celebrate the beliefs of minority communities; they want to disown the traditions and heritage of the majority, including the Christian faith and the English language.
‘We’ve seen men and women disciplined for wearing modest symbols of Christian faith at work, and we’ve seen legal challenges to councils opening their proceedings with prayers, a tradition that goes back generations, brings comfort to many and hurts no one.
‘This is the politics of division.’
A spokesperson from CLG is also reported as saying ‘We value the role of religion and faith in public life. The days of the state trying to suppress Christianity and other faiths should be over.’
And the new strategy says that the government will ‘defend the valuable role of faith in public life’, and that Mr Pickles recognises ‘that Christianity - and faith in general - plays an important part in the heritage and culture of our nation’.
Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the BHA commented, 'Britain is a country where most people are not Christians in any religious sense, where we have a long tradition of humanism, and where we have increasing numbers of people of dozen of non-Christian religions. If Mr Pickles really cares about integration, he would do better to stress inclusive civic identities and the shared values of people from different religious and non-religious backgrounds – not lay constant stress on the idea of a Christian country, which does not reflect the reality of today's Britain, nor the desires of most of its people. The "suppression" of religion that he sets out to combat is largely mythical and policy made on such fabrications will not succeed.'
'The vast majority of people in Britain are not members of any local church, religious group or community, and so to lay such emphasis on religious identities as being the ones most important for encouraging voluntary work or community building is misguided.'
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.