Copied from this month’s newsletter from the NSS:
“The National Secular Society is concerned that religious organisations are exempt from some equality laws and can discriminate in who they employ or promote. Dr Johnsen’s own research (pdf) has found that there is a glass ceiling for staff without faith in some faith-based organisations even though those staff are just as committed and motivated as staff with faith.
“There is a simple answer that will allay suspicions and remove many objections – and that is to bring in a simple piece of legislation. It should make public funding of services provided to the public by religious groups contingent on:
No proselytising as part of this work and no religious demands being made at the point of service.
No discrimination over service users – i.e. be available to everyone.
No discrimination in employment (including on grounds of religion or belief, something neither Labour nor Conservative governments have been prepared to require, despite these jobs while in the public sector being with equal opportunities employers)
“If such a law were put in place it would remove many of the barriers that at present stand in the way of religious groups being involved in service provision. It would also protect vulnerable service users from exploitation by those who won’t be able to resist the opportunity to foist religion on to them,” said Terry Sanderson.
He continued: “Although these organisations are supposed to improve social cohesion, the current Government has selected the Church of England as its favoured partner to lead the faith-based welfare contribution through the Near Neighbours programme. This aims to ‘help people from different faiths get to know and understand each other better and to encourage people of different faiths, or no faith, to come together for initiatives that improve their local neighbourhood’. Favouring the Church of England does not send out a message that all faith groups and people of no faith are equal, as Johnsen herself admits when she calls the decision ‘anachronistic’.”