Backbench Business - Voluntary Sector: Faith Organisationsbackbench Business

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:09 pm on 5th May 2016.

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Photo of Steve Double Steve Double Conservative, St Austell and Newquay 12:09 pm, 5th May 2016

I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend. Her Majesty the Queen is a shining example of someone of deep faith and conviction who has given her whole life to the service of our country and is prepared to acknowledge her faith and say that it is one of the reasons why she has been the person whom we all love and respect. We should be very grateful for that.

We often find that the place of Christians and the Church in our society is being eroded and undermined. There is a growing feeling that the work of the Church and its freedom to stand up for what it believes to be right and true are under attack. I have stated in debates elsewhere in this House that I believe that we have surrendered too much of our liberty in the name of equality. The Christian Church has often felt the brunt of that erosion of freedom of speech. We should never be afraid to make the connection between the excellent work that the Church, Christian organisations and other faith groups carry out in our society and the deep faith and conviction that motivate them to do that work.

I put on record that I believe we should show our great gratitude to the many thousands of men and women of faith who work tirelessly and give of themselves for the good of others in many of our communities. It is right that today we show our appreciation of everything that they do. We should also celebrate and value the work of the Church, but we should not seek to restrict the freedom to exercise faith. Hon. Members have already touched on the proposal to force Sunday school and other Church groups to register with Ofsted, and I am already on record as describing that as a deeply regrettable move. I hope that the Government will drop that proposal. We should not seek to restrict further the work of the Church: we should seek to do all we can to encourage it, support it and help it to do more of the excellent work that it does.

I hope that the Minister will clearly state that our country needs the Church and faith organisations. They often carry out work that the state is not able to do, and if they did not do that work it would place an even greater burden on the state and public finances. The work of the Church and faith groups is therefore very necessary and we should do all we can to encourage and support them in that vital work. I hope we can send a strong message from the Chamber today that we are grateful for the work that men and women of faith do, and that we will do all we can to help, encourage and support them in doing it.