We’ve been concerned that the Conservatives’ ‘Big Society‘ idea offers a lot of encouragement for faith organisations to provide public services, yet faith-based welfare is fraught with problems. Now former MP Dr Evan Harris and grassroots Lib Dems are warning the Government that it shouldn’t press ahead with this policy without ensuring that strict rules are in place to prevent proselytising, among other things. Today’s Guardian quotes Harris as saying,
Any increased use of faith-based organisations delivering essential public services will need stricter safeguards to prevent discrimination against vulnerable and captive populations on the basis of religion or sexuality, as well as to prevent employees needing to pass ‘faith tests’.
The Lib Dems have made clear that religious organisations have as much right as anyone else to provide services, but until legal loop-holes are closed we expect the Government to ensure that contracts contain non-discrimination clauses.