Joint Statement of Affinity and Barnabas Fund
The Casey Review into integration and opportunity in isolated and deprived communities has been widely welcomed by Christians and others in calling for integration of communities after a period of mass immigration. However, the Affinity network of churches and the Barnabas Fund believe there are dangers in the Casey Review’s secularist and dogmatic approach.
Although there is reference to “British values” which would include ‘respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths’ the interpretation used in the Casey report appears to exclude religious freedom. The language used in the report about Christians and Muslims holding socially conservative views which she describes as ‘regressive’ is highly pejorative. The review seeks to redefine ‘extremism’ to include religious views ‘at odds with the views of mainstream society’. This is a dangerous approach for any government to take tantamount to a denial of freedom of speech and religion.
On 9 January, Dame Louise Casey helpfully expanded on these views in oral evidence to the Communities and Local Government Committee. She implied that faith schools should not be allowed to teach their views on marriage and family life, which goes beyond existing legislation. She also stated that she had a problem with ‘religious conservatism’ (of both Christian and Muslim varieties) because ‘it can be anti-equalities’.
This flies in the face of previous government reassurances on the education provisions of the Equality Act 2010 which prohibits discrimination against individuals based on protected characteristics including religious belief.
As Christians called to love our neighbours, we deplore all behaviour that is “threatening, abusive or insulting,” or that incites criminal acts but we value the freedom to express and practise religious beliefs.
We call upon the government to continue to emphasise religious freedom as it responds to the recommendations of the Casey Review. We further call upon the government to protect the right to religious freedom, including the right to express and manifest religious views.
In July 2015 the then Prime Minister David Cameron asked Dame Louise Casey to undertake a review into integration and opportunity in isolated and deprived communities. The Casey review was published on 5 December 2016.
Affinity is a Christian network seeking to promote unity and partnership across the UK between church groups and Christian organisations involved in a range of significant ministries including pastoral and leadership training, publishing and world mission.
Barnabas Fund is a relief agency which works in over 80 countries supporting the persecuted Christians and campaigning to further and defend their interests.
For further information contact Matthew Evans, Affinity, 07989 773042; Andrew Carey, Barnabas Fund, 07973 698531.