Review Misses Opportunity for Fundamental Rethink on Faith Engagement

Colin Bloom, Independent Faith Engagement Adviser, has published Does Government ‘Do God’ This overarching review that has been in the making since pre Covid and attempts to examine how government engages with faith, people of faith and places of worship.

James Somerville-Meikle, Deputy Director of the Catholic Union, comments: “This report has been a long time in the making. Thousands of people and groups took time to respond to the call for evidence, including the Catholic Union. While some of the findings are welcome, the report has missed the opportunity for a fundamental rethink on how the Government engages with faith groups.

“The review was meant to reset relations between faith groups and the Government in the wake of the pandemic. It is therefore disappointing that the report has chosen to focus on concerns about some religious groups and practices. The fact that there are only two mentions of Catholics in a document of almost 160 pages is grounds for concern.

“Plans for religious literacy training across the civil service and a new Independent Faith Champion are welcome, but the report is light on the details of how these are to be delivered and how they will work with other initiatives across Government. This report was supposed to be a blueprint for better faith relations, but instead we have got more blue sky thinking.”

The review received over 21,000 responses and provides 22 recommendations to government. It identifies the need for more consistency in the quality and readiness of government engagement and recommends expanding the role of the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief to include the promotion and protection of religious freedom in the UK. The Catholic Union met Fiona Bruce, Special Envoy, last year and intends to forge even better ties.

James Somerville-Meikle continues: “The Catholic Union works hard to represent the voice of the Catholic laity.  We are concerned that this report doesn’t have the teeth to bring forward meaningful reform and without continuing to engage with all faiths and beliefs will gather dust”.