The British government is planning to force all priests, rabbis, imams and other religious figures to enrol on a “national register of faith leaders” in a scheme branded “truly sinister” by Christian campaigners.
The Sunday Telegraph claims the scheme appears in a leaked draft of the government’s new counter-terror proposal. It says that state bureaucrats will “require all faiths to maintain a national register of faith leaders” and that the government will “set out the minimum level of training and checks” registered faith leaders must have.
The plans mark a new level of state intervention in religion and are likely to fuel fears that Christians with traditional beliefs are being slowly criminalised.
All faith leaders who wish to work with the public sector, including schools, universities and hospitals, will have to sign up to the register and undergo government vetting. Given that many priests, imams, rabbis and other figures often have some dealings with the public sector, the register will likely cover the great majority.
The plan has been condemned by the Christian Institute, who said it was “sinister” and “more in keeping with China or North Korea” than a democratic Western society.
A spokesman told Breitbart London: “If the reports are accurate, what the Government is proposing turns the clock back on religious freedom more than 300 years. Not since the days of the notorious Test and Corporation Acts have we seen such a concerted attempt by a British Government to restrict religious practice. We don’t want to go back to those darker days of religious intolerance.”
He added that the proposals would mean a Christian minister would not be allowed to visit a member of his congregation in hospital, nor address a university Christian Union, without having been on a government-approved training scheme.
“It marks a deeply concerning attempt by the State to interfere with religious practice.
“The Government are proposing an Orwellian watch list of Reverends and Rabbis, who are to be told which state values they must espouse before being allowed to speak about their religion.”
There are already fears that the government’s plans to tackle Islamist fundamentalism could lead to traditional Christians being branded “extremists”.
The Durham Free School, a Christian faith school in north east England, was forced to close this year after inspectors branded children “bigots” for not knowing what a Muslim was. The inspection report concluded: “Leaders are failing to prepare students for life in modern Britain. Some students hold discriminatory views of other people who have different faiths, values or beliefs from themselves.”
Breitbart London reported last month that Welsh Minister for Education Huw Lewis wanted to remove Christianity from the country’s state schools. He told the Welsh Assembly: “My contention would be that we rename the [religious education] curriculum and transform it into the religion, philosophy and ethics element of the curriculum – where there is an explicit commitment to allowing children to ponder ideas around ethics and citizenship and what it means to be a citizen of a free country.”
Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education told Breitbart London last month that such a move would be a big mistake: “The British government has a new agenda called ‘British values.’ Nicky Morgan [MP and Secretary of State for Education] has changed the rules on this, and one of the values schools are now obliged to promote is the doctrine of tolerance for all ideas, and accepting the point of view of anyone you might disagree with.
“This sounds very persuasive, but it is a form of value relativism. Teacher are discussing extremist values on a level plain field with what you might call more reasonable points of view.
“I’ve seen it myself in schools. It is dangerous; it offers children no real moral guidance and can actually serve promote the extremism and lack of community cohesion which the government wants to tackle in the first place.”