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New party policy - a Minister for Faith, Belief and Communities

October 17, 2014 4:12 PM

The Liberal Democrats have adopted a new policy, calling for the role of Minister for Faith and Communities to be redefined as "Minister for Faith, Belief and Communities".

The changed job title and description would extend the existing role to cover non-religious beliefs, such as humanism, as well as faith-based beliefs.

The task of "promoting faith" would be removed from the job spec, but the role of promoting religious tolerance would remain.

The change is part of a broader new Liberal Democrat policy to make equalities a core part of Whitehall's work by bringing together the Government Equalities Office, the Minister for Faith, Belief and Communities and the Minister for Disabled People, within the Cabinet Office.

The changed job title and description were voted on and agreed by party members during the Liberal Democrat Party Conference in Glasgow, as an amendment to the Equalities motion, with not a single vote being cast against it.

The amendment had been submitted by HSLD, and was proposed and summated during the debate by Guildford PPC Kelly-Marie Blundell and HSLD outgoing Chair Toby Keynes.

Summing up for the amendment, Toby Keynes said:

"The promotion of faith is not an equalities role - it's divisive and partisan. It says society is damaged by non-religious beliefs and that we should all be steered away from non-religious beliefs and towards faith, as government policy.... It puts government on the side of those whose beliefs are religious, and against the rest of us.

"Now, we had a choice: to could try to ask you to get rid of that job description and that government role altogether, or we could try to reform it, take out the divisive elements and make it inclusive.

"And we chose the reforming approach, because there really is a need for dialogue between faith groups - and between faith groups and other non-religious belief groups such as humanists. There is a need for religious tolerance in our hugely divided and diverse society, and it is right that we should have a minister that should be promoting religious tolerance."

"So we're asking you today to change the job title and the job description, just a little, to the Minister for Faith, Belief and Communities, which incorporates people whose beliefs are not religious, working with community leaders in all communities, regardless of their faith or belief, to promote religious tolerance and stronger communities in the UK."

The debate, including the two speeches on amendment 2, can be viewed at http://www.libdems.org.uk/f27_expanding_opportunity_unlocking_potential

The amendment in full is: "Changing the title and responsibilities of the Minister for Faith and Communities to Minister for Faith, Belief and Communities, with responsibility for working with community leaders to promote religious tolerance and stronger communities within the UK."