The religious activist Stephen Timms, who also happens to be the Labour Party’s vice-chair and Minister for Competitiveness (“with special responsibility for faith communities”), this week made the insulting claim that “people of faith” bring special qualities to social work that “are rare elsewhere”.
Speaking at a conference of Traidcraft, the Christian-based fair trade organisation, Mr Timms said: “There is positive impact when people of faith are involved in the lives of their community, because these people bring valuable qualities in their service which are rare elsewhere and they are qualities modern Britain urgently needs.”
He also said that political and social activism, rooted in faith, has a vital role to play in shaping modern Britain. He told delegates at the conference that they represented an outstanding example of how “effective and influential” faith-based organisations could be.
Timms, who boasts on his website that he is “heavily involved” in the Christian Socialist Movement, added: “In Government we recognise, increasingly, that faith communities are sustaining families, building cohesion, reaching the disadvantaged, communicating positive values the length and breadth of Britain. And we need much more of that, not less.”
Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, who himself spent 40 years as a social worker with people with learning disabilities, said: “Mr Timms’ remarks are grossly insulting to those of us – and there are many – who have devoted our lives to the service of others and don’t have a religious bone in our bodies. He should apologise immediately to the tens of thousands of non-religious people who toil day in and day out in various works of social importance – in hospitals, old people’s homes and schools – but who don’t happen to believe what he believes. Faith-based welfare is a dangerous concept that should be stamped on. It promises to bring yet more division and injustice, not to mention the exploitation of vulnerable people. Mr Timms’ rose-coloured view of Christian social work screens out the abuse and violence that was endemic in all-too-many of the institutions controlled by religion. Mr Timms is one of the best arguments yet for the ending of the faith-based madness that his government is promoting with such gusto.”
On his website, Stephen Timms lists other speeches that he has given promoting religion, and ranks his involvement with the Christian Socialists as second in importance only to his ministerial duties.
Stephen Timms Website