Equipping Christians for the General Election

A moment’s pause
Nola Leach

Following the tragic events in Manchester on Monday evening, the main political parties have suspended their national election campaigns as a mark of respect for those killed, injured, and bereaved.  Likewise to show our respects and solidarity with the people affected we are not posting updates to the engaGE17 website at present.  We will resume updating the website in due course, and until then continue to pray for those affected by this terrible attack.

Nola Leach, CARE Chief Executive

 

Pray for Manchester
Celia Bowring

Heavenly Father; may Your peace and protection take hold of Manchester at this time of shock, suffering and grief. We thank you for those in the emergency services who have been serving so tirelessly to help the injured and traumatised. We lift up each of the families that are grieving loved ones today. Give them strength in this difficult time. We pray for healing and recovery for those who find themselves in hospital today. Please bless those who mourn, and wipe every tear from their eyes. Lord Jesus, Light of the world, let Your perfect love cast out all fear, in Your name we pray. Amen.

The Green Party: Where they stand on our issues
Public Affairs

Today, the Green Party for England and Wales published its main manifesto. The 26 page document details the key policies that the party will introduce if elected into government. The manifesto can be read in full here.

The Green Party has also produced additional manifestos on the environment, gender equality, LGBTIQA+ and youth.

Below are extracts relating to the issues covered on the engaGE17 website.

So what does the manifesto say?

Sex and Relationships Education

The Green Party pledges to “Improve young people’s access to basic but vital health needs, by providing more funding for sexual health awareness campaigns, providing greater access to free condoms and sexual health clinics; removing VAT from sanitary products and ensuring that they are provided free of charge to those in extreme financial need.” (pg. 15)

In the separate manifesto for gender equality the Green Party also commits to the following:

“Ensure all children receive high quality age appropriate sex and relationships education exploring issues such as consent, different kinds of abuse in relationships, maintaining healthy relationships in the world of smartphones and the internet, and of sexual and romantic identities beyond “heterosexual”. Where necessary, teachers shall be provided with additional training to enable this.”

“Address gender stereotypes, homophobia and transphobia in society, initiating public education programs both in schools and wider society.”

(Manifesto for Gender Equality pg. 12)

Further information as to where CARE stands on Sex and Relationships Education issues can be accessed here

Addressing trafficking and exploitation

The Green Party promises to “implement a UK-wide strategy to tackle gender based violence, including domestic violence, rape and sexual abuse, FGM and trafficking.” (pg. 19)

In the separate manifesto for gender equality the Green Party also commits to the following:

“End criminalisation of the purchase and sale of sex.”

“Remove prosecutions for sex work from existing criminal records, enabling sex workers to seek alternative employment should they wish to do so”

“Have zero tolerance of coercion, violence or sexual abuse.  We will ensure that physically coerced sex trafficking and child prostitution remains illegal.” (Manifesto for Gender Equality pg. 4)

Further information as to where CARE stands on Trafficking and Exploitation issues can be accessed here

Religious Liberty and Equality

The Green Party promises to “reject the xenophobic Prevent strategy and pursue community-led collaborative approaches to tackling all forms of extremism instead.” (pg. 15)

The Green Party will “co-operate with our neighbours on the shared challenges that face us all – from tackling terrorism and preventing climate change, to reducing inequality. We would work towards an outward-facing Britain that has the confidence and resilience to welcome others.” (pg. 19)

The Green Party promises an “action to tackle racism and discrimination on the basis of faith or disability, real equality for LGBTIQA+ people, equal rights for mixed gender couples to have a Civil Partnership.” (pg. 21)

Further information as to where CARE stands on Religious Liberty and Equality issues can be accessed here

Abortion

In the separate manifesto for gender equality the Green Party also commits to “Decriminalise abortion procedures across the entire UK, regulating them through medical practice instead of the law. We would provide patients from Northern Ireland with free-of-charge access to NHS abortion care and travel expenses in the mean-time.” (Manifesto for Gender Equality pg. 10)

Further information as to where CARE stands on abortion can be accessed here.

Politics – at the bottom rung of the Hierarchy of Callings ladder
Stuart Weir

There has been a significant swathe of indifference, if not resistance to, the sphere of politics in the minds of many British followers of Jesus.[1] This is due to an inherited sense that politics is in some way more unholy and soiled than other sectors of society.

Why is this the case? Is politics so unholy that it should be kept at arm’s length? Is it so polluted by sin that we shouldn’t care about it that much? For some it is even worse than that; these believe that politics is so tainted by sin that it demands we give up on it altogether.

There is an understanding of sin as it combines with the world of work at play here.

It is 500 years since the Reformation began with Luther’s nailing of his 95 Theses on the Wittenburg Church door. Luther and Calvin celebrated the many different sectors of work and equalised them all, smashing any hierarchy of professions that may have previously existed.

As the centuries passed in the Protestant and evangelical movements, this flattening out of all professions was forgotten. A hierarchy of callings was constructed. It goes a bit like this:

  1. Overseas missionaries – they have sacrificed the most for the Gospel, right?
  2. Church leaders – they do a ‘spiritual’ job don’t they? More spiritual than mine anyway…
  3. Teachers – well, they educate our kids don’t they? Who’d argue against that as important?
  4. Doctors – they mend our bodies and look after people, but not as spiritual as pastors.
  5. Businessmen – now we’re in the realms of dodgyness. They do nasty dealings and run roughshod over the general public to make money
  6. Politicians – they are downright liars, the lot of them. They kid us all on and are soiled the most by sin

You could add more to the list but you get the idea.

This hierarchy of callings is completely misguided and incorrect!

Is sin not part of the reality of missionaries in Borneo and church leaders as much as with politicians? Is there truly a Sacred realm of reality which is entirely separate from the Secular? Is the Spirit of God completely disinterested in politics because the Daily Mail has an ongoing field day with the flaws of prominent MPs in Westminster?

We need to revisit Martin Luther’s healthy theology of vocation 500 years on from the start of the Reformation and recognise that our incredible God loves all His creation, and that includes the sphere of politics.

May this readjustment fuel some of our desire to vote and vote well at #GE2017! Research #engaGE17 and find out more!

[1] This is not a generalism as there are huge portions of the British church who engage wholeheartedly in politics.

You matter because you are you…
Public Affairs

“‘Tis impossible to be sure of any thing but Death and Taxes,”, or so the idiom goes.  And yet, death is something which as a society we are not very good at dealing with or accepting.  Which begs the question, why is death such a problem?

As Christians, we believe we are made bodily, spiritually, completely for God.  It therefore matters greatly not only how we live, but also how we die.

In the not-too-distant past, dying was more readily accepted as a normal part of life with loved ones dying in the family home, for example.  However, dying and therefore death has become something of a taboo subject – particularly in Western culture where the end of life is so medicalised that we are now sometimes several degrees removed.  Though it is not just a lack of proximity and unfamiliarity which makes people uneasy around death.

People fear dying badly, people fear losing their autonomy, people fear the burden they will become to their family or friends or the state.  Though these aren’t the only factors at play, they are ever-present – whether consciously or not – in debates around repeated calls for the legalisation of assisted suicide.

Yet time and again, evidence from jurisdictions around the world with permissive attitudes towards assisted suicide and other forms of euthanasia shows us that such frameworks can never be watertight.  It is simply not possible to legislate for assisted suicide at the behest of a vocal minority without risking and indeed hindering the wellbeing of the vulnerable majority.

Christians should not be aloof and removed from the trials and suffering of others – far from it – but nor should we be swayed by a compassion which does not honour the dignity and wonder of who we have been created to be and what we have been created for.  Compassionate care at the end of life – truly compassionate care – regards the person suffering as being of incomparable inherent worth.  Therefore, we strongly support measures to improve quality of palliative and hospice care, taking to heart the words of Dame Cicely Saunders who pioneered the modern hospice movement that “You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life.”

To help think through some of these issues further and for questions to ask election candidates, do check out our briefing paper and a shorter summary available here.

 

Conservative Party manifesto: Where they stand on our issues
Public Affairs

Conservative Party logoToday, the Conservative party published its manifesto. The 88 page document details the key policies that the party will introduce if re-elected into government. Below are some extracts relating to issues on the engaGE17 website.

The manifesto can be read in full here

So what does the manifesto say?

Sex and Relationships Education

The Conservative party will “educate today’s young people in the harms of the internet and how best to combat them, introducing comprehensive Relationships and Sex Education in all primary and secondary schools to ensure that children learn about the risks of the internet, including cyberbullying and online grooming.” (pg. 79)

Further information as to where CARE stands on Sex and Relationships Education issues can be accessed here

Addressing trafficking and exploitation

The Conservative party promises to “lead the fight against modern slavery, just as we overcame the trade in slaves two hundred years ago. (pg. 38)

The Conservative party pledges to “work to end the subjugation and mutilation of women, to combat the brutal slave trade in fellow human beings and to prevent catastrophic environmental degradation.” (pg. 39)

They will “continue to lead global efforts to tackle sexual violence in conflict.” (pg. 39)

The Conservative party commits to “review the application of exploitation in the Modern Slavery Act to strengthen our ability to stop criminals putting men, women and children into criminal, dangerous and exploitative working conditions. And the UK will use its power to push the United Nations and other international bodies to make Modern Slavery a thing of the past.” (pg. 40-41)

Further information as to where CARE stands on Trafficking and Exploitation issues can be accessed here

Religious Liberty and Equality

The Conservative party will “continue to champion British values around the globe: freedom, democracy, tolerance and the rule of law.” (pg. 38)

They “will expand our global efforts to combat extremism, terror, and the perpetration of violence against people because of their faith, gender or sexuality.” (pg. 38)

The Conservative party pledges to “replace the unfair and ineffective inclusivity rules that prevent the establishment of new Roman Catholic schools, instead requiring new faith schools to prove that parents of other faiths and none would be prepared to send their children to that school.” (pg. 50)

The Conservative party will “consider what new criminal offences might need to be created, and what new aggravated offences might need to be established, to defeat the extremists. We will support the public sector and civil society in identifying extremists, countering their messages and promoting pluralistic, British values. And we will establish a Commission for Countering Extremism to identify examples of extremism and expose them, to support the public sector and civil society, and help the government to identify policies to defeat extremism and promote pluralistic values.” (pg. 55)

The Conservative party promises to “push forward with our plan for tackling hate crime committed on the basis of religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity.” (pg. 44)

They will “work with schools to make sure that those with intakes from one predominant racial, cultural or religious background teach their students about pluralistic, British values and help them to get to know people with different ways of life.” (pg. 55)

They will also “strengthen the enforcement of equalities law – so that private landlords and businesses who deny people a service on the basis of ethnicity, religion or gender are properly investigated and prosecuted.” (pg. 56)

Further information as to where CARE stands on Religious Liberty and Equality issues can be accessed here

Online Safety

The Conservative party will “lead a global effort to close down online spaces for those who abuse children, incite violence or propagate hate speech.” (pg. 38)

The Conservative party promises to “develop a digital charter, working with industry and charities to establish a new framework that balances freedom with protection for users, and offers opportunities alongside obligations for businesses and platforms. This charter has two fundamental aims: that we will make Britain the best place to start and run a digital business; and that we will make Britain the safest place in the world to be online.” (pg. 77)

They will “work with industry to introduce new protections for minors, from images of pornography, violence, and other age-inappropriate content not just on social media but in app stores and content sites as well. We will put a responsibility on industry not to direct users – even unintentionally – to hate speech, pornography, or other sources of harm. We will make clear the responsibility of platforms to enable the reporting of inappropriate, bullying, harmful or illegal content, with take-down on a comply-or-explain basis.” (pg. 79)

The Conservative party will “continue to push the internet companies to deliver on their commitments to develop technical tools to identify and remove terrorist propaganda, to help smaller companies build their capabilities and to provide support for civil society organisations to promote alternative and counter-narratives. In addition, we do not believe that there should be a safe space for terrorists to be able to communicate online and will work to prevent them from having this capability… Where we believe people need more protections to keep them safe, we will act to protect them. We will give people new rights to ensure they are in control of their own data, including the ability to require major social media platforms to delete information held about them at the age of 18, the ability to access and export personal data, and an expectation that personal data held should be stored in a secure way. To create a sound ethical framework for how data is used, we will institute an expert Data Use and Ethics Commission to advise regulators and parliament on the nature of data use and how best to prevent its abuse.” (pg. 79-80)

Further information as to where CARE stands on Online Safety issues can be accessed here

“It very nearly ruined my life”
Public Affairs

“It very nearly ruined my life.”  These are the words of a man from Belfast who used to be a problem gambler.  He told the Belfast Newsletter about how what started out as a bit of fun soon became a compulsion, leading to significant debts, anxiety and secretive behaviour.  “There’s no amount of money a compulsive gambler can win to make them happy;” he said.  “There’s people who have lost homes, wives, everything and they just keep going. You’ll keep going until you have nothing more to lose.”

About a third of million people in the UK, are thought to be “problem gamblers”, and many more are spouses, children, colleagues and friends who are affected by the destructive financial, emotional and physical harms caused by this problem.

The rise of online gambling means there are vastly more opportunities for gambling – on smartphones and laptops, at home or away, and at all hours of the day or night.  For problem gamblers, this can make it even more difficult to get control as temptation is all around.

Other new technologies are also exacerbating the problem.  High speed, high stakes gambling machines have become a feature of high street betting shops over the past decade.  Research indicates that about £11.4 billion has been lost on these machines since 2008, with problem gamblers losing about £15,000 each.

The consequences of problem gambling can be devastating: debt, family breakdown, unemployment, depression, and even suicide.  The Government and the gambling industry needs to be proactive in protecting people from getting into harmful gambling behaviour.  Some improvements have been made over the past few years, but there is more to be done.

Our newly published briefing paper contains more details about how to protect people from problem gambling and suggests questions you can ask your election candidates about this issue.  A short summary is also available here.

Liberal Democrats Manifesto: Where they stand on our issues
Public Affairs

Following the Labour and Plaid Cymru manifestos published yesterday, today, the Liberal Democrats have published theirs. The 97 page document details the key policies that the party will introduce if elected into government. Below are some extracts relating to issues on the engaGE17 website.

The manifesto can be read in full here

So what does the manifesto say?

Family and tax

The Liberal Democrats will “reverse a number of the Conservatives’ unfair and unjustified tax cuts, including …

– The Marriage Allowance.” (pg.40)

Further information as to where CARE stands on Family and Tax issues can be accessed here

Sex and Relationships Education

The Liberal Democrats promise to “introduce a curriculum entitlement – a slimmed down core national curriculum, which will be taught in all state-funded schools. This will include Personal, Social and Health Education: a ‘curriculum for life’ including financial literacy, first aid and emergency lifesaving skills, mental health education, citizenship and age-appropriate Sex and Relationship Education (SRE).” (pg.28)

The Liberal Democrats will “include in SRE teaching about sexual consent, LGBT+ relationships, and issues surrounding explicit images and content.” (pg.29)

The Liberal Democrats are committed to “make the curriculum the responsibility of an Educational Standards Authority to pilot, phase in and resource future changes in consultation with professionals and experts while retaining legitimate democratic accountability.” (pg. 29)

The Liberal Democrats will “challenge gender stereotyping and early sexualisation, working with schools to promote positive body image and break down outdated perceptions of gender appropriateness of particular academic subjects.” (pg. 29)

They will “Tackle bullying in schools, including bullying on the basis of gender, sexuality, gender identity or gender expression.” (pg. 30)

Further information as to where CARE stands on Sex and Relationships Education issues can be accessed here

 Marriage

The Liberal Democrats commit to “strengthen legal rights and obligations for couples by introducing mixed-sex civil partnerships and extending rights to cohabiting couples.” (pg. 72)

Further information as to where CARE stands on Marriage issues can be accessed here

Addressing trafficking and exploitation

The Liberal Democrats promise to “extend requirements on companies to strengthen responsibility for supply chains, focus on good practice in tackling modern slavery, including training for police and prosecutors in identifying and supporting victims, and implement the Ewins report recommendations on domestic workers.” (pg. 71)

The Liberal Democrats commit to “decriminalise the sale and purchase of sex, and the management of sex work – reducing harm, defending sex workers’ human rights, and focusing police time and resources on those groomed, forced or trafficked into the sex industry. We would provide additional support for those wishing to leave sex work.” (pg. 72)

The Liberal Democrats will “maintain, as part of our fight against hard Brexit, cross-border co-operation in combatting serious organised crime, including international fraud and child sexual exploitation, by retaining the European Arrest Warrant, membership of Europol and access to EU information databases.” (pg. 73)

The Liberal Democrats pledge to “provide government funding for a national rape crisis helpline with increased opening hours and advertisement.” (pg. 74)

The Liberal Democrats will “review the investigation, prosecution, procedures and rules of evidence in cases of sexual and domestic violence.” (pg. 76)

Further information as to where CARE stands on Trafficking and Exploitation issues can be accessed here

Religious Liberty and Equality

The Liberal Democrats promise to “extend the Equality Act to all large companies with more than 250 employees, requiring them to monitor and publish data on gender, BAME, and LGBT+ employment levels and pay gaps.” (pg. 71)

They will “guarantee the freedom of people to wear religious or cultural dress, and tackle the growing incidence of Islamophobic hate crime.” (pg. 72)

They will “extend protection of gender reassignment in equality law to explicitly cover gender identity and expression, and streamline and simplify the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to allow individuals to change their legal gender without unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles, for example the intrusive medical tests currently required.” (pg. 72)

The Liberal Democrats promise to “ensure that trans prisoners are placed in prisons that reflect their gender identity, rather than their birth gender.” (pg. 76)

The Liberal Democrats pledge to “scrap the flawed Prevent strategy and replace it with a scheme that prioritises community engagement and supports communities in developing their own approach to tackling the dangers of violent extremism.” (pg. 77)

Further information as to where CARE stands on Religious Liberty and Equality issues can be accessed here

Online Safety

The Liberal Democrats will “introduce a digital bill of rights that protects people’s powers over their own information, supports individuals over large corporations, and preserves the neutrality of the internet.” (pg. 73)

Further information as to where CARE stands on Online Safety issues can be accessed here

Abortion

The Liberal Democrats promise that “in light of the US government’s dangerous and anti-science attacks on international programmes of vaccination and family planning, which impact disproportionately on the health of women and children, [they will] seek to protect global spending on these essential provisions.” (pg. 86)

Further information as to where CARE stands on abortion and  international development relating to abortion can be accessed here

End of life

The Liberal Democrats commit to “provide more choice at the end of life and move towards free end-of-life social care, whether people spend their last days at home or in a hospice.” (pg. 21)

Further information as to where CARE stands on end of life matters can be accessed here

Free to believe
Public Affairs

Religious liberty is often neglected in public debates and the debates around  general elections. As many of us have never been affected by the small changes creeping into policies —but nonetheless slowly limiting the enjoyment of our religious liberty— we do not pay much attention to these changes and the effects they may have. However, we must.

In the UK, over the years, despite religion being a protected characteristic under equality law, people of faith are being told that they cannot live in accordance with their faith if the exercise of their religious freedom clashes with the interests of someone with another protected characteristic.  For example, registrars and marriage guidance counsellors have been taken to court because they did not want to solemnize or offer guidance to people in same-sex relationships due to their religious beliefs.    Court judgments have indicated that where there is a conflict between two protected characteristics, more often than not it is faith that must be silenced for the benefit of other protected characteristics. This is happening despite the fact that these different rights should be able to co-exist in a democratic society tolerating different ideas, opinions, and views.

Recent focus on promoting “British Values” —often given a vague meaning— has also  created the possibility that  people with ideas or views that are unpopular will be seen as opposing  these values, and may even  be branded extremists.  This could have a significant impact on the ability of individuals and organisations to be involved in public service and community life.

A delicate balance is needed in counter-extremism policies that will tackle violent extremism but not draw the circle of extremism so wide that it curtails the freedom of people to exercise their traditional religious beliefs.

This is why we must care about policies, small or large, that affect religious liberty. They may not directly affect us now, but they will, sooner or later. It is important that the new Government consists of people that, if they do not share our values, at a minimum, respect the fact that we all may have different values, views or opinions, and these have to be accommodated. That is the essence of democracy.

To help you we’ve prepared this briefing paper with more information which is summarised here.

Prostitution – what’s the issue?
Public Affairs

When discussing prostitution, one phrase often repeated is that it’s the oldest profession in the world and will never be eliminated.  Not only is the phrase historically suspect (other more likely contenders for the “oldest profession” include farmer and midwife) it fails to grasp the true experience of prostitution for many caught up in it.

Statistics tell us that people involved in prostitution experience mental, physical and sexual health problems.  Many face violence or threats from so-called “clients” and pimps.  Others are coerced into prostitution, sometimes through trafficking but often through a range of manipulative behaviours, drug addiction or debt.

Although some people say they choose to be in prostitution, most are vulnerable and at risk of harm.  CARE believes that the best way to prevent this harm is to reduce demand for prostitution – to challenge those men (and it is mostly men) who think it is acceptable to pay for sexual access to another person by making it illegal.  We also want to see more support services made available not simply to support women involved in prostitution, but also to help them to leave prostitution behind and forge a new life.

There are some loud voices calling for prostitution and brothel-keeping to be decriminalised – but the evidence from other countries shows that this doesn’t provide the safety-net activists claim.   This election you have the opportunity to find out what your local candidates think about prostitution – whether it should be legalised or if the law should try to reduce demand in order to reduce harm.

To help you we’ve prepared this briefing paper with more information which is summarised in the justice section of this website.