Tuesday 23 October 2012

Towy Community Church - back in the news

Back to our council's 'partnership' with the evangelical Towy Community Church Ltd. In December I mentioned that 'Christians Against Poverty', the outfit which will be running the debt counselling service within the bowling alley and church project Excel, had, er, parted company with Advice UK, a secular umbrella organisation for such services. The offer of prayer as a practical step to beat off the bailiffs was considered to be incompatible with Advice UK's constitution. Clearly, Carmarthenshire Council, perhaps in fear of eternal damnation, feels it is entirely compatible with theirs, to the tune of £1.4m and the axing of £32,000 to the Citizens Advice Bureau (where prayer is not compulsory) over the next three years.

Today's Western Mail features the story here, Evangelical church given £1.4m in public funding and looks at the issue of whether the use of public money in this case, which also includes funding from the Welsh Government and lottery, is remotely compatible with equalities legislation. The fundamentalist church, which is also a limited company, comes under the auspices of the Evangelical Alliance, and believes in the literal meaning of the bible and “the eternal conscious bliss of the believer and the eternal conscious punishment of those who reject Christ”.

It looks like Kevin Madge, Leader of the Council has taken over the baton from Meryl in proclaiming the Excel project as the best thing since sliced bread, forming an essential part of the delivery of social care in the county, despite, for instance, the links to the discredited Mercy Ministries who believe that exorcism is an appropriate treatment for anorexia and drug addiction in young girls. Those links were suddenly removed from the church website late last year. By association, the council are also are embracing anti-gay propaganda, a belief that devotion to christ will provide physical healing, and that it was possible to live to the ripe old age of 969. We can only hope that the council doesn't decide that the church will also 'ease the budget' in the health and education departments too.

Religious tolerance is of course part of equalities legislation itself and rightly so, but the council's promotion (most recently on their website) and generous funding of this fundamentalist group does not sit comfortably with the remit of a local authority.

As a limited company there is also a question of liability should the whole thing go pop, the bank has first charge on the two 99 year leases on the land, the council comes in at a poor third. There may also be an issue over the numerous grants acquired by the church, EU laws regarding unfair competition state that great care should be taken when allocating public money for private enterprises which could result in the creation of unfair competition. This is a criticism also levelled at the council in its similar generosity with the Scarlets rugby team and the stadium.

Still, despite a few stoic councillors who have spoken out about it and the BBC, Unison, Private Eye etc, Carmarthenshire Council does not appear remotely uncomfortable with the criticism over its partnership with the church.

The Evangelical Alliance has voiced its displeasure with the two Carmarthenshire bloggers, Cneifiwr and I, and, in addition, Jim Stewart, a spokesman for the organisation left a vaguely worded 'legal' threat on one of my previous posts.

In the Western Mail, Carmarthenshire MP, Jonathan Edwards said;

“As the former head of policy for Citizens Advice I know that an integral part of debt counselling is that advice is impartial and unconditional. It is therefore worrying to me that an organisation which has had to leave the Advice UK umbrella will be given taxpayers’ money for activities I believe should be delivered by specialist advisors with absolutely no strings attached.
At the end of the day we are talking about extremely vulnerable people, and the advice they receive has to be of the best quality.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

God help us all and God bless you all!