Call to cut millions spent by NHS on religion

THE NHS is spending millions of pounds a year on running ­chaplaincy services which offer spiritual care and religious support to patients.

Health boards collectively spend about £3.7m a year on the internal departments, including paying salaries of full-time "generic" NHS chaplains who are tasked with providing support to all who ask for it.

In addition, the NHS has made payments of almost £600,000 to churches to attend to the religious needs of individual patients in the past three years, figures obtained by The Herald under Freedom of Information laws revealed.

More than 85% of spending on the external bodies went to the Roman Catholic Church, largely in exchange for priests to come in to hospitals and perform sacraments such as the last rites, which NHS chaplains are not able to carry out.

Scotland's largest health board, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said its in-house chaplaincy department was allocated a budget of £632,665 in 2013/14, with the service "providing non-denominational support to our 38,000 staff and all our patients".

It also pays £75,000 per year to the Archdiocese of Glasgow and the Diocese of Paisley in exchange for "on-call" priests, "to provide the Sacramental ministry that Roman Catholic patients and families expect".

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Attorney General: Rise of fundamentalism is 'damaging' Christianity - Telegraph

Christians are increasingly reluctant to express their religious views because they are being “turned off” by the “disturbing” and “very damaging” rise of religious fundamentalism, the Attorney General has said.

Dominic Grieve said that atheists who claim that Britain is no longer a Christian nation are “deluding themselves” and must accept that faith has shaped this country’s laws and ethics.

He said that 1,500 years of Christian values are “not going to disappear overnight” and said that many people remain believers even if they choose not to go to Church.

However, he warned people are being discouraged from openly declaring their beliefs because of the “deep intolerance” of religious extremists of all faiths, including Islam and Christianity.

He told The Telegraph: “I do think that there has been a rise of an assertiveness of religious groups across the spectrum. That is why those with softer religious views find it disturbing and say they don’t want anything to do with it.”

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Cameron's Christian pledge 'could hurt thousands of British women'. Here's how

The Prime Minister hasn’t thought through the consequences of offering privileged access and public funds to Christian groups, argues Joan Smith. Many non-religious organisations helping domestic violence and sex trafficking victims will miss out

Does it matter if the Prime Minister welcomes leaders of Christian organisations into Number 10 Downing Street? He is a Christian himself and it isn’t as if he doesn’t invite other ‘faith’ groups to mark religious festivals. But wait: when David Cameron welcomed prominent Christians into his official residence, he went much further than celebrating a set of shared beliefs. He made promises which will affect the lives of people who weren’t present and don’t share those beliefs. Many of them, I’m sorry to say, are likely to be women who find themselves in dreadful circumstances.

I’m thinking about women fleeing violent marriages and victims of sex trafficking. In the recent past, a wide range of organisations existed to help them, and religious belief played a small part or none at all in the services they offered. Many of them received public funding, either from local councils or central government, but George Osborne’s austerity measures means that funding has been slashed. On a typical day in 2011, Women’s Aid was forced by lack of funds to turn away 230 women seeking refuge from a violent husband or partner.

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Tony Blair: 'West should focus on radical Islam'

Tony Blair has warned Western leaders they must put aside their differences with Russia over Ukraine to focus on the threat of Islamic extremism.

In a speech the former UK prime minister - now a Middle East envoy -said powerful nations must "take sides" and back "open-minded" groups.

Mr Blair told the BBC ahead of the speech the West would pay a "very heavy price" for not intervening in Syria.

He said the opportunity to create "an optimistic solution" had been missed.

Mr Blair gave his speech at Bloomberg in London amid high tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine.

Western leaders accuse Russia of using undercover military personnel to back separatists in eastern Ukraine - a claim Russia denies.

No-fly zones

Before the speech, the former PM - now envoy for the quartet of the UN, EU, US and Russia - spoke to the BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner.

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Irish Minister of Education 'Quinn' challenges church over patronage of schools

Minister suggests teaching of religion at either end or start of school day

Irish Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has thrown down a challenge to the Catholic Church to give concrete examples of how its schools can be “genuinely inclusive” for children of all faiths and none.

In an address to be delivered at a teacher union conference this morning, Mr Quinn says is it “disappointing” that the church has failed to provide such information to his department as had been promised in previous discussions.

He also suggests that, in developing policies on inclusivity, Catholic schools in areas where there is no alternative patronage should consider timetabling faith formation at the start or end of the day to minimise disruption to class.

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