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18 January 2018

Making our voice heard in 2018

Making our voice heard in 2018

At our best, evangelicals have always been activists, working for the good of society. We sought to reflect this heritage in What Kind of Society?, setting out some key themes that have shaped evangelical visions of what society could look like: love, freedom, justice and truth. In practice, as well as praying for our country and leaders and serving practically in our communities, we also seek to add our voice to important debates – in politics and elsewhere – to promote this vision for society.

But it's not always easy to see where we can speak. So last year we also put together some ideas about how to contribute to political debates. These suggestions included finding out who your elected representatives are, praying for them, and voting when they are up for election. Outside election season, you can always write to your MP and other representatives about your concerns.

We also included some guidance on responding to government consultations. As important as contacting your MP, government consultations are an important way in which public concerns are reflected in parliamentary debate. When government departments are planning new laws, or when committees of MPs believe an issue needs raising, they will frequently launch consultations to seek the views of affected parties. 

Our public policy team will often respond to these consultations on behalf of the Alliance, but it's also important that these processes hear the perspectives of all those directly affected in the country. Two key consultations are currently open which would benefit from such perspectives. One is on the regulation of gaming machines and other forms of gambling. The other is on the new universal provision of relationships and sex education in secondary schools and the content of new mandatory relationships education in all primary schools. 

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced a consultation on gaming machines last year. The Government is consulting on the need to reduce the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals, and on introducing other social responsibility measures to tackle the impact of problem gambling on individuals and communities. Click to read more about these proposals

Many Christian groups, including the Alliance, have called on the Government to take action in this area. As well as reducing the maximum stake significantly to £2, these groups called on the Government to engage more with gambling addiction, give local authorities new powers to combat the increase of gaming machines, and take action on online problem gambling and gambling advertising. 

The consultation closes next week, on Tuesday, 23 January 2018. The Church of England has published some useful guidance on the consultation survey questions, as well as an encouragement to submit any case studies on the impact of gambling in your community to the consultation by email. CARE also have a page on gambling policy on their website – found here

In addition, over Christmas the Department for Education announced a consultation on sex and relationships education. It asks what should be taught to primary school children around the content of such education (in both primary and secondary schools), how schools best engage with parents, and the rights parents should have to withdraw their children. The Department is seeking the views of pupils, parents and teachers, as well as other interested groups. We will publish more information about this in due course, before the consultation closes on the Monday, 12 February 2018. 

These are not the only issues that will be important to evangelical Christians this year. In the 70th anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, our commitment to freedom of religion or belief must be unwavering. And discussions around extremism and social integration will also remain of vital importance in the year ahead. So on all these areas, let's keep our leaders in our prayers, and make our voices heard in 2018.