An independent review of the UK government’s engagement with faith groups has called on the government to actively encourage greater understanding and consideration of the beliefs and practices of faith groups.

Colin Bloom’s review called for the government to actively encourage greater understanding and consideration of the beliefs and practices that define the complete expression of religion and faith, and for greater appreciation and support for what people of faith, faith-based organisations and places of worship contribute to society.”

Commissioned in 2019 by, then Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the review heard from 21,000 respondents and collated nearly 1million pieces of data. The subsequent report, Does government do God’?” sets out 22 recommendations for the UK government to implement. It concluded that: without faith, places of worship and people of faith, this country would be poorer, blander and less dynamic. Faith is a force for good, and government should do more to both understand and release the potential of this fantastic resource.”


The recognition of faith in society

The Evangelical Alliance welcomes the report and is encouraged by the recognition of the vital contribution that faith makes to the UK and communities across the UK. The government do need to strengthen its engagement in response to the review and we are committed to working with the government to better understand how evangelical Christianity is lived out in the UK

As one respondent told the review: Imagine if churches and other places of worship removed their time, money, creativity and energy from public life… What would happen to the army of volunteer chaplains in prisons, universities and hospitals?… How much would it cost government to replace everything that people of faith do for free?”

In setting out the findings of the report Bloom said: Hopefully these recommendations will illuminate the importance of faith in the eyes of government and will help address some of the challenges that exist within faith communities.”

Protecting religious freedom and promoting faith literacy

The recommendations include the widening of the remit for the prime minister’s special envoy on freedom of religion or belief to include domestic matters as well as persecution across the globe. This followed more than half of respondents observing a threat to religious freedom in the UK, which rose to 68% for Christians. 

There is also a call in the report for an increase in faith literacy for all employed in the public sector, and a recognition that faith and belief is often the neglected category of the protected characteristics identified in the Equality Act. Only 12% of respondents had confidence that local and national government had a good understanding of different faiths. The report recommends strengthened engagement with faith leaders and the partnership with sectoral experts’ to improve faith literacy. 

Regulating religious instruction

The report comments on the challenges faced by the government in addressing instruction and education that children receive in institutions that fall below the threshold of being registered as schools. This area is not new ground for the government, and repeated efforts have failed to find a way of tackling places which need regulation while protecting the freedom of religious organisations to teach their faith to young people. 

While the report’s author told The Times that this was not aimed at Sunday schools that meet for an hour after Sunday morning [church] services”, the details of any policy will be critical. The Evangelical Alliance will consider in detail the recommendations in this area and encourage the government to adopt a nuanced and appropriate policy response that does not repeat the errors of previous proposals which could have seen Sunday schools fall under the scope of Ofsted. 

The government needs to act

The government minister responsible for faith, Baroness Scott, commented on the report’s launch: As faith minster I will continue to shine a light on the important work of faith groups across the country, who play such an important role in public life.” The government have said that they will respond in full in due course.

The benefit of this report will be demonstrated by the government’s response, faith without action is dead, one could say. The Evangelical Alliance will press the government to pick up the recommendations within this report and take action, and we will continue to give input into vital policy areas to ensure that they are worked out with care so that faith is protected and promoted rather than side lined or managed.