Government criticises “hate speech” of Christian charity it funded

Posted: Tue, 28th Feb 2023

Government criticises “hate speech” of Christian charity it funded

The government will "urgently investigate" a recipient of its grant for faith groups after the charity's chair said Islam is "demonic".

The National Secular Society found the chair of Zion Projects, which the government gave £43,220 last year, was filmed making anti-Islam comments in an online meeting in 2020.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) called the comments "abhorrent" and "hate speech".

Zion Projects, a Christian charity based in Eastleigh, Hampshire, is one of 16 religious organisations given a total of £1.3 million in public money as part of the government's 'Faith New Deal' fund. The NSS has criticised this fund as it excludes non-religious community groups.

Government 'strongly condemns' video which calls Islam "spiritual wickedness"

In a now-removed video on Vimeo (pictured), Zion Projects chair and trustee Danny Stupple responded to a question about Islamic 'calls to prayer' being broadcast during lockdown by saying "a very strong force of spiritual wickedness known as Islam is engaging in warfare against the Lord with its open air prayers".

He said that Islamic prayers are "one example" of "the enemy" trying to use the Covid-19 pandemic, adding that the Islamic system of belief "is truly demonic".

He advised that anyone who hears the calls to prayers should "deny it power in Jesus' name", which is "more than able to deal with the spiritual forces of wickedness in those prayers".

The NSS wrote to Baroness Scott of Bybrook, parliamentary under-secretary of state at DLUHC, to express concerns about Zion Projects and other recipients of the Faith New Deal grant.

A spokesperson for DLUHC told the NSS: "These comments are abhorrent and we strongly condemn them. We take hate speech against any group or individual extremely seriously."

It added: "We are urgently investigating this issue and the Department's relationship with the Zion Project, including funding."

The NSS has also written to the Charity Commission for England and Wales and Hampshire County Council, which last year awarded Zion Projects nearly £20,000 to "help to provide a range of projects including a community café".

The findings follow a recent report by Muslim advocacy group Mercy Mission UK which questioned the absence of Muslim organisations among recipients of Faith New Deal grants.

The government's Faith New Deal pilot scheme was launched in 2021 for faith-based organisations that provide community services to "tackle issues affecting the most vulnerable". Groups with no religious ethos were ineligible for funding.

The NSS has criticised the scheme as "discriminatory". Several of the groups funded by the Faith New Deal require workers and volunteers to be Christians.

NSS: Faith New Deal "discriminatory and divisive shambles"

NSS head of campaigns Megan Manson said: "This incident must prompt the government to rethink its ill-advised Faith New Deal scheme.

"The scheme is a discriminatory and divisive shambles.

"When community funds are ringfenced exclusively for faith groups, problems like these are inevitable. Religions are pitted against each other, and the door is left open for fundamentalist groups with extremist views to access taxpayers' money.

"The government should take this incident as a signal to immediately cease its project of privileging religion in public funding."

Media coverage:
Government reviews Christian charity's funding over chair's 'hate speech' - Third Sector

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