Wed 13 Oct 2021 by Donna Birrell
Premier has learned that the new Minister for Faith is Kemi Badenoch, the Conservative MP for Saffron Walden.
Ms Badenoch has assumed the role as a result of the government reshuffle in September in which she was appointed Minister of State for Equalities and Levelling Up Communities.
Born in Wimbledon and brought up in Nigeria, the 41-year-old describes herself as a ‘cultural Christian’ and has a range of faith traditions to draw upon. Her maternal Grandfather was a Methodist minister and her paternal Grandfather was a Muslim who converted in later life. Ms Badenoch is married to a Catholic and has two children.
Lord Greenhalgh had previously held the role of Faith Minister until the government reshuffle in September.
Since then Premier has put in several requests to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities which was unable to confirm whether the role had been allocated. The Department confirmed the appointment to Premier yesterday.
Premier asked the National Executive Director of Faith Action, Daniel Singleton, why it has taken so long to appoint someone to the role :
“I think it’s good that there’s been this kind of pause period of not having a Faith Minister and it has now been resolved. It feels like the importance of faith has gone up in the rankings because it’s now gone to a Minister of State.
“With the pandemic, many churches and faith groups have been stepping up into the breach, making up for the shortfalls within society and within the state. So, it’d be wrong to lose momentum by not having a Faith Minister. And there’s a very significant set of proposals going into government around a call for the Faith New Deal pilot scheme, which is not only a funding programme, but also looking at the whole concept of a faith covenant. So, it’s a really important time and we need someone at the helm.”
Singleton continued: “I don’t think it was ever the case there wouldn’t be a Faith Minister – a ministerial reshuffle is a little bit like making sausages – there’s a lot of stuff that goes into it that we don’t know. My hope and expectation is that faith will have a key role when levelling up because we’ve got a whole department, a whole new name, and some new responsibilities coming their way.”
When asked by Premier whether the Minister has too many briefs to concentrate on Faith, Daniel Singleton said he would ideally like to see a separate Faith Minister:
“I think that there is a concern it could just get washed away or lost in the backwash and that kind of thing. But certainly [Kemi] is a rising star within the Tory party and she is certainly not going away. I think it will be very interesting to see what she brings to bear on this role.
“She certainly doesn’t just go with the trend, she kicks back about things. She is, I suppose, the anti- woke minister in that sense. I think if we get completely caught up with making sure we’re using the right language and the right words all the time, then we’ll never actually get to do anything. But then my organisation is Faith Action. We’re focused on the action that comes out of faith. We don’t just want to be talking about what’s happening.
“So, I think there is the potential as long as there’s not a kind of witch hunt against her because she’s been talking about doing things differently. But I think the nature of this cabinet seems to be that they are people that are not necessarily the easiest people to listen to. And they’ve got a sense of vision of where they want to go. So, I think that that could be it could be quite significant.
“She has made various different comments in her role as Equalities Minister, on things on language on things to do with particularly, I suppose giving an alternative view to the some of the things that have been attached to the Black Lives Matters type of person.
“I think it’s very easy to move into quite a polarised stance – you’re for or against what one campaign group says. I think that she’s questioned the nature of the polarising language that we’re faced with. I think we just have to be so careful not to end up fighting a fight that we never want to be involved in the first place. And I know what that for many of us It means we just steer clear of things. That has a chilling effect on discussion. Ultimately, for Christians we have some things to say that are unpalatable, but on the other side, there’s lots of wisdom to come out from a faith perspective as well. “