Theresa May sidelines role of faith minister
The government position of faith minister has been quietly minimised in an ongoing trend of minimising the prominence of religion in senior roles.
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth is the new minister with responsibilities for "faith and integration" after Theresa May became Prime Minister in July.
But far from being a senior government position, Bourne is a junior minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). Alongside his responsibilities for religion, he also oversees community cohesion, race equality, troubled families, domestic refuges, travellers policy and is in charge of the Syrian Refugees Programme.
But as well as a minister in DCLG, Bourne's time is split with the Wales Office where he is also Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Wales. A former leader of the Welsh Conservatives, his brief covers responsibilities for energy, environment, defence, local government, localism, education and law and order in Wales.
The thinly spread junior minister symbolises a trend away from placing the faith "brief" with a senior government figure.
Baroness Warsi was Minister for Faith and Communities between September 2012 and August 2014. As a senior government figure Warsi could sit in on Cabinet meetings through her role as Minister of State in the Foreign Office, something not available to Lord Bourne or his predecessor Baroness Williams of Trafford.
Warsi pledged to put faith back at the "heart of government" and promised to be part of "the most pro-faith government in the world".
After she resigned the role was given to Eric Pickles, then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, who also attended Cabinet. He said: "It's a job I take very seriously, but it's also a source of constant inspiration when I see time and again the contribution of faith to Britain today."
But with the removal of Pickles from government after the 2015 general election, the role of minister for faith was handed to Lady Williams, then junior minister in DCLG.
Now the position has been minimised further with it being handed to a junior minister with split responsibilities.
A spokeswoman for DCLG told Christian Today: "The government remains committed to both faith and integration.
"That has clearly been shown by Lord Bourne, who just weeks into the role has already met with dozens of faith communities to celebrate their contributions and discuss their concerns."