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Wednesday, October 26, 2016
London council bans Christian prayers from community centre
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¬†A family centre for Eastern European migrants in London, has been told that unless it agrees to renounce all expression of Christianity from the voluntary services it provides, they will lose their council funding. The threat came after the centre sought to change its name from 'The Polish Drop-In Centre' to 'The Polish and Eastern European Christian Family Centre'. Haringey Council explained that the use of the word 'Christian' could damage the funding that was currently provided. Organiser Gosia Shannon set up the voluntary centre, including mother and toddler groups, in order to support Eastern European migrants working in London. The letter from Haringay Council to the chair of the centre's management committee follows: Dear Ewa I am writing to you in your role as the chairperson for the management committee for the Eastern European Society Development. Recently Gosia Shannon copied me in to the proposal she is making that the organization change its name to the Polish and Eastern European Christian Family Centre. I responded to alert Gosia to the issues this could cause for your ability to retain the funding we provide for the Polish and Eastern European Drop-in group for families with children under 5, and to raise funding for your activities in general. This is because labeling the organization in this way implies that your activities are religious in nature, and many of the larger funding sources do not allow funding to go to faith groups. Gosia's response to my concerns prompted me to enquire further about the way that the group we fund is being run currently. We expect all our ervices to be inclusive and without religious content, so I was concerned to learn that Gosia leads the singing of a song about loving Jesus in every session. I asked Gosia to leave this song out in future, but Gosia has refused to do so. Recently we received a formal complaint from an attender and an ex-attender of the group about the religious content. I also understand that other families have expressed concern about this, although Gosia says she is unaware of others' concerns. Additionally, Gosia's attitudes toward gay parents worry me, both from comments she made when we met two weeks ago, and from a letter that I understand she wrote to committee members recently which included negative comments about homosexuality. [In Gosia's own words "We don't promote homosexuality but we welcome homosexuals" ≠ note, this section in square brackets was not contained in the letter sent by Haringey council, it is merely included for explanatory purposes]. For the funding from Noel Park Children's Centre to continue, I need to ask you and the committee to consider whether you are happy to endorse and implement the following: 1. Whatever is decided about the change of name for the organization, the activities of the Polish and Eastern European drop in group will in future be strictly of a non-religious nature. 2. The constitution for the organization will be altered to read: "Consistent with the objects of EESD, aims shall include provision of quality activities open to children and families and elderly East European people regardless of race, gender, culture, religion, sexual orientation, disability or means." If the committee and/or Gosia are not happy to make these changes, then I will be recommending that our funding be withdrawn, from 31.12.2006. If that happens, we will be looking at other options to ensure that alternative services are made available for the families currently attending the group. If it would be helpful to meet or for me to attend your upcoming committee meeting I would be more than happy to do so. Yours sincerely Debbie Biss Head of Centre Noel Park Children's Centre
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