Faith Engagement Review to be ‘most sweeping review of faith and state’ – report

29 March, 2023

The Guardian has today reported that the Government’s Faith Engagement Review will be ‘the most sweeping review of the relationship between faith and the state in recent times.’ That will reportedly include welcome ‘action on issues ranging from unregulated faith schools to forced marriage and religious nationalism’, but also ‘proposals… designed to bolster religion as a core element of British society’. Humanists UK has welcomed the recommendations about religious harms but expressed concern about any ‘bolstering’ of religion, which may lead to more discrimination against the UK’s largely non-religious population. The non-religious were excluded from the scope of the review.

The recommendations are reportedly to include new legislation to close illegal schools – something Humanists UK has led the campaign on for the last decade. Last year, the Government introduced such legislation through the Schools Bill. These aspects of the Bill received very broad support as the Bill completed most of the stages of debate in the House of Lords. But then in December the Government abandoned the Bill because an entirely separate part of it proved to be unpopular. Since then the Government has said it still wants to legislate, but only will do so if time becomes available for such a Bill. It hasn’t said if this will happen, or if so, when.

Faith to Faithless is Humanists UK’s dedicated service supporting ‘apostates’ and those harmed as a result of leaving a religion

It is reported there will also be proposals relating to part-time schools. And the Guardian detailed that ‘Bloom will also push the government to do more to tackle forced marriages, and will ask for greater resources to help support those trying to leave controlling religious groups.’ Humanists UK’s service Faith to Faithless supports those leaving high control religions, and trains service providers to do the same.

Humanists UK responded to the call for evidence that was run as part of the review in 2020, and met several times with the Faith Engagement Advisor who has led the review, Colin Bloom. Humanists UK has heard that the final report is scheduled to be published in April.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented:

‘We were obviously disappointed when the Government decided to commission a review just into its faith engagement and exclude the largely non-religious population from its scope. There has never been a similar review into engagement with the non-religious. We hope that the final report will not repeat this mistake, by boosting the role of faith groups to the exclusion or detriment of others.

‘On the other hand, in the past the Government has sometimes been nervous about tackling problems caused by religious groups but those problems can extend to the most extreme forms of abuse. If this report is to see the Government change tack here then that is to be welcomed.’

On supporting those leaving high-control religions, Thompson continued:

‘We hope one outcome of this review is Government support for the many people traumatised and damaged by religion. People leaving high-control religions have experienced serious abuse and can have a huge range of basic needs. That means housing, emotional support, catch-up education, and integration into wider society. But at the moment their needs are not met, in fact they are often hugely misunderstood. That their needs haven’t been addressed may be due to nervousness around not being seen to “encourage” people to change their beliefs. But such support should still happen without constituting encouragement. Indeed, others going through such serious disruption to their lives, like women leaving abusive relationships, might receive state support, and apostates should too.’


For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read the Guardian report.

Read about our response to the call for evidence.

Read more about our work on Government and ‘faith’ communities.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.