UK govt spends more on ethnic fests than Christmas

In a country where the majority of the population are deemed to be Christian and where the monarch doubles up as head of the Church, thanks to her ancestor King Henry VIII founding the sect, government ministers are being accused of discriminating against Christianity in favour of Islam and Hinduism.

David Davis, a Conservative MP has complained of an “anti-Christian prejudice” in the government which bends over backwards to pander to ethnic minority festivals, while ignoring Christian ones. He accused ministers and government departments of spending more of the tax-payers money on marking festivals such as Diwali, Eid ul-Fitr and Chinese New Year than Easter or Christmas.

Davis who raised a number of questions in the House of Commons was told that the Home Office spent more than £15,000 in one week celebrating Diwali and Eid last year. It had invited 200 guests from the Hindu, Sikh and Muslim communities on November 14 for a Diwali/Eid celebration at a cost of £8,933. An internal staff event six days earlier celebrating the same festivals cost £7,557. The government which boasts of being as an equal opportunities employer and which uses positive discrimination to employ more people from the ethnic minorities has a large contingent of Asian origin staff.

The Department of Transport even sent staff to attend a Diwali celebration about 200 miles away at the NEC in Birmingham, but did nothing for Christmas except tell workers about carol concerts, complained Davis. It was also revealed that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office hosted VIP receptions to mark the same festivals but had no plans to observe the Christian festival Easter coming up in a couple of months.

A government spokesman justified the expenses arguing that it used religious events to fulfill its legal obligations to reach minority communities. “The cultural significance of Christianity in our country’s story is indisputable,” said a Home Office spokesman.

Minorities in the civil service argue that this is the only time that their separateness is pandered too. “The whole country celebrates Christmas and Easter because it is a national holiday, as a Hindu I also have a right to celebrate Diwali. It is my main festival and it is only fair that my colleagues should find out about my religion too,” said Manjula Patel, a government clerical officer.

However critics argue that these strategies promote sectarianism as they define people by their religion. “The government should stand aside from religion. They are in a sense proselytising which is not what our taxes are for,” said Claire Rayner, honourary associate of the National Secular Society.

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