Letters: Debate over the role of religion in civil society; and will Nick Hurd be missed?

Readers have their say on Third Sector stories

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams
Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams

It's crucial that faith charities work with the secular world

The analysis about charities and religion raised some interesting and timely issues, but one comment from Rowan Williams worried me greatly. I hope that his plea that faith-motivated charities don't need to be "shying away from their religious roots" is not interpreted as authority for them to cease engagement with people, organisations and institutions that are secular, or at least not motivated by the same faith or strain of faith.

It's true that much good work in urban, suburban and rural areas (not just in inner cities) is carried out by faith-motivated people. However, the greatest benefit of this work is achieved when those who deliver it engage constructively and strategically with others working to achieve similar objectives. The worst sort of faith-motivated charity is when it's simply a pretext for recruitment to a particular faith. As your analysis of the world's major religions showed, each of them teaches about the need for charity for its own sake, not for some ulterior motive.

Communities throughout this country need faith-motivated charities more than ever before, irrespective of their faith. And they need them to work together and with others too, not simply looking inwards and focused on their own roots.

Richard Dickson, director, Buckinghamshire Community Foundation, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

Charedi Jews are active members of civil society, not a closed group

The religion article said that charities in the firing line were likely to be "the small number of closed religious groups – for example, ultra-Orthodox Jews – whose beliefs cause them to have as little interaction with the public as possible". Perhaps part of the problem is ignorance about faith groups. Presumably the term "ultra-Orthodox Jews" encompasses Interlink and its members, although we find the term offensive and prefer to use Charedi/Haredi.

More importantly, we do not "have as little interaction with the public as possible". On the contrary, we are active participants in civil society and play a leadership role in the areas where our communities reside. Some aspects of Charedi life are organised to allow people to abide by beliefs and practices that are unique to themselves. But it does not follow that we aim to have as little interaction with the public as possible.

Chaya Spitz, chief executive, Interlink Foundation, London N16

Putting the record straight on the Evangelical Alliance's position

The article on religion said the Evangelical Alliance "rallied to what it perceived as the plight of the Preston Down Trust by holding a public meeting in Westminster Hall, where it warned that the actions of the Charity Commission in this case 'represented a threat of wider implications for other churches and religious groups'".

For the record, we did not rally to the cause of the Preston Down Trust, nor did we hold a public meeting in Westminster Hall. What we said in our article that you quoted from was: "Whatever opinion one may hold of different types of church, the church as a whole has a vital interest in a positive outcome of the case. Otherwise, there could be serious implications for all kinds of religious groups, especially those who are community based or who restrict public access to some of their services."

Don Horrocks, head of public affairs, Evangelical Alliance, London N1

Nick Hurd resigns as charities minister

I was always impressed with his understanding of volunteering; he struck me as a politician that actually got it rather than just said nice words. I always felt that if Nick had been given more freedom to develop sector policy rather than working within the limited thinking of Number 10, Francis Maude and Oliver Letwin, we could have had a much better few years than we've had.

Rob Jackson, volunteering consultant, Grantham, Lincolnshire

He was a Tory in a Tory government and there is no evidence that he was any less committed than the rest of them to the "reforms" they have been pushing through – decimating vulnerable communities, privatising vital services when they can't eliminate them, giving massive unaccountable grants to groups such as the Society Network Foundation and telling voluntary services groups to be more like businesses. He won't be missed.

Andy Benson, National Coalition for Independent Action, London N16

It's a shame to lose a moderniser – even one as Etonian as Nick Hurd – because he was not as tokenistic as some of the blown-ins of the New Labour years, and he was a useful bulwark in this government against the Neanderthals and grifters. I would also like to date his son – not sure how relevant that is.

Jocelyn Kitsch, fundraising consultant, London WC1

- Please send letters to thirdsector@haymarket.com or Third Sector, Teddington Studios, Broom Road, Teddington TW11 9BE

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