Chief criticises faith coverage in media

By Simon Rocker, July 7, 2011

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has criticised media coverage of religion, saying that the failure to report interfaith work was leading to negative perceptions among the public.

He told a House of Commons select committee last Thursday: "Up and down the country, religious groups are getting together across the boundaries between faiths."

But he went on: "It is our complete failure ever to get public cognisance of this in the media that means that the images that prevail of religion in Britain and Europe are divisive images."

Britain, he argued, "is a country in which relationships between the faiths as a whole is probably better than anywhere else in the world. This is based on local neighbourhood friendships".

But media focus on religiously divisive groups represented a "massive media distortion of what is a very minority phenomenon - a very dangerous minority phenomenon. But by making that look as if that is the public face of religion, we are actively damaging the great and good work done across faiths".

Lord Sacks was giving evidence to the public administration committee's inquiry into the government's "Big Society" policy.

The big society label referred to a social reality – the need for a strong civil society – that "transcends party politics," he said.

But he warned of the threat to religious freedom from the extension of equality and anti-discrimination law.

    Last updated: 1:09pm, July 7 2011