Gay rights activists: Lottery response to accusations of funding of anti-gay religious groups is ‘disingenuous’

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The National Lottery has responded to a report from last week which found that Big Lottery Fund money had been given to religious groups which were linked to homophobia, but has been accused of “evading” the concerns raised.

Last week a Guardian report revealed that several Christian, Muslim and Jewish organisations linked to online homophobia had received grants from the fund. 

A spokesman for the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) defended the awards, speaking to the Guardian, saying that the amounts were small, and that some were made before controversial postings appeared online. He said that some of the churches are multinational, and that material was posted outside of the UK.

The Big Lottery Fund has now responded again, in a statement which sets out that some funding is given out to religious groups as they have access to “hardest to reach” members of the community, and that sometimes background checks are lighter, in order to make the funding “accessible”.

It reads: “The Big Lottery Fund supports over 12,000 projects a year and will fund religious groups to carry out specific activities that deliver social outcomes evidenced by need. All activities funded by us must be as accessible and inclusive as possible.

“We will not fund activities that are specifically religious or proselytising in nature or that are contrary to our own equalities policy. Our mission is to help communities and individuals most in need and it is our experience that many religious groups can have unique access to some of those that are hardest to reach.

“We take seriously the assessment of applicants and monitoring of our grants but at the same time we need to do this proportionately, based on the size of grant. This is to ensure that funding is accessible to all, not over burdensome for those, often small groups, applying, whilst at the same time keeping the overheads of awarding grants down.

“As well as monitoring grants throughout their term, we thoroughly investigate all allegations of funding being misused or breaches of our terms and conditions and take appropriate and necessary action to ensure the proper use of funds.”

Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, tweeted that the organisation had not addressed the “concerns raised”, following the report.

The report found that one church has funds of almost £29 million, and receives more than £7 million of voluntary income per year, yet is in receipt of BIG funds for community projects.

BIG is responsible for distributing 40% of the lottery’s good cause funds. Over a fifteen year period, lottery distributors have awarded at least 139 grants to evangelical, Pentecostal and conservative Christian groups, worth over £3.1 million.