(Photo: REUTERS/Altaf Hussain)
Outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins objected to a British police commissioner's plans to appoint a faith director to reach out to religious communities, questioning why they deserve a special liaison officer.
"No doubt he'll also be liaising with leaders of the 'community' of stamp collectors, the 'community' of bird twitchers, and the 'community' of chub fuddlers (a fishing term)," the author of The God Delusion told BBC News.
Police and Crime Commissioner Adam Simmonds of Northamptonshire announced earlier this week that a new office is being established for faith-based and community initiatives, which will serve as a liaison between various organizations, councilors and politicians "to boost community and faith-based initiatives and to 'increase national dialogue about the valuable contribution of this sector.'"
Simmonds explained that the new director's role at the office will require "substantial experience and knowledge of the faith, voluntary and community sector governance and practice."
The Commissioner added that the office will look to find creative approaches to crime prevention and safety.
"The office will be launched in September and will employ a director in a permanent post," Simmonds said, according to the Northampton Chronicle & Echo. "Volunteers will be appointed to form an advisory council to enhance the integrity, objectivity and effectiveness of the office."
Dawkins, an outspoken critic of religion, is questioning, however, why such a special office is needed for religious groups.
"Sarcasm aside, what is so special about religious 'communities' that they need, or deserve, a special liaison officer, any more than the rest of us?" the evolutionary biologist asked.
Former police officer Stevyn Colgan has come to the defense of the new office, arguing that police and faith groups could work together to help troubled communities.
Colgan said that faith leaders were "often very helpful as a resource" and added that "community pastors, for example, carry a lot of weight."
Police and Crime Commissioner spokesman Peter Heaton clarified that the initiative is not exclusively about religion, but is aimed at supporting entire communities.
England and Wales have experienced a rise in community groups of different faith backgrounds in the past few decades. While Christianity remains the dominant religion at 59.3 percent of the population, according to a 2011 Census, Islam has been growing and now accounts for 2.7 million people, or 4.8 percent of the population.