We seek to promote truth and integrity in public life and the media

Who we are 

The Quaker Truth & Integrity Group (QTIG) began as an informal group of Quakers sharing a deeply felt concern about the state of truth and integrity in public life in Britain. In March 2022 it gained official recognition by the national Quaker body (Britain Yearly Meeting) as a “Quaker Recognised Body”. 

Given the critical importance of truth and integrity in relation to the climate emergency, the erosion of democratic standards and the rule of law, the Covid pandemic, and the use/abuse of the Internet and social media in a “post-truth” era, QTIG regards the restoration of truth and integrity in public affairs as both critical and highly urgent. 

QTIG seeks to discern what might be done to help redress the current situation. More specifically, the Group’s aims are:

  • to promote the place of truth and integrity in the public discourse;
  • to discern what role Quakers might have to play in this, either independently or working with other groups/bodies; 
  • to draw the attention of Friends and others to the depth of the problems we face and ways in which they can be countered, for example through interviews with well-informed individuals. 

John Woolman shaking hands in Pennsylvania with the slaves of a fellow-Quaker with whom he had been staying, c. 1760

© Margaret Baker 2007

                ©brett lightwait fletcher/elegantstarGAP.org

Living Truth – A Rallying Call for Quakers - Final Statement arising from QTIG conference held on 25-30 April 2022

The shared acceptance of the means by which the truth is discerned in the public realm has collapsed. 

The world has entered a new and deeply troubling phase in its history. Standards of truthfulness and integrity in public and commercial life are being undermined to the extent that democracy itself is under threat. This radical departure from our traditional Quaker Testimony has been a source of deep concern for many Friends, leading to the establishment of the the Quaker Truth and Integrity Group in late 2021.

As an initial step, QTIG Arranged an online conference which took place over the week of 25 April 2022. Over 100 Friends took part in four sessions of deep discernment.[1]

As a Quaker Recognised Body[2], we start from the recognition that every so often, a cultural tide sweeps across the affairs of a nation. This happened in this country with the advent of the welfare state and the National Health Service. A spirit of solidarity, born out of the privations of the war and the great depression of the 1930s reflected a sense of optimism and purpose. This happened again but in a different direction towards the end of the 20th century in favour of the individual, entrepreneurship, and a process of privatisation that has been a driver for increasing inequality in terms of economic resources and power.

We see signs of authoritarianism emerging, where truth is deliberately distorted, where politicians claim ‘alternative facts’, where those in power expect to act with impunity, where respect for the judiciary is undermined; indeed, the very basis of democracy is being destroyed.

We see the Internet, social media that remove some editorial control, and the widespread use of algorithms in the development and implementation of public policy as part of and as symptoms of this development; but we do not see these technologies as intrinsically good or bad. They exist and it is how they are used that determines whether they contribute to a vibrant democratic society or militate against it.

One speaker reminded us that early Quakers held that ‘people should have the right to disagree. Citizens should have the means of seeking truth together through a framework of law (as a means of preserving public peace); minorities[3] should be protected from overmighty majorities who might hound out dissent’[4]. In his view, Quakers were major contributors to the development of what we call liberal democracy and representative government. And we hold fast to this conviction now expressed in Advices and Queries (34): Remember your responsibilities as a citizen for the conduct of local, national, and international affairs. Do not shrink from the time and effort your involvement may demand.[5]

All this is set against the backdrop of the climate emergency and Covid and a deeply destructive resistance to the acceptance of scientific findings. This matters, because such resistance, just like that to verifiable facts, is corroding the vital trust we need for a functioning democratic society.

The conference heard clear calls for a fundamental overhaul of our democratic institutions; a constitutional convention or commission (convened by a broad coalition of civil society organisations and faith groups); and a declaration of what are acceptable norms in public life: politics, business, and media. There is a need to re-establish trust in the division of power between the executive, the legislative and the judiciary where disagreement is worked through without vilifying the people involved.

The conference heard a call for establishing norms in public behaviour which allow for ‘losers’ consent’; where the contest between ideas and ideologies is played on a fair and level pitch, where those who do not win the argument can accept the result without feeling that the winning side won by lying and manipulating the public.

The Quaker Truth and Integrity Group understands that many others are working and have worked over a long time to address these issues. As a group, we are ready to contribute to this work and we commit ourselves - with this statement - to take this work forward. We invite you to join us. The immediate priorities for our work to be:

Formulating a public Declaration advocating the renewal of our democratic institutions, the ethical norms that govern them, and working to gain support from others for that declaration
Working with other groups who are addressing the same and similar issues; the ways in which this can be done are evolving, but we see the possibility for organising a series of webinars with politicians and others in public life who support the ethical norms embedded in the public Declaration.
Revealing and publicising the extent to which politicians of different parties work together in Parliament for the common good.
Educating ourselves and others in finding ways to question the messages we receive through all the news channels, i.e., the promotion of digital literacy
Educating ourselves more in terms of the use of social media to reach out to others effectively.
Notwithstanding the difficulties in doing so effectively and without unintended negative consequences, finding ways of upholding those people in public life who have the courage to ‘do the right thing’, to be truthful and to act with integrity. We are considering developing an award in this context.
We are energised and encouraged by the participation in and response to our initial work in convening this conference. We see this work as of this moment, critical, urgent, important, and laid on us. Please join us in this work if you can. Please uphold us in other ways if you can’t.

[1] A report of the event and links to the video recordings of the session will appear on our website at http://quakertruth.org shortly
[2] Recognised at Meeting for Sufferings in March 2022
[3] Here, the term minorities is used in the sense applicable in the 17th century in what is now the USA and refers specifically to religious minorities
[4] This is a quote taken from the recording of that session in which the speaker referred to, quoted and paraphrased early Friends including William Penn
[5] Quaker Faith & Practice, section 1.02 (34) accessed on 29 April 2022 at: https://qfp.quaker.org.uk/chapter/1/