Secular groups criticises May for faith comments
Theresa May has said Christians should be able to speak about their faith in the workplace.
Responding to a question in Parliament, the Prime Minister said the UK has a “very strong tradition” of “religious tolerance and freedom of speech”, and added that our “Christian heritage is something we can all be proud of.”
Fiona Bruce MP had raised concerns that many Christians are worried “about mentioning their faith in public”, after a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) hit out at organisations which suppress Christianity for fear of causing offence.
The Prime Minister agreed that the ability to “speak freely, respectfully and responsibly about one’s religion” should be a “jealously guarded principle.”
She went on to say: “I am sure we would all want to ensure that people at work do feel able to speak about their faith and also feel able to speak quite freely about Christmas.”
Comments received criticism
According to CBN News she has received criticism for these comments and her comments saying that she relies on her faith in God when making difficult decisions.
Britain’s National Secular Society has accused the prime minister of “abusing her position” to impose Christian values on others.
Stephen Evans, the Society’s campaign director, said that while “many people lean on their faith during trying times” he warned the prime minister that “she governs on behalf of everyone, including those of minority faiths and of course the majority of citizens who are not religious.”
“While it is fine for Theresa May to have a faith, what she mustn’t do is abuse her position to promote Christianity or impose her own religious values on others,” Evans said.
However, Evans’s comments have also drawn criticism from those who accuse the National Secular Society of imposing their worldview on others.
“Whilst the notion that the prime minister shouldn’t ‘impose’ her views on others sounds reasonable, what Stephen Evans doesn’t seem to realise is that he is attempting to impose his own view as to the place of religion in the public discourse,” author Peter Ould told Breitbart London.
“The notion that atheism is the default position for religion in political life is outdated in a multi-cultural society which values the spiritual heritage of a diverse range of citizens,” he said.
Believers treated unjustly
Meanwhile, the EHRC’s report, due to be published this week, references several cases where believers were treated unjustly, including that of Institute client Adrian Smith, according to The Mail on Sunday. Smith was demoted for writing that gay marriage was “an equality too far” on his private Facebook page.
One section is reported as saying: “There is no right in Britain not to be offended and, in our view, respect for people’s right to express beliefs with which others might disagree, is the mark of a democratic society.”
Institute Public Affairs Deputy Director, Simon Calvert, responded to the report, saying: “Christians have certainly felt that their fundamental freedoms have been set aside by the human rights and equality industry in recent years.”
“It’s a relief to see the Commission stand up for freedom of religion as a fundamental right and recognise that it should not be suppressed through fear of offending.”
But Calvert insisted that the current law needs to be amended.
“We have long argued that equality law needs rebalancing so that courts have to take time to weigh up competing rights to see if both sides can be reasonably accommodated.
“Too often the courts come down strongly in favour of the secular liberal side of the argument.”
Current laws need amending
Adding weight behind the EHRC’s report and the call for current laws to be amended is the new ResPublica report.
CBN News reports that the influential conservative think-tank ResPublica’s report is urging British politicians to consider a new conscience clause in the Bill of Rights that would protect Christians and other faith groups.
ResPublica says that as Christians and other people of faith face a climate of fear and distrust, “more needs to be done to protect the freedoms of people of faith, and the best way to do this is to press ahead with a British Bill of Rights and include the freedom to express religious belief within it.”
Phillip Blond, director of ResPublica, said: “By refusing people the right to wear a cross or headscarf at work we are eroding the good that could be achieved. We hear a lot about the bad things people do in the name of religion, but all faiths actually have a role to play in bringing communities together and stopping division.”
The same sentiment was echoed by Conservative Member of Parliament David Burrowes.
“Religious liberty is a fundamental right, but recently we have seen it being downgraded compared to other human rights,” Burrowes warned.
“Religious freedom is a universal human right which is foundational to a good society and should not be shunned or marginalised,” Burrowes said.