by Andrew Halloway
The ‘Turn the Tide’ booklet was quoted from extensively during a debate on Christian freedom in the House of Commons on 1 March.
Sponsored by Jim Shannon MP, the debate was designed to inform the UK Government’s contribution at the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council, but in a wide-ranging debate about persecution around the world, the deterioration in religious freedom in the UK was not forgotten.
Fiona Bruce (Con) said, “We cannot with credibility ask other countries to pursue religious freedom diligently if we do not do so ourselves.”
Ms Bruce added: “Let it be said and heard in this Parliament that reading the Bible in public is not a criminal offence in this country in the 21st century.”
Do we need a new law?
Is a new law to protect religious freedom actually needed?
Christian Concern, which has been defending victims of political correctness for many years, says that full freedoms are provided by the 1998 Human Rights Act and by case law, but judges are not applying them.
Roger Kiska, a solicitor at Christian Concern, told HEART, “The problem is a deep seated ideological ignorance (and often animus) within the judiciary towards Christian beliefs. Judges simply don’t understand that things like opposition to being forced to promote homosexual behaviour in delivering a service or the belief that a child does better with a mum and dad are core beliefs of the Christian faith.”
On the other hand, Barnabas Fund’s Director of Research, Dr Martin Parsons, points out that legal freedoms were achieved by repealing various restrictions rather than by legislation that positively affirmed freedom of religion. “This makes them more vulnerable to being eroded.”
He explains, “For example, between 1719 and 1888 various Test Acts were repealed which had required people to publicly affirm particular beliefs in order to be a school teacher, lawyer, army officer, professor or even university student as well as to stand for election to become a mayor or MP. However, because this aspect of religious freedom was created by the repeal of these laws ie removal of these restrictions – it has never been positively stated in UK law – the UK is now vulnerable to what is in effect a new Test Act being introduced by the back door.”
It is also true that MPs pay more attention to causes backed by a good number of organisations and individuals; Our Religious Freedom is currently backed by several other organisations and, it is hoped, more than the 22,000 signatures already gathered.
There have been a number of high-profile cases of people who have lost their jobs because they have dared to speak freely of their faith, or who have been taken to court because their consciences would not allow them to provide certain services, as in the case of Ashers Bakery, who refused to bake a cake with the slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage’.
One of the most shocking cases was the recent suspension of Christian teacher Joshua Sutcliffe for calling a pupil a girl when she wished to be known as a boy.
A further case highlighted in the ‘Turn the Tide’ booklet is that of Felix Ngole, who lost his place on a university social work course for holding biblical views about marriage.
New data protection rules – free guide for HEART readers
Christian ministries are scratching their heads over the new General Data Protection Rules (GDPR) which seem a draconian measure to choke giving to charities.
Gary Guillen, who runs a Christian web design and marketing studio, is offering a free guide and advice to help Christians get their marketing and websites fully GDPR compliant. Ring Gary on 01634 260700 for advice or go to www.timemakersystems.co.uk