A Christian leader has warned that Britain is “sleepwalking into losing religious freedoms,” thanks to a prevailing liberal culture that promotes a hierarchy of rights which demotes religion below all other considerations. She called upon her fellow Christians to follow biblical examples such as Daniel in proclaiming the gospel in a hostile environment.
Speaking at the Out of the Silent Church conference in Dundee, Nola Leach, chief executive of Christian Action Research and Education (CARE), told conference attendees: “Only 50 years ago liberals supported an ‘alternative culture’, but today they abhor any alternative to their credo. Once a dominant force in Western culture, religion is demoted to at best an irrelevance and at worse an offence against the prevailing culture,” Christian Times has reported.
She said that “A philosophy of human rights is emerging without the need for a religious, let alone Christian foundation”, adding: “What is clear is that a hierarchy of rights is emerging where religious freedom is trumped again and again.”
Regarding controversial clashes between Christians and the government over issues such as gay marriage and assisted dying, Leach said “There is a direct challenge to God’s design for marriage and sexuality and there is an assault on the sanctity of life from beginning to end of life.”
Her words come as a member of the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly, Paul Givan (DUP) seeks to introduce a “conscience clause” in Northern Ireland on equality legislation, following the “bullying” of a Christian-owned bakery by the publically funded Equality Commission.
The owners of Ashers Bakery, the McArthur family, are being taken to court by the Equality Commission for refusing to bake a cake carrying a pro-gay marriage message and image of Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie.
Speaking at the DUP party conference on Saturday, Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson said that the balance of rights and equalities is increasingly “tipped against people of faith” as demonstrated by the “treatment meted out to the Ashers Baking Company.
“There will often be competing rights and freedoms but, nobody should be compelled or coerced into supporting, sanctioning or promoting views or opinions which conflict with their strongly held religious convictions.
“The publicly-funded Equality Commission has launched an unjustified attack on a small Christian family business. This is simply bullying,” he said. A collection was taken at the conference to go towards legal defence costs for the McArthurs.
Commenting on why he had been moved to introduce his bill, Givan said “Equality is about ensuring that everybody in society is allowed to live out their lives.
“We now are heading towards a community where it’s not just about live and let live – people are now saying, ‘you need to affirm my particular lifestyle and if that goes against your conscience, you have to do that’. That’s not equality; that’s intolerance”
Ms Leach told conference delegates that it was vitally important for Christians to stand up for what they believe. “We need to fight for our religious freedoms. This is a central plank for the spread of the gospel. We cannot sleepwalk into a situation where religious freedoms are lost,” she said, and called on her fellow Christians to “study God’s word and learn from those such as Daniel, to know that the Lord will protect us as we live out our faith with integrity”.