Militant atheists who try to silence Christian views are as bad as Tudor monarchs who executed thousands of religions dissenters, a top judge has said.
Sir Michael Tugendhat, who has recently retired as a High Court judge, said that human rights law all too often trump the rights of Christians, and they fail to guarantee protection for religious views.
Speaking at Tyburn Convent, near the historic Tyburn execution site where hundreds of Catholics were put to death for their religious beliefs, Sir Michael compared the attacks on Christianity today to the way Queen Elizabeth I and Lord Burghley oppressed Roman Catholics.
The Daily Mail quotes him as saying: “Those who are hostile to belief in a superhuman being or to religious practices, I am afraid, sometimes exhibit an attitude to freedom of religion and freedom of speech which is as restrictive of that of Elizabeth I or Burghley.
“They seek to limit those freedoms to the private sphere, but that is a denial of the rights that these freedoms enshrine and that is what the Jesuits and the puritans fought against. Their fight was ultimately successful, as we all know, but at enormous personal cost.”
He added: “The terrible story of the Tudor-Stuart religious divisions should be a reminder that freedom which is confined entirely to the privacy of a person’s home is a form of oppression.
“The fact that states recognise human rights and natural rights and even the fact that they may enshrine them in their laws doesn’t mean they always respect them.”
He also said that lawsuits involving religion were virtually unheard of when he began his career, but have become “increasingly frequent” over the past decade and a half.
Sir Michael added: “Secularism comes in different forms. It can be neutral, as it usually is in the United States and sometimes is in France, but it can also stand for hostility to belief in the superhuman.”
Over the past decade, judges have repeatedly ruled that equality laws take precedence over the rights of Christians. Cases include British Airways check-in clerk Nadia Eweida, who was told she could not wear a cross while at work, although the decision was later reversed by the European Court of Human Rights.
Britain is also currently awaiting a verdict in the case of a Christian bakery that was taken to court after refusing to bake a cake celebrating gay marriage. Ashers bakery in Northern Ireland was taken to court by the province’s equalities quango after a gay couple claimed it discriminated against them, but the bakers maintain that baking such a cake would violate their religious beliefs.