One news event that may have passed most people by last week was the election of Tim Farron as leader of the Liberal Democrats.
The party, which was once Britain’s third largest, was decimated in May’s General Election, losing all but eight of its 57 seats, completing a brutal period of decline while it was in government alongside the Conservatives.
It is against this backdrop that Farron has been tasked with leading his party back from the abyss and rebuilding its lost support.
However, instead of focusing on his plans for future party policy and strategy, Britain’s left-wing media has been obsessing about the fact Farron is – shock horror – a practising Christian.
The inquisition began the morning after Farron’s election when the BBC’s John Humphreys asked him if he would “seek advice from God when it came to making important policy decisions”. Farron accused Humphreys of focusing on “the shocking revelation that a Christian says his prayers,” but Humphreys continued to press Farron on the issue.
Later that day, Farron appeared on Channel 4 News where presenter Cathy Newman spent 40 seconds asking him about UK military involvement in Syria before spending the next four minutes talking about his views on abortion and gay sex.
On abortion, Farron said that he thought “every abortion constitutes a tragedy” but he would not seek to change the law.
Then, when continually pressed on whether he thought gay sex was sinful, Farron said “to understand Christianity is to understand that we are all sinners.” He added: “Perhaps the Bible phrase that I use most – particularly with my kids, but actually on myself – is ‘You don’t pick out the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye when there is a plank in your own.’”
The interview led to The Guardian splashing with “Tim Farron avoids saying whether he considers gay sex as a sin,” an article that at one point today was the most read on the entire site. It focused on the fact he abstained from voting when gay marriage was passing through the House of Commons. Farron has since issued a mea culpa, proclaiming his support for “equal marriage”, but this was clearly not enough for The Guardian and Channel 4.
At no point has Farron indicated his faith will determine his party’s policies; in fact he has often said the exact opposite. But the fact he can even privately hold Christian values is too much for some in the liberal-left commentariat.
Meanwhile, the message for everyone else is clear – if you hold any religious conviction, especially if you’re a Christian – expect to be subjected to the New Inquisition lest you dare to commit heresy against liberal-left secularism.