The Prime Minister has been told not to “abuse her position to promote Christianity” after mentioning her faith as a factor which has shaped her outlook, during a wide-ranging interview.
The National Secular Society has criticised Theresa May, arguing that she should not “impose” her views on secular society at large, following an interview with The Sunday Times in which she said that she drew on her faith when making tough decisions.
Asked during the interview how she approached making tough decisions such as those around Brexit, May replied: “It’s about, ‘Are you doing the right thing?’ If you know you are doing the right thing, you have the confidence, the energy to go and deliver that right message.”
When it was put to her that her answer sounded “moral”, May added: “I suppose there is something in terms of faith, I am a practising member of the Church of England and so forth, that lies behind what I do.
“Ultimately, if you’ve [looked at the evidence] and you believe it’s the right thing to do , then you should go and do it — but sometimes it is difficult.”
May, the only child of an Oxfordshire clergyman in a rural parish, also spoke of her upbringing as shaping her worldview.
“Being brought up in a vicarage, of course the advantage is that you do see people from all walks of life, and particularly in villages you see people from all sorts of backgrounds … and all sorts of conditions, in terms of disadvantage and advantage,” May said.
“What came out of my upbringing was a sense of service … my father would be out and about visiting people. I’d go with him on odd occasions, but he’d come back and talk about what was happening.”
But Stephen Evans, the Society’s campaigns director, said it was unacceptable for her to air such beliefs. “Many people lean on their faith during trying times and it’s no surprise that Theresa May is no different,” he said, the Independent has reported.
“However, the Prime Minister would do well to remember 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.”
However, Evans has in turn been criticised for imposing his worldview on May, and British society at large.
Peter Ould, an author and commentator faith matters, told Breitbart London: “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. 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.”
Caroline Farrow, a spokesman for the Catholic faith through Catholic Voices, concurred, saying: “Unless they have requested that their members refrain from bringing their own humanist beliefs into work, it is inconsistent of the BHA to request that the Prime Ministers does not bring her beliefs into work. Such a demand is unreasonable, meaningless and demonstrates both ignorance and an unpleasant prejudice towards people of faith.
“Every single human being is influenced by a value system or moral code, regardless of whether or not it is faith-based. At a time when much of the electorate are expressing disillusionment with politicians, asking them to put on a front and deny a part of their identity is incompatible with restoring faith and trust in politics.”
She added: “Given that the Christian faith is explicitly concerned with love and compassion for the poor, the sick and the vulnerable, it is difficult to see why the BHA may object to these values being exercised by the leader of the country. As ever, the soft target of Christianity is being used by the BHA to undermine the expression of religious faith in the public square.”