British Prime Minister Theresa May has launched a defence of the right of Christians to express their faith in her Easter message.
Mrs. May said the government would stand up for people who speak openly of their religion, and would oppose moves to drive faith from public life.
In a video message, the Prime Minister, whose father was an Anglican vicar, said she was shaped by the “values that I learnt in my own childhood, growing up in a vicarage”.
“We should be confident about the role that Christianity has to play in the lives of people in our country. We should treasure the strong tradition that we have in this country of religious tolerance and freedom of speech.
“We must continue to ensure that people feel able to speak about their faith and that absolutely includes their faith in Christ.
“And we must do more to stand up for the freedom of people of all religions to practise their beliefs openly and in peace and safety.”
Her comments come days after the High Court ruled in favour of new guidelines that could force Christian pharmacists to dispense abortion drugs against their deeply-held beliefs.
The guidelines state that pharmacists must not “impose” their beliefs on others, and must “take responsibility for ensuring that person-centred care is not compromised because of personal values and beliefs”.
Campaigners fear this could effectively force Christians to choose between their career and their religion.
The General Pharmaceutical Council had faced a legal challenge to its rules, with Dr. Peter Saunders of the Christian Medical Fellowship calling them “draconian”, “unethical, unnecessary and quite possibly illegal”.
Earlier this month, the Prime Minister also waded into controversy over the National Trust’s decision to drop the word “Easter” from its annual egg hunt.
Chocolate firm Cadbury, which sponsors the event, said they wanted to appeal to non-Christians. “We invite people from all faiths and none to enjoy our seasonal treats,” they said.
However, Mrs. May hit out at the decision, saying: “I think the stance they’ve taken is absolutely ridiculous and I don’t know what they’re thinking about.
“Easter’s very important. It’s important to me, it’s a very important festival for the Christian faith for millions across the world.
“So I think what the National Trust is doing is frankly just ridiculous.”