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Laura Keynes: The Christian dilemma. How to vote in a land of secular liberalism?


A major poll has found that 30 per cent of voters will not back the Conservative Party in the European elections following David Cameron’s decision to redefine marriage.

The ComRes poll, commissioned by Coalition for Marriage, polled over 2000 people ahead of the European elections. It found that nearly three in ten voters cited the Conservative Party’s policy on same sex marriage as the reason for not voting Tory. It also revealed that six in ten people thought David Cameron introduced same sex marriage to make the Conservative Party look trendy.

The scepticism didn’t end there: over half of those polled said they lacked confidence in David Cameron’s power and determination to block future proposals from Europe that might undermine our freedoms, and 65 per cent of respondents were concerned about the erosion of free speech in Britain.

For Christians, the issue of same sex marriage has never been solely about whether the state has the authority to redefine marriage, but about whether having done so the state can guarantee toleration and freedom of speech for those who uphold traditional marriage. Now the European Parliament is demanding an ‘Equal Treatment Directive’ which could result in litigation if someone claims to feel ‘harrassed’ by, say, explanations of church teaching on marriage.

Whether or not Mr Cameron has said enough to reassure Christians (and I don’t think he has – or can), the poll suggests voters are not convinced. So can Christians still vote Conservative? And ifnot, what are the alternatives?

It’s not just same-sex marriage that worries Christian voters, but life issues from abortion to assisted dying, economic policies adversely affecting stay-at-home mums, the persecution of Christians abroad, and welfare cuts that affect the most vulnerable in society.

The issues cross party lines, but the Conservative push for same-sex marriage signals that all three main parties now follow a secular liberal agenda, leaving Christian voters – myself included – stuck as to how to cast their vote.

Speaking to the Catholic Herald recently on the question of whether Catholics can still vote Conservative Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said, “There is no party political answer.” He observed: “It is now quite difficult to be a Labour MP who is opposed to abortion”, and “LibDems will go for assisted suicide”.

Christian voters concerned with taking back UK control over discrimination law will find UKIP particularly appealing, but might want to scrutinize the views of individual candidates. One UKIP candidate was suspended after it became known that he supported the compulsory abortion of babies with Downs Syndrome.

Taking the time to find out candidates’ views from across the political parties seems to be the only sensible option. But for many Christian voters with longstanding tribal affiliations to one party or another, it will go against the grain to waver and swing left or right. Some might vote for the Christian People’s Alliance if, after going on an individual basis, there is no candidate from the major parties for whom a Christian could vote in good conscience.

The ComRes poll predicts a UKIP win, with Labour and Conservative fighting it out for second place. One thing’s for sure: the Christian constituency has real power in this election but needs to think very carefully.

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Laura Keynes
Laura Keynes
Dr Keynes is a Cambridge-based academic, writer and critic with two very young children. She writes for Standpoint magazine, the Catholic Herald and The Tablet. Find her on twitter @LMKeynes.

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