What is more important than the (immoral) pension triple lock? What is more important than the (immoral) socialised health system, ‘our’ NHS? What is even more important that Brexit? Your conscience, dear reader, that’s what.
So I hope you did not miss the grand inquisition by Andrew Marr of our Christian Prime Minister Theresa May. There were the usual questions on all the matters of public policy including Brexit, and then there was this question: I have just been having a conversation with Tim Farron about his attitude to gay sex. You are also a Christian. Do you think gay sex is a sin?
The Vicar’s daughter answered with a very firm, No. This is her right, but I do not think it was a legitimate question to put, just as I do not think it was a legitimate question to put to Tim Farron.
What we have here, is a de facto Faith Test. Back in 1678, the Act for preventing dangers that might arise from Popish recusants demanded that those taking public office had to take an oath and declaration against (the Roman Catholic belief of) transubstantiation.
Today, those seeking public office must make a public declaration that they do not believe gay sex is a sin, even though this is a private belief on an issue of private morality, that will have no bearing on public policy.
It was very clear that the question was premised on the fact of May’s Christianity. You are a Christian that may have dodgy beliefs, Marr did not quite say, but he might as well have done. As such, she and her belief system were fair game. It was May’s Christianity, religious thoughts and conscience that were being interrogated. I wonder if politicians of other faiths will get the same treatment?
In a democracy, people – even politicians seeking public office – are entitled to a private life and private beliefs that do not impinge on public policy. And in this case, views as to whether gay sex is sinful or not, do not to impinge on public policy any more than a Catholic politician’s beliefs on contraception impact on public policy.
But there was worse to follow. After Theresa May’s firm answer, Marr went on to the even more important issue of how Christians in general are treated in public life. He said (to paraphrase): To you think ….there is an aggressively judgmental mood being imposed upon Christians in this country that other groups do not have to face?
This was it. This was May’s chance to stand up for the Christian conscience and she utterly failed to do so. She could have said yes, these questions and the questions to Farron are a Faith Test and illegitimate, but she did not do so. Instead, she said, (also paraphrasing):
Obviously, if he is a leader of a political party, who is putting himself up for election asking the public to trust him, he is bound to get questions from all sorts of groups.
Ok, so she did not quite throw Farron under the bus, but she did not stand up for the conscience of all Chrisitans – the fluffy ones and the ‘fundamentalists’ – either.
So when she said in her Easter message that “the British public should be confident about the role that Christianity has to play in the lives of people in our country” what she meant was we can be proud of the fluffy, liberal-approved Christian beliefs, but not the unfashionable ones. And don’t look to me – the Christian Prime Minister – to provide any protection for religious belief, speech or indeed conscience itself.
Now, I don’t like to think that May is the kind of person that would have shopped the Christian family to the Roman authorities for not making the appropriate sacrifice to the pagan gods, but I kinda think she would. Maybe – it depends on how dark my mood is.
So back in the day, the issue was transubstantiation. Today is it gay sex (of course it is in these sex obsessed times) and in 10 years time politicians will be asked, do you think men who ‘transition’ to being women are really, really women? Not just transgender women, but women?
And if you don’t line up and nod in agreement prepare to be excluded from public life and public office. And although there might always be a few people around to say, listen the Emperor is in fact in his nudey-nude – they will be dismissed as bigots and phobic-something-or-others. And I, for one, shall remember the day that May did not lift a finger to stop this witch-hunt of orthodox Christians from continuing. Just one more nail in the Christian coffin.