A survey of 12,000 ordinary Christians in the UK has shown that 50% of UK Christians have personally experienced prejudice because they are Christian, but this jumps to 70% among 15-19 year olds. The survey also found that 67% say they are unable to be open about their faith in the workplace, 80% believe Christianity is not given equal respect with other faiths and worldviews and 93% feel Christianity is being marginalised.
The survey comes in the wake of the recent UK general election campaign, which led to the resignation of Liberal Democrat Party leader Tim Farron. Mr Farron said he had found it impossible to reconcile being both a committed (evangelical) Christian and the Leader of the Lib-Dems. During the campaign, he had been repeatedly asked overtly theological questions both by the press and his party members about what was and was not a sin. His brief resignation statement concluded by saying, “To be a political leader - especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 - and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible's teaching, has felt impossible for me … I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in. In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society. That's why I have chosen to step down as leader of the Liberal Democrats".
During the general election, as Barnabas Fund reported, a number of other Christian candidates were targeted by some elements of the mainstream press specifically because of their Christian beliefs, such as believing in miracles. Several of those who were targeted in this way either lost their seats or failed to win marginal seats they otherwise might have had a reasonable expectation of winning. Significantly, these press attacks were actually remarkably similar to the way that sections of the press sought to “out” gay candidates a generation ago.
So, whilst there may not yet be a new “Test Act” saying you have to hold certain beliefs to stand for parliament, there is clear evidence that the sort of marginalisation of Bible-believing Christians this survey talks about is actually happening. This being the case, there is a very real risk that political parties will operate a process of behind-the-scenes discrimination against even selecting Bible-believing Christians as parliamentary candidates.
Responding to the survey Lord Bourne, the Minister for Faith and Integration, said, "The Christian faith contributes a huge amount to our communities and allows other faith groups to flourish”.
However, it is time senior figures in all political parties stopped simply saying Christians do great work in the community and instead actually did something to tackle the growing prejudice and discrimination faced by Christians.