Cameron accused of betraying Christians: Astonishing Easter attack on the PM by former Archbishop of Canterbury
Many Christians doubt David Cameron’s sincerity in pledging to protect their freedoms, former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey says today.
In an article for the Daily Mail, Lord Carey squarely accuses ministers of "aiding and abetting" discrimination against Christians.
He says he believes there is an "aggressive secularist and relativist approach" behind the Government plans to legalise gay marriage and says the Prime Minister has "done more than any other recent political leader" to "feed" Christian anxieties.
As a dramatic new poll released on the eve of Easter Sunday revealed that more than two-thirds of Christians feel they are now part of a "persecuted minority", Lord Carey insists the Government must do more to demonstrate its commitment to pledges to stand up for faith.
The survey suggests churchgoers increasingly feel religious freedoms are under assault from aggressive secularism.
Critics say court rulings against Christians who want to wear crosses at work, and legal action preventing prayers before council meetings, have helped make people feel marginalised.
In the article, Lord Carey expresses particular alarm about apparent Government support for a campaign by Labour MP Chris Bryant to turn the 700-year-old Parliamentary chapel of St Mary Undercroft into a multi-faith prayer room so that gay couples can get married there.
But he also turns his fire on the Prime Minister, saying: "It was a bit rich to hear that the Prime Minister has told religious leaders that they should 'stand up and oppose aggressive secularisation' when it seems that his government is aiding and abetting this aggression every step of the way.
"At his pre-Easter Downing Street reception for faith leaders, he said that he supported Christians’ right to practise their faith. Yet many Christians doubt his sincerity."
The ComRes poll suggests there is continuing resentment over the Government’s decision to legalise same-sex unions, even though there is special protection for the Church of England in the law.
More than half (58 per cent) of Christians who backed the Conservatives in 2010 suggested they will ‘definitely not’ vote for the party in 2015.
The ComRes poll of 535 regular churchgoers, commissioned by the Coalition for Marriage (C4M), reveals that more than two-thirds (67 per cent) of Christians feel that they are part of a ‘persecuted minority’.
The march of secularism means that if trends continue, Britain will no longer be a Christian country by 2030 when the number of non-believers will have overtaken the number of Christians.
In the past six years the number of Muslims has surged by 37 per cent to 2.6 million, Hindus by 43 per cent and Buddhists by a massive 74 per cent.
Numbers who choose to call themselves Christians fell by more than 4 million in a decade after 2001, the 2011 census showed. Fewer than six out of ten – 59.3 per cent – described themselves as Christian.
A decade ago nearly three quarters, 72 per cent, did so. Some 33.2 million people said they were Christian in 2011.
Downing Street strongly rejected Lord Carey’s attack. A spokesman said: "This government strongly backs faith and Christianity in particular, including backing the rights of people wanting to wear crosses at work and hold prayers at council meetings. Christianity plays a vital part in the Big Society."
Here's the text of Lord Carey's article in full, published in the Daily Mail today:
The PM's done more than any other leader to make Christians feel they're perescuted
I like David Cameron and believe he is genuinely sincere in his desire to make Britain a generous nation where we care for one another and where people of faith may exercise their beliefs fully.
But it was a bit rich to hear that the Prime Minister has told religious leaders that they should ‘stand up and oppose aggressive secularisation’ when it seems that his government is aiding and abetting this aggression every step of the way.
At his pre-Easter Downing Street reception for faith leaders, he said that he supported Christians’ right to practise their faith. Yet many Christians doubt his sincerity. According to a new ComRes poll more than two-thirds of Christians feel that they are part of a ‘persecuted minority’.
Their fears may be exaggerated because few in the UK are actually persecuted, but the Prime Minister has done more than any other recent political leader to feed these anxieties.
He seems to have forgotten in spite of his oft-repeated support for the right of Christians to wear the cross, that lawyers acting for the Coalition argued only months ago in the Strasbourg court that those sacked for wearing a cross against their employer’s wishes should simply get another job.
More shockingly, the Equalities Minister, Helen Grant, recently gave her support to the Labour MP Chris Bryant’s campaign to turn the 700-year-old Parliamentary chapel of St Mary Undercroft into a multi-faith prayer room so that gay couples can get married there. The Speaker of the House of Commons is reported to be supportive of the move.
Now, there are many questions that we need to ask. If this means the removal of Christian symbols from the chapel to accommodate all faiths and even humanist ceremonies this would amount to changing the chapel fundamentally, even to banishing the Christian faith from the seat of political power. This would have implications for Her Majesty, the Queen, and could place her in a very difficult position as the chapel is a Royal Peculiar under her direct patronage.
As David Cameron knows, I am very suspicious that behind the plans to change the nature of marriage, which come before the House of Lords soon, there lurks an aggressive secularist and relativist approach towards an institution that has glued society together for time immemorial.
By dividing marriage into religious and civil the Government threatens the church and state link which they purport to support. But they also threaten to empty marriage of its fundamental religious and civic meaning as an institution orientated towards the upbringing of children.
If this is not enough, the legislation fails to provide any protection for religious believers in employment who cannot subscribe to the new meaning of marriage. There will be no exemptions for believers who are registrars. They can expect to be sacked if they cannot, in all conscience, support same-sex marriage.
Strong legal opinion also suggests that Christian teachers, who are required to teach about marriage, may face disciplinary action if they cannot express agreement with the new politically-correct orthodoxy.
The danger I believe that the Government is courting with its approach both to marriage and religious freedom, is the alienation of a large minority of people who only a few years ago would have been considered pillars of society.
Today’s ComRes poll suggests that more than three-quarters of Christians believe that the Government is not listening. More than half of Christians who backed the Conservatives in 2010 say they will ‘definitely not’ vote for the party in 2015.
This continues the breakdown in trust between politicians and the people they serve.
Among these people are very many volunteers, school governors and public servants. In their churches they provide soup kitchens and advice centres, and many other valuable initiatives. They are the ‘big society’ which David Cameron was advocating until recently.
The Government risks entrenching a very damaging division in British society by driving law-abiding Christians into the ranks of the malcontents and alienated – of whom there are already far too many.