People in Britain today who actively hold a faith are considered to be “dangerous and offensive,” according to Tim Farron MP, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats. Mr Farron resigned less than a week after last June’s general election campaign, during which he was repeatedly pressed on his personal beliefs, including his views on gay sex.
“If you actively hold a faith that is more than an expression of cultural identity…you are deemed far worse than eccentric. You are dangerous. You are offensive,” the politician is expected to say at the annual Theos lecture in London on Tuesday evening.
Mr Farron, an evangelical Christian, stepped down after intense media scrutiny of his religious beliefs during the election campaign. In a statement at the time, he said: “To be a political leader and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching has felt impossible for me.” The focus on his faith, he explained, meant that “I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader.”
In his speech to the Theos think tank, the former liberal leader considers the idea of tolerance and liberalism in modern British politics. He rejects the idea of a unifying set of British values and questions whether society is truly tolerant of other beliefs.
“People talk about shared values today. But when they do, what they mean is these are my values – and I am going to act as though they are also yours, and will demonstrate contempt for you if you depart from them.”
He argues that given this diversity, the only way to hold society together is through ‘real’ liberalism that accepts religious differences.
Christianity and faith lie at the core of liberal values, according to the MP, who warns that “to relegate Christianity is to hollow out liberalism.”
At the time of his resignation, Mr Farron said that he had been the “subject of suspicion” because of his own beliefs, although he was passionate about defending the rights and liberties of people who believed differently to him. Questions about his faith were legitimate, he said, but they “distracted” from party’s election campaign.
During the campaign, he was repeatedly asked in media interviews to clarify his views on gay sex, but to begin with, he did not answer directly. While the Liberal Democrats increased their number of seats from nine to 12 at the election, their vote share fell and they failed to make further gains on the back of a commitment to hold a second EU referendum.
PICTURE: Tim Farron pictured in March of this year ©PA