Christians should feel free to speak about their faith, the Bishop of Leeds has said, as he criticised ‘open minded’ people who are “frightened of religious expression”.
The Rt Revd Nick Baines said it was secularists, rather than followers of other religions, who sometimes had a problem with Christians speaking about their faith.
“I think if you claim to be open-minded and liberal, why are you so frightened of religious expression?”, he added.
The Bishop made the comments after a spate of stories about the ability of Christians to speak out about their faith.
Prime Minister Theresa May backed the right in Parliament, while a report called for religious believers to have more legal protections.
And a Christian teaching assistant was disciplined for expressing views on same-sex relationships – although the school later apologised in an out-of-court settlement.
Bishop Baines told the Press Association: “Clearly there are some Christians who are concerned about whether they are free to talk about their faith in a respectful and appropriate way in the workplace.
“Equally, there are plenty of people who are not Christians who think that Christians shouldn’t, or think there is an issue around it. I call it religious illiteracy.”
Are they going to tell Muslims they have got to strip Islam out of Eid? It’s just ludicrous.
The Rt Revd Nick Baines
He noted that some people have been disciplined, or threatened with discipline, for talking about Christianity.
“Someone makes a complaint and says they have been inappropriate. This is absurd”.
The Bishop also said it was nonsensical that some people are “trying to strip the religion out of Christmas”.
“The joke with all of this is that most people of other faiths have absolutely no problem with anyone talking about their faith. It’s the secularists that have a problem”, the Bishop added.
“It is a Christian festival. Are they going to tell Muslims they have got to strip Islam out of Eid? It’s just ludicrous.”
And he warned that liberalism “can become very intolerant of anything that doesn’t fit its own parameters”.
Last week, in response to a question from Fiona Bruce MP, Theresa May agreed that the ability to ‘speak freely, respectfully and responsibly about one’s religion’ should be a ‘jealously guarded principle’.
In a report on religious liberty, think-tank ResPublica said more needs to be done to protect the freedoms of religious believers.
It argues that rights once used to ensure diversity are now used to “erode difference and enforce a uniform and unwelcome conformity on society”.