Tony Blair has warned UK Christians they live in an age of “aggressive secularism” and criticised recent “ludicrous decisions” which have seen them punished for expressing their beliefs.
In an interview with the Church of England newspaper the former Prime Minister said: “In general terms in British society there is a risk that people see faith as a personal eccentricity.”
He has previously admitted that he avoided expressing his religious convictions while in office for fear of being branded a “nutter”.
Mr Blair was invited to comment on the spate of recent cases involving public sector employees punished with disciplinary action and even dismissal for being open about their Christian faith.
An NHS nurse, Caroline Petrie, was suspended for offering to pray for a patient and a foster carer was struck off for allowing a Muslim girl to convert to Christianity.
A five-year-old girl was scolded at school for discussing her Christian beliefs. Her mother, Jennie Cain, works at the school and may face the sack because she asked friends at church to pray about the matter.
He replied: “I hope and believe that stories of people not being allowed to express their Christianity are exceptional or the result of individual ludicrous decisions. My view is that people should be proud of their Christianity and able to express it as they wish.”
He went on to say: “The real test of a religion is whether in an age of aggressive secularism it has the confidence to go out and make its case by persuasion.”
Some will say that Mr Blair must shoulder some of the blame for stirring up a culture of political correctness which has marginalised Christians.
During his years in office a raft of diversity and equality laws were introduced to the statute books.
Towards the end of Tony Blair’s time at 10 Downing Street his Government was responsible for introducing ‘gay rights’ laws which have threatened Roman Catholic adoption agencies that only place children with married heterosexual couples.
When asked about the controversy surrounding the decision, Mr Blair said: “I happen to take the gay rights position.”
“But at the time of the Catholic adoption society dispute I was also concerned that these people who were doing a fantastic job were not put out of business. You have got to try to work your way through these issues,” he added.
Mr Blair’s comments come just days after his wife Cherie lamented that “Christians are often being marginalised and faith is something few people like to discuss openly”.