Christians should not be punished for open displays of their faith, a Church of England bishop has said.
The Rt Revd Donald Allister, the Bishop of Peterborough, made the comments as he backed a motion supporting the right of Christians to live out their faith publicly.
Over 100 members of the Church of England General Synod have given their backing to the motion, as well as three bishops, according to The Sunday Telegraph.
The comments come as a quartet of religious liberty cases involving Christians are set to appear before the European Court of Human Rights.
Two of the cases involve Christians who wanted to wear a cross at work. The Government has decided not to support the Christians, instead backing previous rulings from British courts.
The Bishop of Peterborough said that while wearing a cross “isn’t a compulsory part of Christianity”, it is important for believers to “be public about their faith as well as private”.
He commented: “I hope the General Synod will affirm that because it’s saying to those judges – not all, but to those few –, it is not quite as simple as you think.”
The bishop added: “Christianity isn’t to be privatised and shut away behind closed doors for consenting adults – it’s public.”
The motion calls on the Church of England national assembly to declare that Christians should manifest their faith “in public life as well as in private, giving expression to our beliefs in the written and spoken word, and in practical acts of service to the local community and to the nation”.
The Revd Stephen Trott, who drew up the motion, warned that attempts to ban prayers at public occasions, or to prohibit the display of the cross, “may well ultimately lead to the effective privatisation of religion, in which it can only be manifested in one’s own home – or worse, only within one’s own private thoughts”.
He also criticised some “ludicrous examples” of Christian marginalisation, “such as the reluctance of some retailers to stock Christmas cards or Easter eggs with explicitly Christian themes”.
The motion is in the Contingency Business of the Synod agenda, which means it may be debated this week.