Britain is ‘falling down as a liberal society’ by bullying people like Tim Farron and the Christian owners of Ashers Baking Company, a newspaper columnist has warned.
Ross Clark joined a member of the House of Lords and a think-tank researcher in speaking up for the former Liberal Democrat leader following his resignation this week.
Writing in the Daily Express, Clark said he was concerned about a “growing inconsistency in a supposedly liberal British society”.
“If you are gay, you will be applauded for shouting it from the rooftops. Yet if you are Christian, you are treated with suspicion or with outright disdain”, he said.
Clark warned that the issue was broader than simply party politics, with the Ashers Baking Company case being a sobering example.
The Belfast-based company, which is owned and run by the McArthur family, was sued after it declined to decorate a cake with a pro-gay marriage campaign slogan.
The Christian Institute is supporting the McArthurs as they take their case to the UK Supreme Court.
Ross Clark reminded readers that Ashers had not rejected the order because of the customer’s sexual orientation, but because of the message.
He added that it was good that laws prevent people in Britain bullying others over race or sexuality, but, “we fall down as a liberal society when we start bullying people on the basis of their religious beliefs instead”.
On Wednesday, Farron said he found it “impossible” to hold to the Bible’s teaching and lead the Liberal Democrats.
Nick Spencer, Research Director at the religious think-tank Theos, described Farron’s comments as alarming.
“Liberalism has a much-needed role to play in contemporary society, but it is increasingly being hijacked by those who think that liberal tolerance is only for tolerant liberals”, he said.
Lord Alton, who left the Liberal Democrats in the 1990s over the issue of abortion, said: “Tim Farron should never have been forced to make this choice but has made the right call”.
During the election campaign, Farron was hounded for his views concerning homosexuality – resulting in him telling the BBC in April that homosexual practice is not sinful.
However, an opinion poll for The Christian Institute showed a clear majority of people support the right of politicians with traditional views to express them.