Farron: ‘Secularism is not neutral’

Christianity underpins our freedoms and discarding it damages democracy.

This was the central message of a lecture for think-tank Theos this week, presented by former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron.

Mr Farron, who stood down after the General Election in May, also defended Ashers Baking Company, but failed to back Christian hoteliers Hazelmary and Peter Bull.


In his address, Farron outlined his views on how democracy is being corroded. “Christians”, he said, “have more reason than most to be alarmed”.

Farron observed that “for many years now, our culture has considered that the absence of faith is the neutral position, and that the holding of a religious faith is eccentric”.

“But if your faith actually affects your world view in any way that puts it at odds with the mainstream, then your faith is considered to be malign and intolerable”, he said.

Commenting on the idea that secularism is ‘neutral’, he added “this viewpoint is not only clearly prevalent, but staggeringly arrogant – and obviously wrong”.


The former Lib Dem leader went on to describe the freedoms that follow counter-cultural Christianity.

“The abolition of slavery led by evangelical Christians most notably Wilberforce, the laws to prevent industrial exploitation led by committed Christian Lord Shaftesbury”.

He continued: “If you believe that you have been saved by grace, by a God who commands that you then show that same selfless love to others, if you believe that God created every person of equal value and dignity and in his own image, and if you believe that you are answerable to that God, then that belief will not leave you unmoved.”

In contrast he said liberalism had ‘stopped being liberal’ and instead become the oppressor of free society.


Following the lecture, Mr Farron was quizzed on several issues including the Ashers Baking company case in Northern Ireland.

Asked on the stance of Ashers’ owners the McArthur family, who are being supported by The Christian Institute after they declined to bake a cake bearing a pro-gay marriage campaign slogan, he said:

“It’s about being asked, whether you like it or not, to make a political statement”.

“It’s not a question about judging the sexuality of the person who came in. It’s about whether one has to repeat a political message”.

Peter & Hazelmary Bull

However, commenting on the case of Peter and Hazelmary Bull, who allowed only married couples to share a double bed at their B&B, he said he had “no problem whatsoever” with Christian hoteliers being forced to give a gay couple a room in their home.

The Bulls were ordered to pay damages of £3,600 and were left with a very uncertain future financially. But they won support from Christians across the world because of their consistent and principled stand.

Tim Farron stood down as Liberal Democrat leader after his failure to answer the question ‘is gay sex sinful?’ on several occasions. He eventually told the BBC that homosexual practice is not sinful.

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