All holders of public office could be forced to swear an ‘Equality Oath’ showing their allegiance to so-called British values, a Cabinet Minister has said.
Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, believes those who do not accept such values will “struggle to play a positive role in British life”.
But the idea has been criticised in the media and The Christian Institute warned it could lead to people with traditional views being excluded.
Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said: “Equality sounds nice but it is in the name of equality that Ashers Baking Company has been taken to court, B&B owners sued and a faithful Christian registrar forced out of her job.”
Writing in The Sunday Times, Javid backed a call to introduce an oath covering “fundamental British values” for all holders of public office.
Javid claimed diversity is part of “what makes Britain great”, stating: “I don’t want to see a government-approved, one-size-fits-all identity imposed on everyone in this country.”
But, he continued, people should sign up to “tolerating the views of others, even if you disagree with them” and a belief in “freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from abuse”.
“I’m talking about a belief in equality, democracy and the democratic process. And about respect for the law, even if you think the law is an ass.”
An editorial in The Independent strongly criticised the idea, saying it would deny the right to dissent.
It said: “Why should anyone have to sign up to some officially approved list of moral rules if they don’t believe in them? This is effectively the case if their livelihood depends on it.
“If a soldier or a teacher doesn’t believe in equality, should they be forced to say they do just to hang onto their job? Would it make them better or worse citizens?”
If this ‘Equality Oath’ becomes a reality, Christians and many others with deeply-held convictions will find themselves under severe pressure to comply.
The Christian Institute’s Director Colin Hart said: “Talk of respect for the law and free speech is all very well, but the nebulous concept of equality is deeply alarming.
“Sajid Javid speaks about the importance of diversity in this country but real diversity fosters a culture that lets different opinions thrive.
“People in public life have many different views. Forcing them to sign up to this Government’s view of British values is dangerous and illiberal.
“If this ‘Equality Oath’ becomes a reality, Christians and many others with deeply-held convictions will find themselves under severe pressure to comply.
“We should have moved far away from a time in this country when you had to affirm a belief in Government-mandated views in order to hold public office.
“But it seems Mr Javid wants to take us back to the days of the notorious Test and Corporation Acts where the British Government sought to restrict religious practice.
“Christians are good citizens who work for the best in society and seek to love their neighbour.
“This idea is wrong-headed and needs to be stopped before it causes untold damage.”
Sajid Javid made the comments in the wake of a report on integration by Dame Louise Casey. He said he will respond in full next year.