Religious freedom which exists in private but not in the public square is a “form of oppression”, a former senior judge has warned.
The Christian Institute responded to Sir Michael Tugendhat’s comments by calling for the principle of reasonable accommodation to be considered by politicians.
Sir Michael, who retired from the High Court last year, compared some modern day views on freedom of speech to leaders in Tudor times.
Sir Michael commented: “The terrible story of the Tudor-Stuart religious divisions should be a reminder that freedom which is confined entirely to the privacy of a person’s home is a form of oppression.”
“The fact that states recognise human rights and natural rights and even the fact that they may enshrine them in their laws doesn’t mean they always respect them”, Sir Michael said.
He also said that legal cases involving religion “have become increasingly frequent”, compared to the start of his career.
The Christian Institute’s Deputy Director Simon Calvert, responding to the former judge’s comments, noted the effect of recent laws on Christians.
He said: “No one can deny that recent changes to equality law have led to a major increase in the number of Christians being marginalised for their faith.
“The Equality and Human Rights Commission recently published a report showing widespread discrimination against Christians.
“This is happening because laws have been rushed through parliament without a proper balancing of rights.
“Combine this with the rise of an intolerant form of secularism and you have a toxic mix.”
Mr Calvert also called for politicians to revisit equality legislation.
And he added: “The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe overwhelmingly backed a report into intolerance against Christians, highlighting a need to improve the principle of reasonable accommodation. This has to be looked at very seriously.”
He also referred to people helped by The Christian Institute’s Legal Defence Fund, including the McArthur family who own Ashers Baking Company in Northern Ireland.
A ruling on the Ashers case is set to be announced on Tuesday 19 May.