More needs to be done to protect the freedoms of religious believers, according to a new report.
A publication by influential think tank ResPublica, calls for reasonable accommodation of religious beliefs to be written into any forthcoming legislation on a British Bill of Rights.
It comes as concerns were voiced in Parliament that Christians are afraid of mentioning their faith in public.
The report argues that rights once used to ensure diversity are now used to “erode difference and enforce a uniform and unwelcome conformity on society”.
“This trend is particularly true with the right to religious liberty and the treatment of religious groups”, it says.
It particularly highlights evidence of a “growing preference” for putting the right not to be discriminated against on grounds of sexual orientation above the right to manifest a religious belief, which it terms the “relentless privitisation of religious beliefs”.
A free and plural society, it says, should “protect difference and ensure equity between those of different dispositions”.
David Burrowes, Conservative MP and Chairman of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, welcomed the report saying: “Religious liberty is a fundamental right, but recently we have seen it being downgraded compared to other human rights.
“This ResPublica report delivers a strong set of recommendations for Government”.
He added that the UK should commit to “reasonable accommodation of religious belief”.
Mr Burrowes’ comments echo a call for legal change issued earlier this week, by Deputy Director for Public Affairs at The Christian Institute, Simon Calvert.
He said: “We have long argued that equality law needs rebalancing so that courts have to take time to weigh up competing rights to see if both sides can be reasonably accommodated.
“Too often the courts come down strongly in favour of the secular liberal side of the argument.”
Nola Leach, Chief Executive of CARE (Christian Action Research & Education), said: “Religious freedom can be seen as a luxury – but it is an essential human right that must be protected.
“This report highlights some concerning trends which show how faith is becoming sidelined in the public square and could lead to a greater privatisation of religious beliefs.”
“We must allow for reasonable accommodation for religious belief in UK law so that policymakers and judges can balance the rights and freedoms that different groups and individuals are entitled to in the UK most effectively”, she added.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Theresa May stressed that Christians should be able to speak about their faith in the workplace.
Responding to a question in Parliament, Mrs May said the UK has a ‘strong tradition of religious tolerance and free speech’, and added that our “Christian heritage is something we can all be proud of”.