Religious freedom ‘under attack’ in the UK, MPs hear

Freedom of religion is under attack in the UK today from “aggressive secularists” and the religiously illiterate, a Christian MP has said.

Fiona Bruce made the statement during a debate on freedom of religion and belief in Westminster Hall.

The debate was led by Jim Shannon MP, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief.

‘Aggressive secularists’

Bruce said: “The hard-won freedom of religion is under attack in the UK today, whether unintentionally by those who lack religious literacy, more deliberately from aggressive secularists, through attacks by one faith on another, or simply by those who ridicule people of faith in the 21st century.”

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The Conservative MP for Congleton went on to criticise the Government’s proposed ‘Equality Oath’ which would have forced doctors, teachers and other public office holders to swear to uphold a vague list of ‘British values’.

“Drawing up a new set of beliefs that people have to sign up to could take us back to the 17th century, and attempts to draw one up have been troubled”, she said.

“If the Government are still considering that suggestion, I urge them to reconsider it and to withdraw it”.

‘Secular values’

Foreign Office Minister Mark Field also expressed doubts about the wisdom of an equality oath.

He said: “we might well reflect on [Bruce’s] words about the desirability of insisting that politicians sign up to a pre-election pledge of presumably secular values.

“I hope we can think again before heading down a path that might have the unintended consequences to which she referred.”

Stephen Kerr MP added that freedom of religion “is the right to choose, change, declare and act upon one’s faith. It includes the freedom to worship, but it is much more than that. It is the right to exercise or practise one’s religion without Government interference.”

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