An influential elite class of secularists is making it increasingly difficult for Christian views to be heard in politics, two writers have warned.
Groups like the National Secular Society are gaining success in their campaign for a “state where religion is only allowed in private” writes Daily Telegraph commentator Ed West.
Mr West points out that it is now commonly accepted that someone’s religious faith can “neutralise” their opinion on issues such as abortion.
“Never mind that there are perfectly rational reasons for having these beliefs”, he adds.
And Tim Montgomerie, the editor of a Conservative blog, warns of “a secular fundamentalism that is trying to push people of faith outside the public square”.
Mr Montgomerie adds: “My own hunch is that the intolerance of Christianity is largely an elite class thing.
“Most Britons – even if they don’t go to church – still have a deep affection for the Christian faith and Jesus’ teachings.”
Both articles come in response to an attack by the National Secular Society (NSS) on the Roman Catholic beliefs of David Kerr, the SNP candidate for the forthcoming Glasgow North East by-election.
Mr Kerr is a member of the group Opus Dei, which Mr Montgomerie, an Anglican, says has been made out to be an “extreme organisation” in books and films.
However, Mr Montgomerie writes, the group is “no more ‘hardline’ on moral issues than the Evangelical Alliance or the Conservative Christian Fellowship or the Black Majority Churches on issues of when life starts and ends and on marriage, for example”.
When the SNP announced David Kerr as its candidate, the NSS said: “The concern for voters would be that such a person would have their allegiance to the Church and not to the SNP.
“It is one thing to bring your religious beliefs to politics, but it is another to bring the dogmas of a right-wing Catholic organisation. That would be the worry for voters.”
But Mr West points out that “millions of British citizens have conflicting loyalties”, adding: “I have mixed feelings when England play Ireland at football – does that discount me from public office?”
Mr West continues: “As for the question of dogma – are not aspects of modern liberalism ‘dogma’, faith systems themselves?
“When Harriet Harman or Ed Balls press ahead with policy based on the belief that all human beings are genetically equally intelligent or capable, is that stone-cold rationalism?”
Mr Montgomorie points out: “Our country’s history of social reform has had Christians at its heart (Wilberforce and Shaftesbury).”
He adds: “It is of course perfectly acceptable for a voter to decide to withhold their vote from David Kerr because of his views on abortion. That’s democracy.
“But I would counter that a new intolerance of Christianity would be very bad for politics as whole.”