British Christians are among those suffering under divisive politically correct values imposed by the state, a senior Conservative has said.
In a speech given last night at Queen Mary, University of London, shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve called for common sense to replace policies which undermine individual freedoms.
He referred to the recent high profile cases of Christians such as NHS nurse, Caroline Petrie, and school receptionist, Jennie Cain, being punished for expressing their faith.
He said cases like this arise when authorities act in line with “the principles of equality and diversity” which were intended to unite people but have ended up “doing great harm to the worthy cause of promoting harmony”.
Mr Grieve criticised the Government for creating an atmosphere in which hot cross buns are banned for fear of upsetting Muslims, but problems like forced marriages are left unchallenged because of “cultural sensitivities”.
He also expressed concern at Government plans to remove a free speech safeguard from the ‘homophobic hatred’ law.
NHS nurse, Caroline Petrie, was suspended for offering to pray for a patient. She was reinstated after a national outcry.
Jennie Cain’s five-year-old daughter was scolded at school for discussing her Christian beliefs. Mrs Cain works at the school and may face the sack because she asked friends at church to pray about the matter.
The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, recently threw his support behind the two women in these cases, arguing that Christians were being asked to leave their faith at the door when entering the workplace.
Mr Grieve said Britain “has defined itself for many generations as a place where freedom of expression, political and religious, can be practised”, but said such freedoms were now under threat.
Current policies simply divide people up into “ethnic, religious or social groups”, he said, “rather than treating everyone as an individual in their own right”.
The Government, he said, should be protecting the common values of freedom under the law, “not imposing its own values or acting as thought police”.
Moreover, he said, people have lost confidence in their own identity because of “zealous regulation of conduct, the imposition of state-defined orthodoxy on public and private conscience and the overburdening of law and regulation”.
He said that Britain’s disappearing identity made it more difficult for minority groups to fit in.
He said: “Indeed I have been struck as to how often I have been told by groups of alienated young British Muslims that they live in a society without any values.”
Fear of offending minorities has also led to the “dumbing down” of history lessons so that British children grow up not knowing their own cultural heritage.
He said children are “encouraged to be contemptuous of people who in the past did not live up to the then unknown values of modern Britain”.
Mr Grieve pointed to the historical development of the “freedom and equality under the law” which has been central to British identity.
He said: “It is a remarkable story and we are fortunate that others before us chose, often in difficult circumstances, and not without sometimes bloody conflict to protect and expand rights and freedoms when it must have been very tempting not to do so.”
These freedoms are one of the main attractions for immigrants coming to Britain, he said.
“Yet,” he went on, “as those in government extol human rights and promote laws to enhance equality and diversity we seem to be fast losing sight of these basic principles that have done so much to unite us.
“On the contrary, we may lament that society is in danger of losing its cohesion.”