Christians in the UK feel they are getting a rough ride, the US Department of State has said in a report on international religious freedom.
Watch US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, speak about religious freedom
For non-Christian believers there was no change in respect for religious freedom in the UK but for Christians it may be a different story, the State Department suggested.
The report highlighted many cases involving religious freedom in the UK, including Dale Mcalpine, a Christian street preacher arrested by police in Cumbria earlier this year for saying homosexual conduct is a sin.
And, under the heading: “Restrictions on Religious Freedom”, the report highlighted the case of a foster carer with 10 years experience who was struck off when a Muslim girl in her care converted to Christianity. She later won her legal battle.
The US report is issued annually from the State Department, which is responsible for carrying out US foreign policy.
This year’s International Religious Freedom Report looked at nearly 200 countries and territories, and said that in the UK, laws and policies “contributed to the generally free practice of religion”.
However, the report said that “Christians continued to voice concern about the ability to express their faith in the workplace”.
Launching the report, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said religious freedom is “both a fundamental human right and an essential element to any stable, peaceful, thriving society”.
Mrs Clinton also said religious freedom “begins with private beliefs and communal religious expression, but doesn’t end there”.
She said it includes “the right to raise one’s children in one’s faith, to share one’s faith peacefully with others, to publish religious materials without censorship, to change one’s religion – by choice, not coercion, and to practice no religion at all”.
Mrs Clinton also hit out at moves to ban controversial speech, saying that attempts to “stifle” or drive underground a “diversity of ideas” are wrong.
She said: “Societies in which freedom of religion and speech flourish are more resilient, more stable, more peaceful, and more productive.”
The report mentioned the case of Lillian Ladele, a Christian registrar who was disciplined because of her stance on civil partnerships. Her case is now heading to the European Court of Human Rights.
And the report highlighted adoption agency Catholic Care. It is the last remaining Roman Catholic adoption agency in England not to be crushed or forced to ditch its religious ethos as a result of equality regulations.
Also noted is a vote in the House of Lords at the beginning of this year which meant churches and other faith-based employers can still protect their ethos by insisting staff live consistently with the religion’s doctrine on sexual behaviour.
The US report also highlighted concerns over Sharia law, picking up on reports that a small but increasing number of non-Muslims are turning to Sharia courts to resolve civil disputes.