While there is a strong perception that Christianity in Britain, and indeed western Europe, is being treated unfavourably by government at every level it is finally bundled into the closet and out of the public forum. This seems evident in contrast to the apparently positive approach given to so called ‘minority’ faiths in the public forum, for example the normalisation of halal food for everyone and acceptance of head covering for infant school girls. But the churches contain too many people to be ignored completely, as we tend to see in the run-up to elections.
Tony Blair and his family, for example, made a point of being photographed in the newspapers as they came out of church, six months or so before his election landslide of 1997. In December 2011 Prime Minister David Cameron gave a speech in Oxford praising the church for its work and identifying himself as a “committed” but “vaguely practising” Christian. He defended the role of religion in politics and said the Bible in particular was crucial to British values, affirming that the UK is a Christian country “and we should not be afraid to say so”.
It was therefore a shock when his government, with no warning and nothing in its election manifesto on the subject, announced it would change the centuries-old practice of marriage to include homosexual marriage. In early February 2013 this was rammed through Parliament, with the public given no chance to vote on it at an election or referendum. Mr Cameron must have known this would cause the deepest problems to all the Christian churches in the UK. There had been no widespread call for this change, ‘Civil Partnerships’ had been introduced earlier and seemed to satisfy the public as fair.
This radical change by the state is also interesting in the central involvement of the then Home Secretary, church going Theresa May. As Christopher Booker in the [i] Telegraph revealed (http://bit.ly/2RzZcAF) she and the Lib Dem coalition minister Lynne Featherstone used the EU structure of the Council of Europe covertly to develop the plan of forcing through gay marriage and getting it classified as a Human Right by the ECHR.
A date was given for it to become law and then massive sudden pressure was put on Westminster, and also equally controversially France’s National Assembly. It was duly passed, without proper protection for conscientious objectors. Mrs May retired to the background and Mr Cameron took the blame and later the credit in the eyes of the cultural liberals.
Booker comments: “Whatever one’s view of gay marriage, they had pulled off a remarkable political coup.”Churchgoing Mrs May had orchestrated this radical change with no meaningful public consultation or debate. Booker, writing in 2013, concluded: “And if this shows how skilful and determined Mrs May can be in getting her way behind the scenes in Europe, some might hope that this bodes well for our forthcoming negotiations on Brexit.”
Alas, employing this kind of method has not so far succeeded in her attempt to meld Brexit with Remain.