Christians in the UK face problems in living out their faith and these problems have been mostly caused and exacerbated by social, cultural and legal changes over the past decade, a parliamentary inquiry announced this week.
The preliminary report, which investigated the freedom of Christians in the UK, pointed to a religious illiteracy in situations where belief is restricted, because it is misunderstood.
This religious illiteracy is claimed to have led to legal boundaries on the way faith can be expressed.
Baroness Berridge of the Vale of Catmose said: “There is misunderstanding at the highest level.”
At present, Baroness Berridge said she is expected to ‘take off’ her religion in public – in a way she would never be expected to remove herself from her gender or sexuality.
A recommendation has therefore been made of ‘reasonable accommodation’, meaning employers and service providers have to make an effort to accommodate religious beliefs in a similar manner as they currently treat disabilities.
Gavin Shuker MP said: “It simply says if someone’s religious faith can be reasonably accommodated in the legal framework we have now, then it should be.”
Witnesses of the inquiry supported such a recommendation, which would promote diversity rather than prescribe a single universal resolution to any situation.
However, Baroness Brinton of Kenardinton said: “At the moment, because the Christian faith, unlike some of the other faiths, do not demand it, it is hard to get.”
The Church was identified as needing to act.
Jim Dobbin MP said: “Some do not speak out loud enough and they have huge power to speak to people on a weekly basis.”
He went on talk about the ‘sensitive area’ of gay marriage.
He said: “I would like the Church to take a stand on this and tell their congregations where they are coming from.”
While those in parliament need to speak out too, Mr Dobbin said they cannot do this by themselves – the responsibility is not for the government alone to resolve.
With an increased privatisation of faith and development of a sacred-secular divide, the report goes on to say Christians need to once again provide a hope and vision for society that goes beyond defending their own beliefs.
The much-criticised Equality Act 2010 and European Human Rights Commission once again came under fire for failing to deal with tensions and conflicting laws.
Baroness Berridge credited this partly to the scale of the brief the Commission were given.
A distinction between persecution and misunderstanding – the former being a disservice to those abroad who face terrible suffering for their faith – was keenly argued by committee members.
In his closing comments, Mr Shuker spoke of the humble manner in which the report was submitted and the challenge the group faced in protecting Christian rights without this being at the expense of others.
The Clearing the Ground Inquiry was overseen by Christians in Parliament and was established in light of recent high-profile court cases and media reports suggesting Christians in the UK are marginalised.