The British boot stamping on the face of Christian belief
Published in: Daily Mail
Terrifying as this may seem, the attempt to stamp out Christianity in Britain appears to be gathering pace.
Dale McAlpine was preaching to shoppers in Workington, Cumbria, that homosexuality is a sin when he found himself carted off by the police, locked up in a cell for seven hours and charged with using abusive or insulting words or behaviour.
It appears that two police community support officers -- at least one of whom was gay -- claimed he had caused distress to themselves and members of the public.
Under our anti-discrimination laws, such distress is not to be permitted. And so we have the oppressive and sinister situation where a gentle, unaggressive Christian is arrested and charged simply for preaching Christian principles.
It would appear that Christianity, the normative faith of this country on which its morality, values and civilisation are based, is effectively being turned into a crime.
Surreally, this intolerant denial of freedom is being perpetrated under the rubric of promoting tolerance and equality -- but only towards approved groups.
Never has George Orwell's famous satirical observation, that some people are more equal than others, appeared more true.
The Cumbrian arrest comes hard on the heels of last week's ruling by Lord Justice Laws in the case of Gary McFarlane, who was dismissed as a Relate counsellor because he refused to give advice to same-sex couples on sexual relationships.
The judge not only upheld Relate's case against McFarlane but went even further, saying in terms that the law could provide no legal protection for Christians who wish to live according to their religious principles.
And how did he arrive at this remarkable conclusion that deprives Christians of their rights? By cherry-picking human rights law.
The judge said merely that this conferred upon believers the right to 'hold or express' religious views. In fact, the European Convention on Human Rights goes much further, giving people the right to manifest 'freedom of thought, conscience and religion' through 'worship, teaching, practice and observance'.
Yet the judge chose not to mention this right to put religious beliefs into practice. Instead, he stated that giving legal protection to Christian beliefs was 'deeply unprincipled' and 'on the way to a theocracy'.
You really do have to scratch your head at this. The protection of religious conscience is a fundamental principle of a liberal and free society.
To equate this protection with theocracy -- or the imposition of religious law upon a society -- displays a remarkable intellectual and moral confusion, and has resulted in a ruling that is frighteningly illiberal and intolerant.
Of course, you could say that this is merely the result of human rights law for which Parliament rather than the judges is responsible.
But the courts could interpret that same human rights law very differently. The problem is that the judges are refusing to strike a proper balance.
Instead of arbitrating fairly between competing rights by granting exemptions for religious believers from anti-religious laws, they are choosing to impose secular values and thus destroy the right to live and work on Christian principles.
What seems to have particularly offended Lord Justice Laws was the idea of protecting certain beliefs specifically because they were religious.
This was wrong, he said, because religious ideas were not applicable to the whole of society, since they existed only in the hearts of religious believers.
He thus appeared, totally, to miss the point -- that freedom of conscience is supposedly a right for all, including minorities. It would seem that either a tin ear or, worse, an animosity towards religion drives all before it.
This was what caused the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, to protest in a statement to the court that judges were effectively damning Christianity itself as discriminatory and, therefore, bigoted.
He was so alarmed by the apparent secular prejudice of the judiciary that he suggested the establishment of a special court to deal with cases of religious discrimination composed of judges with some understanding of religious issues.
As if to prove his point, Lord Justice Laws dismissed all his arguments out of hand with the patronising observation that Lord Carey had not understood the law.
On the contrary, it is surely Lord Justice Laws who does not understand that he and his fellow judges are mistaking secularism for neutrality -- confusing the secular onslaught upon religion with the need to hold the ring between competing beliefs.
There is a long and growing list of British Christians who have been harassed by the police, sacked or otherwise fallen foul of authority simply for upholding their religious beliefs.
Pensioners have found the police on their doorstep accusing them of 'hate crime' for objecting to their council about a gay pride march or merely asking if they could distribute Christian leaflets alongside the gay rights literature.
A preacher who went around with a placard denouncing homosexuality was prosecuted even though he was the victim of an assault by onlookers who threw soil and water over him.
In the field of employment, Christians have been suspended or sacked for refusing to officiate at civil partnership ceremonies or place children for adoption with gay couples and for wearing a cross or praying with patients for their recovery.
Many of these cases involve the issue of homosexuality since this is the principal area where orthodox Christian beliefs cannot co-exist with the law.
This is in contrast to other contentious issues such as abortion, where the law specifically provides exemptions for conscience.
This is because unlike the specific and limited issue of abortion, the militant gay rights agenda represents an attack on the entire value system of our society by destroying the very idea that any sexual behaviour is normal.
Anyone who says homosexuality is not normal is, therefore, thrown to the wolves as a bigot.
This is what recently happened to the then Conservative parliamentary candidate Philip Lardner.
He said churches should not be forced to have practising homosexual clergy and Christians should not be penalised for politely saying that homosexuality is 'wrong'.
He also said that he would always support the rights of homosexuals to be treated fairly and to live as they wanted in private, but he would not accept that their behaviour was 'normal' or encourage children to indulge in it.
For this expression of traditional Christian -- and, indeed, liberal -- values, he was not only deselected as a Tory candidate at the speed of light on the grounds that his remarks were 'deeply offensive and unacceptable', but suspended from his job as a primary school teacher.
As Lardner has angrily observed, it appears that Christian views are no longer acceptable within the Conservative party.
Far from their historic role in defending the bedrock values of this society, the Tories have thus put themselves on the side of the illiberal onslaught on freedom of conscience.
Of course, true prejudice and bigotry are wrong, whether towards homosexuals or anyone else.
But the decent impulse to protect the rights of gay people is very different from trying to destroy the bedrock values of our society.
Yet, that is precisely what it has become. As a result, Britain is turning from a liberal Christian country -- whose liberalism is rooted in its religious tradition -- into an illiberal, oppressive secular state with no room for religious conscience.
Under the camouflage of human rights, this is the way freedom dies.