If you would like to see the future of religious freedom in America, take a peek at Great Britain. The UK was once a vibrantly religious country – now, faith is on the wane there. As America follows the same trend toward secularism, we can see what awaits our society by looking at what is happening to our cousins across the Atlantic. And that brings me to the story of Tim Farron.
Tim Farron was a member of Parliament, the leader of one of Britain’s political parties called the Liberal Democratic Party. Last week, his party suffered significant losses, and so he resigned. That is standard procedure in the UK and by itself not noteworthy. But the deeper reason behind his resignation is.
Farron is a professed Christian. As the member of a socially liberal party, Farron supported legal abortion and gay marriage. But that was not enough for many people in the UK. They needed to know what his personal beliefs were. And so, Farron repeatedly faced questioning about whether he believed abortion and gay sex were wrong. Notice – he was not questioned about his public policy positions. He was questioned regarding his personal moral beliefs.
As the questioning continued, it became clear to Farron that even though he held public policy positions that were tolerant of abortion and gay marriage, the persistent questioning about his personal religious beliefs would only continue. And so, he resigned. Here is part of his resignation announcement-
I’m a liberal to my finger tips, and that liberalism means that I am passionate about defending the rights and liberties of people who believe different things to me.
There are Christians in politics who take the view that they should impose the tenets of faith on society, but I have not taken that approach because I disagree with it – it’s not liberal and it is counterproductive when it comes to advancing the gospel.
Even so, I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in.
In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.
That’s why I have chosen to step down as leader of the Liberal Democrats.
The most tragic line from this speech is this lament: “we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.”
In America, many of our political leaders have taken liberal public policy positions while holding traditional religious convictions. For instance, the former vice-president, Joe Biden, told one interviewer, “Abortion is always wrong…But I’m not prepared to impose doctrine that I’m prepared to accept on the rest of [the country].” If the climate in Britain is any indication of what’s to come, it won’t be long before someone like Joe Biden is deemed unfit to be in government. To secularists, a person’s private beliefs must also conform to leftist ideology, or they are not suitable for public office.
This mentality was on full display last week when Senator Bernie Sanders questioned a nominee for a budgetary position over his personal Christian beliefs regarding Islam (just re-read this sentence to capture the full absurdity of Sanders’s questioning). It would have been one matter if Sanders had attempted to show how this nominee’s religious beliefs would keep him from performing his job properly. But he made no such effort. It was clear from the line of questioning that it was the religious beliefs – in and of themselves – that Sanders found objectionable:
Sanders: I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.
In the mind of Bernie Sanders, unless you subscribe to universalism (everyone is ok with God) or to secularism (there’s no such thing as God to begin with), you are unAmerican, and certainly not qualified to hold a position in the government.
If during a public hearing a senator can brazenly defy Article VI of the Constitution (“but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States”), it doesn’t seem to me to be much of a stretch to think that believers in government will face the same sort of increasing scrutiny that hounded Tim Farron. What Mr. Farron said of his society is quickly becoming true of mine:
We are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.