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Conservative MP: ‘Coming out’ as a Tory atheist is as hard as being a gay Tory

Nick Duffy January 16, 2015
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A departing Tory MP has ‘come out’ as an atheist – and says it’s as hard to be non-religious within the Conservative party as it is to be a gay Tory.

James Arbuthnot, who is a former Conservative Chief Whip and the MP for North East Hampshire, ‘came out’ in a speech to the Commons today.

The MP – who is leaving Parliament in May after nearly 30 years – revealed for the first time that he did not believe in God.

During a debate on prayers at council meeting, he said: “I shall disappoint people by saying I am not in the least religious… this is the first time, however, that I have ever acknowledged that in public.

“It may be true that the pressure on a Conservative politician in particular to keep quiet about not being religious is very similar to the pressure that there has been about keeping quiet about being gay.

“For the avoidance of doubt, I am not gay either, but I just want to say that it is telling that it has taken me 28 years in this House—and, frankly, the knowledge that I will not be standing at the next election—to make this point.

“I remember that when Peter “I shall disappoint some of my constituents, some members of my family—many of whom are strongly religious—and some hon. Members and hon. Friends by saying that I believe that the National Secular Society has a point: not everyone is religious.”

He added: “In order to reserve a seat in the House on a crowded business day, such as Budget day, we have to put in a prayer card and come into the Chamber for Prayers.

“I do not have a major problem with that because I was brought up in a Christian household in a country that has an established Church of England, but really, why should I have to do that if I am not religious?

“It does seem to be a relic of the past.”

More: Atheist, coming out, Conservative, England, Gay, member of parliament, mp, Religion, Tory

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