Tim Farron slams liberals as he claims Christians are deemed ‘dangerous and offensive’
Former leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron has penned a furious piece decrying the liberal movement, months after resigning in a row over gay sex.
Mr Farron served as leader of the Liberal Democrats since 2015 until July this year.
His term in office became defined by a protracted row over LGBT rights, as the evangelical Christian leader was repeatedly probed about his beliefs on gay sex.
In an interview with PinkNews earlier this month Mr Farron was strongly criticised by new party leader Sir Vince Cable, who said that the party needed to “detoxify” its image for LGBT voters.
But Mr Farron, who was recently welcomed back to the party’s frontbench, revived the row this week.
The former leader gave a speech to to religious thinktank Theos in which he focused on the controversy.
In the speech, published in the Guardian, he claimed: “If you actively hold a faith that is more than an expression of cultural identity… you are deemed to be far worse than eccentric.
“You are dangerous. You are offensive.”
He added: “Liberalism has eaten itself because it has eaten the very world-view that gave birth to it, that made it possible, that makes it possible.
“In discarding Christianity, we kick away the foundations of liberalism and democracy and so we cannot then be surprised when what we call liberalism stops being liberal.”
He continued to brand the term ‘British values’ a “myth”.
He said: “We don’t really have shared values. There is no unifying set of British values. It’s a myth.
“People talk about shared values today. But when they do, what they mean is ‘These are my values – and I’m going to act as though they are also yours, and will demonstrate contempt for you if you depart from them’.”
The requirement for Ofsted to test all schools on ‘British values’ including tolerance for minority groups was introduced by former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan in 2014, during the Lib Dem-Conservative Coalition government.
A number of evangelical Christian schools were criticised by Ofsted for failing to meet the rules, due to negative teachings on LGBT issues and failure to tackle rife homophobia.
The schools subsequently threatened legal action via the Christian Legal Centre.
Speaking to PinkNews earlier this month, new Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable said: “It was very unfortunate, the difficulties Tim had with squaring his Evangelical Christianity with the long-term commitment of the party to LGBT equality.
“It became an election issue among lots of supporters and lots of gay people.
“I don’t think it was handled very well… it did us quite a lot of political damage and we all know that. I am keen to get us back on track.”
Sir Vince added: “We do need [to be tolerant]. We are a party committed to equality and that includes gay rights, but the simple truth is we have millions of people in the country who are committed Christians, Jews, Muslims who have a different view.
“We need to stand our ground in defence of secular values, but understand that people are coming at this from a different point of view in religious terms. I don’t think the two are inconsistent.”
As leader, Mr Farron declined repeated requests for an interview with PinkNews during the row.
Today’s comments mark the second time in just month that Mr Farron has spoken out with a warning about intolerance of religion.
Speaking in September, he said: “You can’t answer those sorts of questions in that kind of way.
“In the end, what matters is people’s equality and rights to be who they are.
“If you choose to live your life in a specific way, as a Christian for example or a Muslim, that is equally important as protecting someone’s right to freedom of their sexuality.
“That is where I think liberalism has got a bit lost in the past few years from all parties… the sense that somehow we don’t just have to fight for eachother’s rights for diversity, somehow we all have to think and be the same.
“That is not liberal, that is not diverse, and there’s something slightly creepy about that.”
Of the height of the row, he admitted: “I felt under enormous pressure to move it on.
“I can tell you that what my record dictates is all that matters. As a non-leader now I’m under no pressure to just say stuff to flour the situation.
“I have fought since I was 16 for LGBT equality, and that’s what you judge somebody on.
“I think in a free and pluralistic society, if people have a personal faith that dictates how they make their choices, that’s something we should equally fight for.”
In his leaving speech the leader said he has found it impossible “to live as a committed Christian” while leading a liberal party, referencing repeated questions about his views on homosexuality.
He had said: “The consequences of the focus on my faith is that I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader.
“A better, wiser person than me may have been able to deal with this more successfully, to have remained faithful to Christ while leading a political party in the current environment.
“To be a political leader – especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 – and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me.”
His resignation was sparked when the party’s Shadow Home Secretary Lord Paddick, who is gay, resigned abruptly citing Mr Farron’s views.
Mr Farron rose to the position of Lib Dem leader with a mixed voting history on the issue – though he became an outspoken and consistent supporter of equal rights since becoming party leader.
Mr Farron led calls against the persecution of gay people in Chechnya, lobbying Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on the issue.
He told PinkNews: “These reports from Chechnya are truly horrifying, and represent an extreme manifestation of increasing homophobic brutality and intolerance in Putin’s Russia.
“The UK government must strongly condemn this disgusting violence, and use every possibly opportunity to raise this with the Russian government, as well as in the UN and other international bodies.”
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He also personally intervened in Parliament to help secure the safety of a transgender woman who has been sent to a man’s prison.
Two out transgender women stood as Lib Dem candidates in June’s election.
Mr Farron previously spoke candidly about his mixed voting record on equality legislation in a PinkNews interview, saying that he “regrets anything that gives people the wrong impression”.