Christianity 'under attack' in the UK - report

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Christianity is being "marginalised" in the UK and those who profess the Christian faith are "regarded with contempt", a new report has warned.

Christians whose beliefs contradict the prevailing LGBT ideology are "most likely to be attacked", says Voice for Justice UK (VfJ), which compiled the report.

The report draws on responses to a VfJ's survey from 1,562 UK Christians about their experiences of intolerance or discrimination in the UK. 

Only around half of respondents (53%) said they felt free to say what they think about social issues, falling to 38% of under-35s.

Over half (56%) reported experiencing hostility or ridicule for discussing their religious beliefs, rising to 61% among under-35s. 

Over three quarters (78%) did not feel that religious discrimination was treated as seriously as other forms of discrimination.

"Often respondents felt that discrimination against other religions was given attention; what was ignored was discrimination against the Christian faith," the report said.

"This was seen recently in the calendar which the National Trust produced for its volunteers. Eid, Ramadan, Diwali, even LGBT+ history month were included. But Christmas and Easter were not.

"Many of our respondents had noticed that efforts were made to accommodate the beliefs of people from other religious backgrounds and avoid offending them, while the same consideration was not given to those of Christian faith."

Despite this, most Christians (78%) were comfortable talking about their faith and beliefs, although a quarter said they felt the need to hide them at work, rising to a third among under-35s.

Half of all respondents said there were negative stereotypes about people of faith in their place of work or study. 

A young Catholic student described being "ostracised" by most of his university friends for holding pro-life views. 

"When they found out they began to question 'whether it was moral to stay friends with me' and a lot of them decided against it," he said. 

One respondent described "a lot of sneering and mockery" when they worked for a local council, while another former local authority worker said their council was "very LGBT supportive but had no support for alternative positions".

A former NHS worker said that "as a Christian I would often be ignored (shunned) or ridiculed for my beliefs" in the workplace, and another respondent described "a measured push from the hierarchy to promote LGBT issues". 

The report said, "While there should be no hierarchy in the list of protected characteristics, this appears to be contradicted by the reality. It appears that there is a hierarchy of protected characteristics, with all things LGBT+ at the top and ethnicity slightly below that."

Nick Fletcher MP said: "Christianity is the cornerstone for so many of the values we take for granted. If it were not for Christianity our tolerance, our diversity, freedom of conscience and love for our neighbour would become a thing of the past.

"This report needs to be circulated widely among those working in human resources, those responsible for education, as well as employers, Church leaders, civil servants and those responsible for policy making.

"We all need to wake up to the attack on Christianity in our society, before it turns into something even more sinister. This report is a vital step in sounding the alarm."

Lynda Rose, VfJ director, said the findings made for "alarming reading".

"Christianity lies at the foundation of British society, underpinning our tolerance and acceptance of diversity. But our survey shows Christians in the UK, both in the workplace and socially, are increasingly subjected to discrimination and marginalisation," she said. 

"Society has fallen victim to an ideology actively hostile to Christianity. This is a contravention of our law. If we want to safeguard our tolerance and freedom then we need to protect Christianity itself."

The report was compiled in response to research by the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians which ranked the UK among the top five worst countries in Europe for anti-Christian hate crime.

Last month, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) chided several European governments that had "targeted individuals for their peaceful religious expression", including the UK over the treatment of pro-life volunteer Isabel Vaughan-Spruce who has been charged several times for praying silently near abortion clinics.