The Tory party at prayer: The faith of the 5 leadership candidates

Out of the carnage of post-Brexit Britain, five names have emerged. One of which will be the next Prime Minister.

CCFFrom left to right: Stephen Crabb, Liam Fox, Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom, Theresa May

At noon on Thursday the ballot for the Conservative Party leadership race closed, minutes after the one-time favourite Boris Johnson announced he would not stand. As early as next Tuesday 5th July Tory MPs will vote for their candidates in the first round of ballots. The person with the least amount of votes will be eliminated and voting will continue every Thursday and Tuesday until there are just two left.

That direct choice will then be given to the Conservative Party membership.

British politics has long been seen as a hostile environment for those of faith. Religious MPs have struggled to articulate their beliefs without sounding insane and so most have tended to keep religious views personal.

But there is a re-awakening. We have an openly Muslim Mayor of London from a Labour party that has struggled for years to find room for religious voices.

The Tory party has often been seen as having a more cultural affinity to Christianity. Despite the tensions between Anglican bishops and Conservative leaders, the Church of England is still sometimes fondly referred to as the "Tory Party at prayer".

But it is still striking that each one of the five candidates for Conservative leader have professed some form of religious faith. And for most this goes much deeper than the nod to Britain's cultural Christianity that has been seen in many Conservative MPs.

Michael Gove

ReutersThe justice secretary Michael Gove

The justice secretary and former Times journalist wrote a resounding defence of Christianity in public life for the Spectator. It is well worth a read in full. He argued faith in Jesus was not a "mind-narrowing doctrine" but "makes us realise just how flawed and fallible we all are".

He wrote that Christian faith helps "us to feel a sense of empathy rather than superiority" and encourages us to "look beyond tribe and tradition to celebrate our common humanity". "At every stage in human history when tyrants and dictators have attempted to set individuals against one another, it has been Christians who have shielded the vulnerable from oppression."

He has also spoken of his faith in his role as justice secretary. Speaking of rehabilitation in prisons, Gove told the House of Commons: "It's because I'm a Conservative and a Christian that I believe in redemption. The purpose of our prison system is to keep people safe by making people better."

ReutersHome Secretary Theresa May

Theresa May

It is well-known that Theresa May is the daughter of an Anglican vicar and has a Church of England background.

She has been reticient about discussing her faith much in public and has said "it's good we don't flaunt such things in British politics". But when she was invited onto BBC Radio 4's Desert Island discs, the home secretary chose Isaac Watt's When I survey the wondrous cross as one of her songs.

She told presenter Kirsty Young that she "never took issue with the church" because it was "never imposed by her parents".

She said she was still a practising Anglican: "It is part of me, part of who I am and how I approach things." In the aftermath of Britain's surprise exit from the European Union, Boris Johnson played cricket and Labour's Tom Watson went to Glastonbury. Theresa May on the other hand went to church.

Stephen Crabb

ReutersStephen Crabb, the work and pensions secretary.

Crabb is a well-known practising Christian. He first entered politics through the Conservative Christian Fellowship (CCF) and later became a member of the party and an MP.

The work and pensions secretary initially worked for an MP through an internship with the Christian charity CARE and has faced questions about his position on same-sex marriage as a result.

Last December he delivered the CCF's annual Wiberforce Address and argued that "hard-edged secularism" fuelled religious extremism. He said: "It is easier for a politician to admit to smoking weed or watching porn than it is to admit that they might take prayer seriously in their daily life." He urged "people of faith to protect the freedoms of each other and of all minorities".

Andrea Leadsom

ReutersThe energy minister Andrea Leadsom

The energy minister is a relatively unknown quantity in the leadership race and is expected to fall at the first hurdle. But the prominent campaigner to leave the EU is another politician with an active Christian faith.

She has shared her testimony on the cross-party Christians in Parliament website. She said she wasn't brought up a Christian but as a child "spent a lot of time wondering about faith and about God".

She said: "Really for me the moment it became impossible for me not to believe in God was when my first son was born. I looked at him and just thought that it was a complete miracle and nobody but God could have overseen such a perfect creation."

She continued: "I always try to ensure I am doing what I think God would want me to do. What that means is I try to keep the 'love your neighbour' [command] and not just allow the wave of politics and arguments to get to me. I try to stay calm and measured and be as God would want me to be."

Liam Fox

ReutersFormer defence secretary Liam Fox

The former defence secretary ran for leadership in 2005 but lost out to David Cameron. He is seen as the bastion of conservative Christian values and has opposed same-sex marriage, abortion and assisted suicide.

Fox was brought up a Catholic and in an interview with Christian Today said in relation to abortion: "It says 'thou shalt not kill,' not 'thou shalt not kill unless Parliament says so.' That bit is missing from my version."

He has also called for Christians to be open about their faith and say "Happy Christmas", not "Happy Holidays". At the Conservative Party conference in 2013 he said countries that persecute Christians should not receive UK aid.

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