Tim Farron: I didn't parade my faith, but I won't hide it
Tim Farron, who has faced repeated hostile questions over whether he thought gay sex was a sin, has insisted his Christian faith should be respected.
Speaking to Christian Today on a campaign visit to Bath, he denied ever making a big deal of his faith and said it was important to open about your beliefs.
'I'm one of those people who thinks it's important you are not dishonest with people but also that you don't go around ramming it down people's throats.
'I think in the end we live in society where we are secular, where we respect people's right to hold a faith or not hold a faith.
'It would be a shame if we lived in a country where you had to hide it.'
The Liberal Democrat leader, who once said that Christianity is 'the most important thing in this universe bar none', eventually said he did not believe gay sex was a sin after weeks of ducking repeated questions from reporters.
After a tour to Bath College to promote his 'start-up allowance' policy to give entrepreneurs £2,600 towards living costs in the first six months of setting up a business, he said it was important 'someone with a different vision to Theresa May does well in this election'.
He told Christian Today: 'It's worth noting that Jeremy Corbyn, UKIP and the Conservatives all voted together to push Britain off the cliff edge of the most extreme version of Brexit which will be bad for our economy and bad especially for our children.
'Therefore I am in no mood to hang my head and give up.
'Providing some alternative direction for our country and some hope is vital. The Lib Dems are doing that.'
The tightly fought West Country seat is a key target seat for the Lib Dems. With 61 per cent of residents voting to Remain in the EU referendum, they will hope their anti-Brexit will cut through.
Across the other side of Bath, Wera Hobhouse, the Liberal Democrat's last-minute candidate for the key target seat, admitted her late arrival was a 'challenge' but said the team had been preparing for a snap election.
Also a Christian, she said the public should be tolerant of all faiths.
'A lot of what I do comes not just from my faith but the values that our Western societies are inspired by and at the bottom of that is a lot of the Christian faith,' she said after a hustings with Church of England primary school children.
'For me it is about solidarity – love your neighbour. Those are the key values that can go into politics and be very valuable there as values that we stand for,' she told Christian Today.
'They have very much informed me in the way I am looking at the world and look at society.'
Pressed on what role faith should play in society she initially said, 'I wouldn't change anything'. But when asked about Bishops in the House of Lords she said the UK's second chamber should be elected.
But Ben Howlett, Bath's Conservative candidate who is also a Christian, warned faith was being used to score party political points.
'I think people should be a lot more vocal about their religion and about their spiritual beliefs. We should respect all beliefs.
'But I think at the moment it has been used for a bit more party political point scoring I'm afraid to say.'
Howlett overturned the previous Lib Dem MP Don Foster's majority of nearly 12,000 to win in 2015.
He went on to say the Church of England has a long way to go on LGBT rights.
'I think the Church of England is going through a big journey at the moment,' he told Christian Today.
'I have to say, as the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was my former vicar in the University of Durham, he has been a very good advocate in shifting the Church of England to being more progressive.
'I think there is a long way to go particularly when it on the LGBT issue for the Church of England in the coming years.'
Although parliament shouldn't tell the Church what to do directly, MPs do and should pressurise it to be more progressive, he said.
'What we are seeing is questions coming up time and time where parliamentarians ask the Church Commissioners to intervene or make representations.
'I don't think parliament should intervene in the Church, however I think we should be the main pinnacle of debate on this particular issue and we have been pushing that issue forward over the last two years I've been in parliament at least.'