Tory Manifesto: What the Conservatives say about religion and the Church

'There is no Mayism' echoed around the hall in Halifax where Theresa May launched the Conservative manifesto.

But despite denying there was a cult or particular philosophy around her leadership, the Prime Minister's manifesto marks a break from Thatcherism and the Conservative party under David Cameron.

ReutersTheresa May dodged comparisons to Margeret Thatcher saying: 'Margeret Thatcher was a Conservative. I am a Conservative. This is a Conservative manifesto.'

Ending middle class benefits, refusing to deny any tax rises and a delay in the deficit reduction plans – this is manifesto that will see the notion of 'Red Tory' whispered around Westminster again.

'Conservatism is not and never has been the philosophy described by caricaturists', the manifesto reads.

'We do not believe in untrammelled free markets. We reject the cult of selfish individualism. We abhor social division, injustice, unfairness and inequality. We see rigid dogma and ideology not just as needless but dangerous.

'True Conservatism means a commitment to country and community; a belief not just in society but in the good that government can do; a respect for the local and national institutions that bind us together; an insight that change is inevitable and change can be good, but that change should be shaped, through strong leadership and clear principles, for the common good.'

The Red Tory philosophy is one focused on charities, volunteers and local communities over Margaret Thatcher's obsession with the free market and big business.

As such the Church and other local institutions have a bigger role to play and, fittingly, the Conservative 2017 manifesto mentions, 'faith', 'religion' and the 'Church' more than Labour or the Lib Dems put together.

ReutersDoes Theresa May's Conservative manifesto signals the reemergence of Red Toryism?

Firstly May vowed to put churches and faith groups at the heart of her response to the refugee crisis. Without making a commitment to increase the numbers of asylum seekers Britain will accept, the Conservatives promised to 'establish schemes to help individuals, charities, faith groups, churches and businesses to provide housing and other support for refugees'.

The vow will be music to the ears of groups such as Church Response for Refugees and the Salvation Army who are already working to resettle refugee families with faith groups.

When it came to schooling the Conservatives also brought in faith groups with the promise to curtail inclusivity laws and allow new Catholic schools to be set up.

'We will replace the unfair and ineffective inclusivity rules that prevent the establishment of new Roman Catholic schools, instead requiring new faith schools to prove that parents of other faiths and none would be prepared to send their children to that school,' it reads.

The manifesto also promises to build 'at least a hundred new free schools a year'. With even more liberties than academies, free schools are often faith-based and the vow could herald an increase in religious schooling in the UK.

To the irritation of some conservative evangelicals, the Conservatives also promise to 'strengthen the enforcement of equalities law' and say landlords and businesses who deny services on the basis of 'ethnicity, religion or gender' will be 'properly investigated and prosecuted'.

On top of that the Tory manifesto boasts 'Britain is one of the world's most successful multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-religious societies' before acknowledging 'we have communities that are divided, often along racial or religious lines'.

To address this they promise an 'integration strategy' that includes working with schools 'to make sure that those with intakes from one predominant racial, cultural or religious background teach their students about pluralistic, British values and help them to get to know people with different ways of life'.

Continuing on the theme of integration it goes on to say 'extremism, especially Islamist extremism, strips some British people, especially women, of the freedoms they should enjoy, undermines the cohesion of our society and can fuel violence'.

The manifesto promises to consider what 'new criminal offences might need to be created, and what new aggravated offences might need to be established, to defeat the extremists'.

This will cause anxiety among some evangelicals who are concerned vague talk about 'extremism' unless it is prefaced with 'violent' extremism, could lead to an opposition to same-sex marriage or gay adoption count as an 'extremist' view.

The loose talk of new laws on extremism suggest the idea of countering 'non-violent extremism' has not been abandoned by the Home Office, which will spark concerns again among conservative evangelical groups.

Beyond that there are the expected commitments to 'expand our global efforts to combat extremism, terror, and the perpetration of violence against people because of their faith, gender or sexuality' and to tackle 'hate crime committed on the basis of religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity'.

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