David Cameron has issued a rallying call for a ‘Christian fightback’ against attempts to ban the wearing of crosses and town hall prayers.
The Prime Minister, who joked that he had felt like he ‘needed someone to pray for me’ during the recent rocky period for the Government, used a pre-Easter meeting with church leaders to say Britain needed the values of the Bible more than ever.
He issued a public plea for them not to ‘fall out’ with the Government over plans to allow gay marriage.
Mr Cameron quoted from the Gospel of St Luke to suggest Christian values could create a happier and better society for everyone. He also signalled that he wants a big expansion of faith-based education, saying he would ‘celebrate links between churches and schools, indeed mosques and schools and synagogues and schools’.
His celebration of the religious and moral code of the Bible is notable, as leading politicians have shied away from using religious rhetoric and arguments in recent decades.
Tony Blair, for example, was talked out of doing so by spin doctor Alastair Campbell, who told him: ‘We don’t do God.’
Mr Cameron’s decision to ‘do God’ so overtly will be seen in part as an attempt to reach out to the Christian Right in his party after the most difficult period of his leadership, including a badly received Budget and the petrol crisis.
His intervention is also an attempt to defuse a row with church leaders over plans to allow gay marriage in civil ceremonies. He told church representatives gathered at Number Ten: ‘I hope we won’t fall out too much over gay marriage. There’ll be some strong arguments and some strong words.’
Mr Cameron sought to reassure his audience that the proposals would ‘change what happens in a register office, not what happens in a church’.
Addressing recent attempts to ban crucifixes and public prayer, Mr Cameron said, pumping his fist in the air: ‘I think there’s something of a fightback going on, and we should welcome that.
‘The values of the Bible – the values of Christianity – are the values that we need.’
Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has warned that Christians face gradual marginalisation, after Bideford council in Devon was banned by a court from opening its meetings with prayers.
Mr Cameron cited the case yesterday, pointing out that the Government had responded by amending the law.
He is also insisting the law will be changed if necessary to allow Christians to wear crosses at work.
In a case due to be heard by the European Court of Human Rights, BA check-in clerk Nadia Eweida and nurse Shirley Chaplin claim they were discriminated against when their employers barred them from wearing crosses.
The claims of both women that they have a right to wear a cross – under European human rights rules – have been rejected by British courts.
But a source said: ‘The Prime Minister has made it clear that his view is that people should be able to wear crosses.
‘The Government is obliged to pass on the judgment of the UK courts, but that does not mean we agree with it and if the ECHR does uphold the ban we will consider what further action we must take.
‘We could potentially change the law, though our view is that the existing Equality Act gives people the right already.’
Mr Cameron and his family are regular churchgoers, although they do not worship every Sunday. They send their older children to a Church of England school in London that requires parents to be active in the church community.
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