'Vilified' Christians 'fear arrest'
Christians are being "persecuted" and "driven underground" while the courts fail to protect their religious values, a former Archbishop of Canterbury has claimed.
Lord Carey said Christians were excluded from many sectors of employment because of their beliefs, "vilified by state bodies" and feared arrest for expressing their views.
The former archbishop's claims are part of a written submission to the European Court of Human Rights, seen by the Daily Telegraph, ahead of a landmark case on religious freedom.
The hearing will deal with the case of two workers forced out of their jobs after visibly wearing crosses, the case of a Relate therapist sacked for saying he may not be comfortable giving sex counselling to homosexual couples, and a Christian registrar who wishes not to conduct civil partnership ceremonies.
In the submission, Lord Carey said the outward expression of traditional conservative Christian values has effectively been "banned" under a new "secular conformity of belief and conduct".
The former archbishop argued that in "case after case" British courts have failed to protect Christian values and urged European judges to correct the balance. He said there was a "drive to remove Judeo-Christian values from the public square" and argued UK courts have "consistently applied equality law to discriminate against Christians" as they show a "crude" misunderstanding of the faith by treating some worshippers as "bigots".
In his submission, Lord Carey, who was archbishop from 1991 to 2002, wrote: "In a country where Christians can be sacked for manifesting their faith, are vilified by state bodies, are in fear of reprisal or even arrest for expressing their views on sexual ethics, something is very wrong. It affects the moral and ethical compass of the United Kingdom. Christians are excluded from many sectors of employment simply because of their beliefs; beliefs which are not contrary to the public good."
He added: "It is now Christians who are persecuted; often sought out and framed by homosexual activists. Christians are driven underground. There appears to be a clear animus to the Christian faith and to Judaeo-Christian values. Clearly the courts of the United Kingdom need guidance."
He argued British judges have used a strict reading of the equality law to strip the legal right to freedom of religion of "any substantive effect."
Keith Porteous-Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, told the Telegraph: "The idea that there is any kind of suppression of religion in Britain is ridiculous. Even in the European Court of Human Rights, the right to religious freedom is not absolute - it is not a licence to trample on the rights of others. That seems to be what Lord Carey wants to do."