Peter Lynas: Arc of change seems against Christians

Peter Lynas, NI Director, Evangelical Alliance
Peter Lynas, NI Director, Evangelical Alliance

The arc of change seems to be moving against Christians, writes Peter Lynas, Northern Ireland director of the Evangelical Alliance.

Religious organisations can legitimately limit roles to those who share their faith, but for how much longer?

Is it only a matter of time before marriage is redefined and churches are obliged to perform in such wedding ceremonies?

Are we simply losing our previously privileged majority status, or is the pendulum swinging too far the other way?

It’s only a cake, some say, time to move on. But this ruling dehumanises people, seeing them as machines who produce what is requested, rather than as holistic people invested in their work.

A law prohibiting discrimination against people has now been interpreted to protect an idea and anyone associated with that idea. The original judgment was bordering on ‘the thought police’ as the judge concluded what the McArthurs must have known or perceived.

The Equality Commission supports what it calls ‘equal marriage’ - a government funded body holding a political opinion to change the law.

Similarly, the Human Rights Commission supports changing the law on abortion. Can a commissioner or staff member express a contrary public view, for example, on their Facebook page? Are those with orthodox Christian views going to be able to hold such public posts in the future?

Must a teacher or fellow pupils use the preferred pronoun of a transgender schoolchild? It may well be wise to, but do they have to - are they compelled to - on threat of legal action against them?

Christians are not persecuted in the UK. There are many places in the world where people are persecuted for their sexual orientation or their faith. We should all work together to end this.

But we must also remember that ’the price of liberty is eternal vigilance’. When Peter Tatchell, the Guardian, and the Daily Telegraph all voice support for Ashers, something interesting is happening.

We all have to choose what sort of society we want to live in. France has opted for an ardent secularism, banning religion from the public square and the hijab from all public buildings.

The alternative is a principled pluralism that respects all views, avoiding hierarchies of rights and instead seeking reasonable accommodation. As the Government struggles to draft extremism legislation, it moves from banning hate speech, to outlawing offence, to creating safe spaces.

But who decides what is offensive, or safe? As Christians, we have not always used our power well on behalf of the other and we must acknowledge that. We must now help build a more creative and generous community in which we accommodate each other’s beliefs and fundamental freedoms.

This case may not mark the death of the canary in the free speech mine, but is it just me or is it harder to hear the singing?