Christians should not be afraid of of speaking “freely” about their faith at work and in public places, Theresa May has said. The Prime Minister said people should be able to celebrate Christmas as she endorsed a report which said that Christianity should be “celebrated, not denigrated”.
The report says that many employers will have “little problem” with Christians discussing their faith at work “in the same way you might talk about sport, hobbies and family life”. Mrs May’s intervention came after David Isaac, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, warned that over-anxious employers are failing to celebrate Christmas for fear of offending other staff.
The Prime Minister, who is the daughter of a vicar, said that Christians should “jealously guard” their right to speak out about their faith as she endorsed a report by the Evangelical Alliance and the Lawyers Christian Fellowship
She said: “You raise an important issue that matters to both you and me, and I think that the phrase that was used by the Lawyers Christian Fellowship was ‘the jealously guarded principle’ of that ability to speak freely, as you say respectfully and responsibly, about one’s religion.
“I’m happy to welcome the publication of this report and its finding. “Of course we are now into the season of Advent, and we have a very strong tradition in this country of religious tolerance and freedom of speech and our Christian heritage is something we can all be proud of.
“I’m sure that we would all want to ensure that people at work do feel able to speak about their faith, and also be able to speak quite freely about Christmas.”
The report warns that society is forgetting “that its many freedoms derive from centuries of applying the Bible to public life”.
It says: “Although these liberties have been hard-won, however, they can also be easily lost. If not attended to, they will wither away.
“Like a muscle, without exercise they will atrophy. The Bible tells us that we grow as we give, and the truth about our gospel freedoms is that ‘if we don’t use them we’ll lose them’.
“The lost need the gospel, so we need to be intentional about sharing it.
“We hope that this resource will inform followers of Christ about the freedoms we have to do this, and encourage confident and fruitful evangelism in every area of public life. Freedom, in every sense of the word, depends on it. So let’s speak up.”
The report says that employees should look for the “opportunities” to “spread the gospel” as long as they do so in a “respectful” manner and do not “brow-beat” colleagues.
It says: “Religious beliefs have protection that other beliefs do not. If you are expressing an opinion that is informed by your Christian beliefs, you have greater legal protection than if it is simply expressed as your opinion on a topic.
“This is, therefore, a good reason not to be shy about stating how your faith informs your opinions.”
It adds: “[Christians should] foster a culture of conversation about faith. The more such discussions are commonplace, the less it will be felt to be ‘wrong’. Ongoing natural discussions are better than forced, isolated occasions.”
The document also suggests that Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media present a “wonderful opportunity for getting the good news of Jesus Christ out to a vast audience at little cost”. It comes after Theresa May, a practising member of the Church of England, said that Christianity “lies behind what I do”.