Professor argues religious freedom under threat from secular values

The professor in charge of the Centre for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Kellogg has claimed in a new book that equality and non-discrimination are being prioritised over religious freedom.

In the book, “Equality, Freedom and Religion”, Professor Roger Trigg discusses a “clear trend” of legal prioritisation of secular values in both North America and Europe.

Amongst other cases, he cites that of Nadia Eweida, a former British Airways stewardess who was asked by her employers to conceal her crucifix pendant under her uniform. She is currently waiting for her case to be heard before the European court of human rights.

Professor Trigg argues that this is just one example of courts attempting to determine the nature of religious faith for themselves, as they are prescribing what should or should not form a part of people’s religious expression.

There have been a number of high-profile court cases addressing similar themes recently, with former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey recently expressing disappointment with the recent High Court judgment preventing Bideford Town Council from including prayers on council meeting agenda.

He said in the aftermath of the ruling: “This is the gradual marginalisation of the Christian faith, being pushed to the outskirts.”

However, speaking to the Guardian newspaper, associate priest George Pitcher said: “[Christians are] not being persecuted in the democratic west. To pretend otherwise is an insult to those who really are being persecuted around the world and, frankly, rather insecure and wet.”

He added: “Rather than whinge, we need to be a bit more robust about our faith. I’m not going to say it’s about time my fellow Christians got off their knees, but I do wish they would stop complaining that everyone hates them. Because it’s not true.”

Speaking on Tuesday, Professor Trigg responded by saying: “I never mentioned persecution, which is too strong a word in this instance, but it nevertheless appears to be the case that there is a sidelining of religion in the public sphere within the UK.”

He stressed that “not all religion is good religion” but said that issues “should be argued on their merits” and that all subjective coercion, whether backed by “religious conscience” or “secular values”, should be condemned.