Christians are becoming social pariahs in Britain, claims Jeremy Vine
Jeremy Vine, the BBC presenter, has claimed that it is becoming "socially unacceptable" to be a Christian in Britain.
The Radio 2 host said that he feels unable to talk about his faith on his show because he fears how people would react. He argues that society has become increasingly intolerant of the freedom to express religious views. "You can't express views that were common currency 30 or 40 years ago," he said. "Arguably, the parameters of what you might call 'right thinking' are probably closing. "Sadly, along with that has come the fact that it's almost socially unacceptable to say you believe in God."
His comments follow the claim from Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, that Britain is an "unfriendly" place for religious people to live.
Mr Vine, 43, is a practising Anglican, but says he would be compromised by being more open about his faith on air. "Just blurting it out would be destructive," he said. "Just because something's true doesn't mean you can say it. That's quite an important principle. Once I put my cards on the table about my faith in discussions, it becomes problematic."
In an interview with Reform, a magazine published by the United Reformed Church, Mr Vine says that he is forced to separate his personal beliefs from his role as a presenter. "One of the things that I think, which may sound bizarre, is that Christ is who he said he was. I don't think I'd put that out on my show; I suppose there's a bit of a firewall between thinking that and doing the job I do."
Last year, Mark Thompson, the director-general of the BBC and a practising Roman Catholic, suggested that Islam should be treated more sensitively by the BBC than Christianity. However, he also said that accusations that the corporation was anti-God were "not just too sweeping; they are not even directionally true".
Ed Stourton, one of Mr Vine's colleagues at the BBC, said that he felt that the biggest problem for people of faith is being sidelined. Clearly we live in a secular society and that has increased, but I don't get a sense of being persecuted," he said. There's a problem for people who are active in their faith in feeling that the society around them ignores them." The Today presenter said that he wouldn't allow his faith to affect his job as he has a duty to reflect the views of his audience.
He added: "I'm perfectly happy to say I'm a Roman Catholic and that doesn't mean I'm a nutter."
Tony Blair revealed in 2007 that he had been unable to be open about his faith when Prime Minister for fear that people would label him a "nutter". "It's difficult if you talk about religious faith in our political system," he said. "If you are in the American political system or others then you can talk about religious faith and people say 'Yes, that's fair enough,' and it is something they respond to quite naturally. You talk about it in our system and, frankly, people do think you're a nutter."
Source: Daily Telegraph (18/1)