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‘Religious Right has no sway in the UK’

CLAIMS that a US-style "Religious Right" is influencing public policy in the UK are "misleading", a report published today by Theos argues.

Is There a "Religious Right" Emerging in Britain?, by Andy Walton, says that there is "evidence of greater co-ordination among Christian groups with a strong socially conservative commitment, in particular relating to human sexuality, marriage, family life, and religious freedom, about which they are vocal and often willing to resort to legal action".

It is, however, "misleading to describe this phenomenon as a US-style Religious Right", the report says.

The report defines the Religious Right in the United States as "a large-scale, well-organised, well-funded network of groups which has a clear and limited set of policy aims deemed as 'Christian', which it seeks to deliver through the vehicle of the Republican Party".

The US Religious Right campaigns primarily against the liberalisation of abortion laws and gay-rights legislation. It is also characterised by support for the state of Israel, opposition to "big government", and opposition to the teaching of evolution, among other issues.

Is There a "Religious Right" Emerging in Britain? argues that "British Christians are not as fixated on a particular set of specific issues as the US Religious Right. While abortion and gay marriage may not be popular among Christians here, evolution, Israel and small government are not major battlegrounds."

The report examines UK Christian pressure groups, including the Christian Institute, Christian Concern, the Evangelical Alliance, and the Conservative Christian Fellowship.

"There is no sign of the kind of tight-knit, symbiotic relationship between a right-of-centre political party and a unified Christian constituency emerging in Britain as it did in the last quarter of a century in the US," the report says.

Groups such as the Evangelical Alliance, for example, are "not officially or unofficially affiliated to a party". The groups that most resemble the US Religious Right "are also further from political power. The reverse is also true."

The report concludes: "There are many things to envy about the American Church and American politics, but the influence of the Religious Right over the last 40 years is not one them. It has allowed the development of a narrative that suggests only one party is deserving of a Christian's support. This has never been the case in Britain and, in spite of some journalistic suggestions to the contrary, there are few signs that it is the direction in which we are heading."

The full report can be read here.

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