Lib Dems claim God as one of them

30 August 2013

PA

"God must be a liberal!": the Pensions Minister, Steve Webb

"God must be a liberal!": the Pensions Minister, Steve Webb

CHRISTIANS can be members of the Liberal Democrats, not least because God is a "liberal", a new book, published by the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum (LDCF), argues.

Liberal Democrats Do God, published last week by LDCF, contains a series of essays by Christian Liberal Democrat MPs. In the introduction to the book, the Minister for Pensions, Steve Webb, says: "The most fundamental reason why Christians should feel at home in the Liberal Democrats is that the character of God, as revealed in the Christian Gospel, would suggest that God must be a liberal! This assertion will shock or offend some, but I believe that there is no other conclusion that can be drawn from a reading of the New Testament. . . The Gospel makes it clear that human beings have freedom. . . There must be something very precious about freedom, a value dear to the heart of every liberal."

A chapter written by the president of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron ( Back Page Interview, 20 May 2011), makes a case for the intellectual credibility of Christianity. If the stories in the Gospels weren't true, he says, "there were hundreds of people to contradict them - but they did not do so." If an account of the 1987 General Election said that "David Owen had come out in favour of unilateral nuclear disarmament", there would still be eye-witnesses around who "would have contradicted this".

In another chapter, the MP for Leeds North West, Gregh Mulholland, warns that "a dangerous and almost imperceptible drift" has taken place in the Liberal Democrats in recent years: "a drift away from tolerance [of religion] . . . towards a moral conformity", which views religious beliefs as "something to be reserved for private worship that should be kept firmly out of the political arena. . .

"The received wisdom amongst too many Liberal Democrats, from MPs and peers to the wider membership, seems to be this: believe what we believe when it comes to 'moral' issues or issues of conscience, or you are not a Liberal Democrat. The trouble with that view is that it is not only illiberal, it is the very antithesis of liberalism."

This became evident during the debate on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, he says, when "freedom of conscience seemed to be pushed out of the debate, and anyone who dared to do or say anything but wave a simplistic 'pro equal marriage' banner was deemed to be intolerant, 'against' gay rights, and actually therefore against the party and 'liberalism'."

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