Christians engage in pre-election efforts

24 April 2015

DIOCESE OF CHICHESTER

Attentive: attendees at the debate in St Peter's, Brighton, on Monday 

Attentive: attendees at the debate in St Peter's, Brighton, on Monday 

THE Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, hosted an election debate for young people at a church in Brighton earlier this week.

The event, at St Peter's, was set up because Dr Warner feared that the voices of the younger generation were not being heard during the campaign.

"I think one of the lessons of the recent Scottish Referendum was a re-engagement with key political questions among young people who really got involved in what is, after all, their future," Dr Warner said. Many of those who attended were eligible to vote for the first time.

The Salvation Army has recruited six people helped by their services to promote discussion about the election. Their campaign "Asking Questions That Matter" features six videos in which Salvation Army clients question politicians about a series of different topics.

These are unemployment, care of the elderly, homelessness, alcohol, debt, and families. To see the videos, visit www.salvationarmy.org.uk.

Another issue that some Christians have brought to the fore is same-sex marriage. Coalition for Marriage, a group that campaigns against gay marriage, has leafleted several constituencies, urging voters to vote only for candidates who oppose same-sex marriage.

The Conservative candidate defending the seat of Totnes, Dr Sarah Wollaston, branded the Coalition for Marriage "bigots" on Twitter after they leafleted her constituency to tell voters that she had voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act in 2013.

Dr Wollaston said: "Coalition for Marriage are stuffing these through letter boxes in my area. Thanks bigots, I'm proud of that vote!"

Similar leaflets were delivered in constituencies being defended by the defence minister Anna Soubry and the sole Green MP of the last Parliament, Caroline Lucas.

The Coalition has also delivered leaflets to support the re-election campaigns of MPs who voted against gay marriage, such as the Conservatives Craig Whittaker and Jacob Rees-Mogg.

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The campaign director of the Coalition, Colin Hart, said: "The Coalition for Marriage is fully engaged in the democratic process by highlighting the voting record of Members of Parliament on the important issue of the redefinition of marriage."

More church hustings than ever before have been registered on a special election website run by CARE, the charity said on Wednesday. About 325 hustings were listed on the site www.engage15.org.uk, up from 293 during the last election campaign in 2010.

CARE's chief executive Nola Leach said: "The Church is playing a huge and vital role in this election campaign, and, with such a tight contest, we believe the Christian vote matters more than ever."

However, only 15 per cent of candidates standing in marginal constituencies at the election call themselves Anglicans, according to a new survey.

While 41 per cent of Conservative candidates who responded to the poll said that they belonged to the Church of England, only eight per cent of Labour candidates, 19 per cent of Liberal Democrats, 27 per cent of UKIP candidates, and six per cent of Greens claimed to be Anglicans.

In total, 15.5 per cent of the 225 who answered the anonymous survey by Whitehouse Consulting said that they were Anglican, which amounts to fewer than one in six.

Twelve per cent said that they were Roman Catholic. In total, 38 per cent said that they were Christians. Asked in a separate question whether they believed in a deity, only 37 per cent of candidates said that they did.

Two-thirds of the respondents were male, and 82 per cent described themselves as "White British". The chairman of the Whitehouse Consultancy, Chris Whitehouse, said that his findings suggested that more work needed to be done to get Parliament to represent the diversity of the UK.

"I don't think this is only a question of how candidates are selected. It is also one of how we can encourage more people with a range of beliefs and backgrounds to get involved and be active in politics," he said.

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