Last Sunday I was invited on to BBC Radio Suffolk to discuss a poll they had carried out asking General Election candidates in Suffolk to state their faith. The breakdown is as follows:
28 of the 35 candidates who have declared they are standing replied.
- 57% (16) said they are Christians.
- 21% (6) said they are Atheists
- 14% (4) said they are Agnostic
- 4% (1) said they are Buddhist
- 4% (1) other (‘individual spiritualism’)
- Conservative – 6 out of 7 replied: all Christians.
- Labour – 5 out of 7 replied: 3 Christians, 1 Atheist, 1 Agnostic.
- LibDems – 4 candidates declared so far: 3 Christians, 1 Atheist.
- Ukip – 6 out of 7 replied: 4 Christians, 1 Agnostic, 1 ‘individual spiritualism’.
- Greens – 7 out of 7 replied: 4 Atheists, 2 Agnostics, 1 Buddhist.
It needs to be remembered that Suffolk, like much of the East of England, is not a particularly diverse place when it comes to multiculturalism. According to the 2011 Census, Suffolk is 61% Christian, which was roughly the same as the national average. But for other religions it was significantly lower, at 2% for them all combined. Therefore the candidate averages are roughly in line with the population, and, for my part of the world at least, it’s another reminder that Christianity is alive and kicking, despite the rhetoric of those keen to dismiss it as a spent force.
But the most interesting statistics are the party breakdowns. In my interview, we spent much of the time discussing the relationship between the Conservative Party and Christians. There is a popular and well-worn line of thinking which suggests that Christians, due to the Bible’s concern for the poor and disadvantaged, are intrinsically left of centre. Church of England bishops have a habit of reinforcing this perception with their increasingly regular forays into politics, but the truth of the matter is that Christians are more likely to vote Conservative than the rest of the population. In a major poll by Populus taken last month of 14,000 people, 68% of those intending to vote Conservative were Christians. This compares to 48% for Labour, 54% for the LibDems and 60% for UKIP. The Greens trail in at 24%, which still might sound a lot but this only equates to 2% of Christians.
So the Conservatives continue to attract strong support from Christians (it actually appears to be increasing). But, for the Greens, it is the opposite – although they probably don’t see that as much of a concern. The fact that in the Suffolk poll, not only do the Greens have no Christian candidates but also twice as many Atheists as the rest of the parties put together, speaks volumes about the Greens Party’s attitude to religion and to those who profess a faith more generally.
Back in 2012 Christina Summers, a Christian who was a Green councillor in Brighton, was expelled from the party. The grievous offence she committed was to vote against a motion in support of the Government’s plans to introduce same-sex marriage at a council meeting. For the Green Party, this was a red-line issue: support full equality or you’re out. According to their policy unit, “Everyone has the right to follow and practise the religion of their choice without facing discrimination. Equality and antidiscrimination laws should apply to all organisations, including religious ones”. This effectively means churches, mosques and other religious premises would be forced to conduct same-sex weddings if the Greens were in charge.
In response to her removal, Councillor Summers issued a statement:
In view of the Green Party’s own special interpretation of equality, my expulsion from the Green Group of councillors should not, in the end, come as a surprise.
Nonetheless, I can’t help but feel crestfallen. After at least two intimate years of campaigning and then serving together in administration, my own colleagues, who should know me well by now, have chosen to believe a lie.
Party policy, however vague, is sovereign. It’s discriminatory against Christians. It’s a typical symptom of prejudice, blatant prejudice.
It raises a big question – can Christians serve in the public realm? They are saying don’t bring your faith into politics.
And she’s not wrong. Even if Christians who have chosen to fully accept same-sex marriage want to get on board with the Greens, there’s a whole host of other policies in place which might be serious moral stumbling blocks.
The Green party has decided that religious organisations should not be involved in the running of state-funded schools. All of our church schools would therefore be abolished. They are fully behind the introduction of euthanasia and want to do away with the current law that requires the consent of two doctors for an abortion. Their hostility toward the State of Israel and their desire to abolish the Monarchy aren’t going to help either.
The themes of equality and freedom from discrimination run through the Green Party’s website, yet that freedom is nebulous. For those who disagree with party policy, there is no freedom of thought or conscience. While the mainstream parties have given their MPs free votes on same-sex marriage, the right-to-die and abortion legislation, anyone serving the Greens must agree to have their moral minds made up for them by the in-house thought police. Dissent is not tolerated.
It’s no real shock that there are no Christian Green Party candidates in my part of the country. It is certainly a party where left-wing secularist ideology reigns supreme. They may be on a roll as we head toward the General Election (gradually increasing their predicted vote share to boast more members than the LibDems and UKIP), but their growing popularity conceals a certain malignance. Anyone with a genuine faith who gets involved is going to get their fingers burnt sooner or later.
Those who keep a close eye on party politics will be fully aware of the Green Party’s narrow-minded approach to inclusion. But for those who are disillusioned with the mainstream parties and looking for a fresh political vision, going Green on May 7th would be a profound delusion. Caveat suffragator – let the voter beware.