Study shows hostility toward Christians in UK

By Chris Eyte |
The Methodist Hymn Book.
The Methodist Hymn Book. | (Antony, McCallum, Creative Commons)

More than half of Christians in the United Kingdom experienced hostility and ridicule for their faith in Christ, a survey shows, even as the country’s top police chief admitted to “gaps” in hate crime laws.

A survey of 1,562 Christians from different denominations and ages showed that 56 percent experienced hostility when discussing their beliefs, with 61 percent of those believers under 35, according to Voice for Justice UK’s “The Costs of Keeping The Faith” study.

At the same time, 18 percent suffered discrimination, especially younger people.   

“What is particularly worrying is the high level of self-censorship among younger respondents, with only 36 percent of the younger generation feeling free to express their view at work,” said Anja Hoffmann, executive director of the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe (OIDACE), in a press statement.

OIDACE called the numbers “alarming” and comparable to similar observations of the observatory “on growing pressure against Christians.” 

The figures align with OIDACE’s study on self-censorship and with various opinion polls indicating that religious believers, including young people, are especially vulnerable to self-censorship, Hoffmann said.

“In the past years, the United Kingdom has always ranked high among European countries restricting religious freedom,” she said. “We are, therefore, grateful for this extensive survey, as data on discrimination among Christians is needed more than ever.”

The Voice for Justice survey also showed that Christians with conservative social attitudes suffered most from vilification, including losing jobs. Schools were hotspots for hostility against followers of Christ. 

Parents felt pressured to tell their children to be quiet about their faith in order to deter bullying. The wider media were also blamed for promoting negative stereotypes of Christians. 

“Christianity lies at the foundation of British society, underpinning our tolerance and acceptance of diversity,” said Lynda Rose, director of Voice for Justice UK. “But our survey shows Christians in the U.K., both in the workplace and socially, are increasingly subjected to discrimination and marginalization.” 

Rose saw the root cause as “an ideology actively hostile to Christianity. If we want to safeguard our tolerance and freedom, then we need to protect Christianity itself,” she said.

The survey results were released as Sir Mark Rowley, head of the Metropolitan police, voiced concern on Thursday (June 13) about “outrageous gaps” in hate crime legislation. He said police wanted communities to feel safe but recognized the challenges of people having “intensely different views.” 

He made the comments during his appearance on “A Muslim, A Jew & The Met Commissioner Go There” podcast co-hosted by Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and comedian David Baddiel. The panel discussed the issues around defining religious and racial hate crimes. 

Before he returned from a career gap in policing, Rowley completed a report on religious extremism and the law.

“I was struck by the gaps in hate crime laws, and some things are quite startling,” he said on the podcast. “It is perfectly lawful at the moment to intentionally stir up racial or religious hatred as long as you avoid being threatening or abusive.” 

Baddiel called this an “oxymoron” and commented “that seems impossible.” He related his own experience at seeing Jews framed as rich, powerful or successful, offensive for historical reasons. That stereotype leads to resentment, then anger, and finally violence against Jews, Baddiel said, admitting it “is not straightforward to police.” 

Rowley said there are some hate crime and terrorism legislation that “creates some cracks for this [extremist] behavior to exist when it ought to be illegal.”

“If you are setting out with intent to stir up race/religious hatred, full stop, if we can prove the intent, that ought to be illegal,” Rowley said. “But it is not, unless you can prove some other things at the moment.”