THERESA May was criticised yesterday after seemingly using her Easter message to imply God would have voted for Brexit.
In her address the Prime Minister also praised the country for “coming together” after last year’s EU referendum vote; a claim that was widely disputed.
May is the daughter of a vicar, and has spoken of how important her faith is to her. In the video address posted on Youtube, the Tory leader said: “This year, after a period of intense debate over the right future for our country, there is a sense that people are coming together and uniting behind the opportunities that lie ahead.
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“For at heart, this country is one great union of people and nations with a proud history and a bright future.
“And as we face the opportunities ahead of us – the opportunities that stem from our decision to leave the European Union and embrace the world – our shared interests, our shared ambitions and above all our shared values can, and must, bring us together.”
She added: “Values of compassion, community, citizenship. The sense of obligation we have to one another. These are values we all hold in common – and values that are visibly lived out every day by Christians, as well as by people of other faiths or none.
“We should be confident about the role that Christianity has to play in the lives of people in our country. “ There was criticism from former Labour communications director Alastair Campbell, who once famously told Tony Blair not to talk about his religion, saying new Labour “don’t do God”.
The ex-spin-doctor told The Guardian: “I think even vicars’ daughters should be a little wary of allying their politics to their faith," adding: “She does not exactly say if God had a vote he would have voted Leave, but she gets closer to it than she should. If she really thinks she is leading a united country full of hope ... I suggest she gets out more.”
David Robertson, a former moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, and a prominent backer of a Brexit vote during the referendum, said he didn’t think May was suggesting God would have backed a Leave vote.
“She’s not that daft,” he said. “God doesn’t have or need a vote. Although sometimes Christians try to co-opt God onto their side, for example the Church of Scotland claiming that we should vote against Brexit, although apparently he was neutral on Scottish Indy, or Ukip's Christian soldiers. Both misunderstand the Gospel.
“My concern with May is that possibly she is falling into the same trap in a more subtle way. At Easter we should remember that Christianity is not about moralising, but rather Christ dying on the cross for our moral failures."
He added: “The Bible says nothing about Brexit unless you consider the verse ‘come out from among them and be separate’ as a hint for Leave, or ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ as the Remain verse. But to do so is to misuse the Bible in such a way as to make it meaningless”.
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “We are the only country in the world with bishops in our Parliament, we have an established church, a third of our schools are Christian and we pride ourselves as one of the countries with the greatest religious freedom.
“It is therefore difficult to take seriously any suggestion that Christians in the UK are not free to talk about or practise their faith.”
The Labour leader adds: “It would be easy to retreat into our private lives because the challenges seem overwhelming, or allow ourselves to be divided and blame others.
“But we need to respond to these problems head on, through action and support for social justice, peace and reconciliation.
“Those principles are at the heart of Christianity. And Christians throughout the world will this weekend be remembering Jesus’s example of love and sacrifice, and the Easter message of redemption and peace.”