Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has claimed that Christians of "deep faith" are being penalised as he launched a campaign aimed at speaking up for Christian values in public life.
Lord Carey gave his backing to the Christian Concern Not Ashamed Day, urging Christians to "wear their faith with pride" in the face of alleged attempts to "airbrush" them from public life.
"Christianity is a public religion, always has been and always will be," he said. "What we believe in is of paramount importance to our nation and were we to lose it, then I have no idea what will happen to the Christian faith in this country."
The campaign aims to highlight a series of cases involving Christians who have lost claims for discrimination, including Nadia Eweida, the British Airways worker from London, and Shirley Chaplin, the NHS nurse from Kenn, Exeter, who both lost high-profile discrimination claims over wearing crosses at work.
Lord Carey was joined in Westminster, central London, by Gary McFarlane, 49, a Christian marriage guidance counsellor from Bristol who lost a court bid earlier this year to challenge his sacking for refusing to give sex therapy to homosexuals.
Mr McFarlane claimed Christians felt "intimidated" from talking about their faith publicly: "The intimidation is pretty strong, they seek to muzzle me and I do not any longer see a level playing field in our society," he said.
In the leaflet, Lord Carey said the attempt to "airbrush" the Christian faith "out of the picture" was especially obvious as Christmas approaches. He said: "The cards that used to carry Christmas wishes now bear 'Season's greetings'. The local council switches on 'winter lights' in place of Christmas decorations. Even Christmas has become something of which some are ashamed."
But the British Humanist Association (BHA) described the claims of discrimination against Christians as "more than slightly ludicrous".
Andrew Copson, BHA chief executive, said: "The increasingly desperate attempts to work up a victim narrative of "Christianophobia" by these activists have no basis in reality. The narrative calls for increased religious liberty, but the demands would actually limit religious and other freedom for most people, through permitting wide discrimination by Christians against others."
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: "The days of the state trying to suppress Christianity and other faiths are over. I want to send an important signal that this Government values the role of religion, faith in public life and the part it can play in the Big Society."