Belfast Telegraph

Shameful hounding of Tim Farron proves there's nothing so illiberal as the liberal-Left

Broadcast media abuse their position to ridicule people of faith and the socially conservative. By Nelson McCausland

Last week, Tim Farron resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats. He had been hounded by some journalists about his own personal Christian faith and, in particular, about his views on sin and sexuality.

They were determined to push him and pin him down on his personal beliefs and the questioning was intrusive. At times, it was downright abusive.

In the end, he resigned and he made a resignation statement to the media, standing in front of his parliamentary party. I disagree with Tim Farron on many things, including Brexit, but I was deeply impressed by that statement.

As he delivered the statement, the stern looks on some of the faces behind him said a lot and others in his party were “horrified”, as one senior activist explained in the New Statesman.

As he closed his speech, he said: “I joined our party when I was 16, it is in my blood, I love our history, our people, I thoroughly love my party. Imagine how proud I am to lead this party. And then imagine what would lead me to voluntarily relinquish that honour. In the words of Isaac Watts, it would have to be something ‘so amazing, so divine, (it) demands my heart, my life, my all’.”

That final line was taken from the Isaac Watts’ hymn When I Survey the Wondrous Cross and with it Farron impressed that he was resigning in order to remain true to his Christian faith.

But, before that, he had spoken about the society in which we live and he said: “I seem to be the subject of suspicion, because of what I believe and who my faith is in. In which case, we are kidding ourselves if we think we live in a tolerant, liberal society. That is why I have chosen to step down as leader of the Liberal Democrats.”

It is just as well that the inquisitors who hounded Tim Farron were not around some years ago, or they would have sought to ban social reformers, such as William Wilberforce and Lord Shaftesbury, from holding public office. All of them were men with a strong personal faith.

We have also seen the intolerance of the Left in America. A few weeks ago, Senator Bernie Sanders, who sought the Democratic presidential nomination, interrogated a nominee for the position of deputy director of the White House office of management and budget.

The issue was that, back in January 2016, Russell Vought had written an article for a conservative website, in which he affirmed his belief in the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the only saviour. That is a central tenet of Christianity, but Sanders argued that what Vought had written was “hateful” and “Islamophobic”.

What we are seeing today, on both sides of the Atlantic, is a tidal wave of intolerance directed against Christian faith and also against social conservatism.

We saw it, too, with the tidal wave of intolerance that has been directed against the DUP, because of its social conservatism, especially in that it is pro-life and holds to the traditional definition of marriage.

The “liberal-Left” is anything but liberal and, in fact, it is often extremely illiberal and intolerant. The default position of many in the broadcast media is that of insult and ridicule towards those who are socially conservative, pro-life and pro-marriage.

Thankfully, there were some dissenting voices in the media and the commentator Brendan O’Neill, who is an atheist, hit out at the “hysteria” of the “London-based liberals”.

Meanwhile, Laura Perrins, a Catholic, who runs The Conservative Woman website, dipped back into history and recalled the Test Act.

This was introduced in Ireland in 1704 and required that anyone holding public office had to take “holy communion” in the Established Church. It was a religious test that was eventually abolished, because it was discriminatory.

It seems that, today, there are those on the “liberal-Left” who want to introduce a new test and it is that, if you don’t agree with them, you are not fit to hold public office.

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