Christians “have more reason than most to be alarmed” at the erosion of traditional liberal values, according to the former leader of the UK Liberal Democrat Party.
Farron, who was giving the annual lecture staged by the Theos think tank, stated, “if you say you favour diversity and pluralism, then you must oppose all attempts at assimilation and forced conformity. You may like the idea that people will think the same as you, but you must not aim to build a society where you engineer that via legal or social pressure.”
In a speech which majored on his personal Christian faith, he championed the historical role Christianity has played in the battle for religious liberty.
“British Liberalism is founded in the battle for religious liberty. The non-conformist, evangelical Christian groups that were persecuted by a society which favoured adherence only to the established church, built a liberal movement that championed much wider liberty, for women, for other religious minorities, non-religious minorities, for cultural and regional minorities, for the poor and vulnerable.”
But he warned that these achievements are now being eroded: “for many years now our culture has considered that the absence of faith is the neutral position, and that the holding of a religious faith is eccentric … What appears now to be happening is that while the absence of faith is still thought to be the neutral position, holding a faith is only considered to be tolerably eccentric if it is merely cultural. But if your faith actually affects your world view in any way that puts it at odds with the mainstream, then your faith is considered to be malign and intolerable.”
Farron stepped down as Liberal Democrat leader in June 2017, claiming he could no longer be a political leader and live as a committed Christian; he was repeatedly challenged over his traditional Christian views on homosexuality.