Conscience expression 'suppressed'

It is "very difficult" to be an active Christian in modern Britain, former government minister Ann Widdecombe has claimed.

Ann Widdecombe was received into the Roman Catholic Church.
Ann Widdecombe was received into the Roman Catholic Church.

The ex-MP blamed "quite militant secularism" and equality legislation for people feeling they could not express their faith.

She claimed that respect for people's personal views meant people could have been a fascist in post-1945 Britain or a Communist during the Cold War but Christians now had started "suppressing the expression of conscience".

Ms Widdecombe, who converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism in 1993, said: " Christians now have quite a lot of problems, whether it's that you can't display even very discreet small symbols of your faith at work, that you can't say 'God bless you', you can't offer to pray for somebody, if it's an even bigger stance on conscience that you're taking, some of the equality laws can actually bring you to the attention of the police themselves.

"So I think it is a very difficult country now, unlike when I was growing up, in which to be a Christian, an active Christian at any rate."

In an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live's Stephen Nolan, the Conservative former politician said a concern about "political correctness" meant people were reluctant to express their faith to others because "they think strong belief offends them".

Christians also faced a "sort of atheism" that "wouldn't once have been said".

There used to be a view that " we've all got freedom of conscience, we've all got freedom of expression", she said.

"In the 1950s when plenty of people had lost lives and limbs and loved ones to the Nazis, it was still possible to be a Nazi in this country.

"When we were engaged in the height of the Cold War, when there were all those weapons lined up on the borders of the Warsaw Pact countries pointing straight at us, you could still, in this country, proclaim yourself as a Communist, you could still stand for Parliament for that matter as a Communist.

"You wouldn't get in but you could stand. You could sell the Morning Star on street corners.

"We have always respected, no matter how strongly we felt as a nation at the time, we've always respected the right of people to their own views and I do feel nowadays as a combination of political correctness and equality law and all the rest of it, we've started suppressing the expression of conscience."