After more than a thousand years of bossing people around, locking up sinners and burning heretics at the stake, says Matthew Parris in The Times, religion is playing the “victim card”. Specifically, voters’ concerns about SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes’ devout Christianity – notably her opposition to gay marriage – are drawing yelps from the religiously conservative right about the “victimhood of their faith”. The whole thing is ridiculous. First off, it’s hardly as if religion prevents politicians from holding office: most of our PMs have been Christians, and Rishi Sunak is a Hindu. If anything, atheism seems to be a political hindrance – hence why leaders we suspect of being non-believers have always “wriggled out” of admitting it.
What’s more, voters have a right to scrutinise candidates’ beliefs. Faith “is not a private matter”, but something carried into public life. How can any Christian who reads the Gospels conclude that Jesus wouldn’t want them to put His word into action? If you believe that, say, abortion is murder, “how could you stand aside when belief collides with legislation”? And when you lead a nation, it isn’t just your vote that counts – you decide what topics even get discussed, and, naturally, your moral beliefs influence these decisions. That’s why Forbes was “right as well as brave” to declare her faith. Some will judge that she’s still “the strongest of the candidates” and set aside any misgivings about her faith; others will disagree with her beliefs “sufficiently strongly” to withhold their support. That’s not a crime against tolerance. “It’s called democracy.”