Do progressive politics and religion go hand in hand? Yes.

PUBLISHED: 12:13 18 June 2017

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Is it becoming impossible for politicans to hold devout religious beliefs and remain in the spotlight?

After Tim Farron resigned as Liberal Democrat leader last week, saying he found it “impossible” to be a committed Christian and lead the party.

In his resigning statement, the Westmorland and Lonsdale MP said he felt his faith was incompatible with his job.

said he has decided to quit in the face of continuing questions over his faith.

Mr Farron said: “The consequences of the focus on my faith is that I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader.

“A better, wiser person than me may have been able to deal with this more successfully, to have remained faithful to Christ while leading a political party in the current environment.

“To be a political leader, especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017, and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me.”

Mr Farron, an evangelical Christian, faced criticism during the general election campaign for failing to answer questions about his views on homosexuality.

Wes Streeting, Ilford North MP questioned how the former Lib Dem leader hadn’t been clearer on his views when initially asked.

He said: “I’m a strong supporter of freedom of religious expression and as a gay Christian I probably have a better understanding of the theological debate around human sexuality than most people.

“I really don’t understand how Tim Farron has gotten himself into this position.

“As a liberal, he should support equal rights for LGBT+ people without hesitation and as a Christian he should understand that we leave the judgement of others to God.

“As politicians, we all have a responsibility to show leadership and I would have expected Tim to be able to give clearer statements of both support and respect for LGBT+ people.

“There have been too many examples of LGBT+ people, particularly young people, being driven to mental ill health and even suicide because of persecution in the name of God.

“We have a responsibility to make sure that people are accepted and respected and I’m saddened by this whole episode.”

In his leaving speech, Mr Farron said he felt under suspicion for his personal beliefs.

He said: “There are Christians in politics who take the view that they should impose the tenets of faith on society, but I have not taken that approach because I disagree with it.

“Even so, I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in.”

John Clifton, of the Ilford Salvation Army, said he thought it was a shame when religious beliefs were reduced down to questioning over one or two social issues.

But the political campaigner, who is also a Christian, added that he didn’t believe politics and faith weren’t compatible.

He said: “Without appearing critical of Tim Farron, I think this was more to do with him as a leader than as a criticism.”

Mr Clifton, who has campaigned for business to take on the living wage in Redbridge, and runs a seasonal homeless shelter, also said his faith drives his work.

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