Britain’s National Secular Society attacked David Cameron on Wednesday after the prime minister’s Christmas message trumpeted Britain as a “Christian country." Noting the importance of peace and security in his annual festive missive, the PM said: “That is what we mark today as we celebrate the birth of God's only son, Jesus Christ - the Prince of Peace."
“As a Christian country, we must remember what his birth represents: peace, mercy, goodwill and, above all, hope," he added. "I believe that we should also reflect on the fact that it is because of these important religious roots and Christian values that Britain has been such a successful home to people of all faiths and none."
Cameron said the country’s Christian underpinnings make the UK a successful home to "people of all faiths and those of no faith," while noting the plight of refugees fleeing Syria, as well as Christians living in fear of persecution around the world.
The PM was attacked last year for delivering a similarly Christian ode, with critics saying the address fostered "alienation and division." In response to Wednesday’s offering, National Secular Society’s campaigns manager Stephen Evans said it was "disappointing to see the Prime Minister again pushing the divisive rhetoric of Britain being a 'Christian country'".
"Christianity is just one influence among many that shape our current ways of life and Mr Cameron would do well to remember that we also have enlightenment values and secularism to thank for the freedoms we enjoy today,” he added. “David Cameron needs to appreciate that he isn't a leader of Christians, he's the Prime Minister of a diverse, multi-faith, and increasingly non-religious nation. We look to political leaders for leadership, not theology, and this kind of language reveals him to be less than statesmanlike."
Also in his message, Cameron noted the “millions of families” who do not have the warmth of family and a home this Christmas, particularly those “spending this winter in refugee camps or makeshift shelters across Syria and the Middle East, driven from their homes by Daesh and Assad".
He added: “Christians from Africa to Asia will go to church on Christmas morning full of joy, but many in fear of persecution,” he said. “Throughout the United Kingdom, some will spend the festive period ill, homeless or alone.”
Paying tribute to Britain’s soldiers, Cameron added: "Right now, our brave armed forces are doing their duty, around the world: in the skies of Iraq and Syria, targeting the terrorists that threaten those countries and our security at home; on the seas of the Mediterranean, saving those who attempt the perilous crossing to Europe; and on the ground, helping to bring stability to countries from Afghanistan to South Sudan. It is because they face danger that we have peace."
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is to give a seasonal message in time for the New Year.