Theresa May has been criticised for hinting God would have supported Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.
In an Easter message highlighting “unity” after last year’s referendum, the Prime Minister linked Christian values to bringing the country together after Brexit.
“And as we face the opportunities ahead of us – the opportunities that stem from our decision to leave the European Union and embrace the world – our shared interests, our shared ambitions and above all our shared values can - and must – bring us together,” May said.
“Values of compassion, community, citizenship. The sense of obligation we have to one another... values that are visibly lived out every day by Christians – as well as by people of other faiths or none,” she added.
May, a vicars’ daughter who also invoked the values of a vicarage in her Sunday address, has previously spoke of the role religion plays in her decision making.
But her Easter message was criticised for coming “too close” to suggesting God would have backed Brexit.
“I think even vicars’ daughters should be a little wary of allying their politics to their faith,” former Labour communications director Alastair Campbell told the Guardian. “She does not exactly say if God had a vote he would have voted Leave, but she gets closer to it than she should. If she really thinks she is leading a united country full of hope ... I suggest she gets out more.”
May’s suggestion that Britain was uniting behind Brexit was also criticised.
May said Britain must ensure it continues to uphold the freedom of all religious peoples to practice their beliefs openly.
But President of the National Secular Society, Terry Sanderson, said: “We are the only country in the world with bishops in our Parliament, we have an established church, a third of our schools are Christian and we pride ourselves as one of the countries with the greatest religious freedom.
“It is therefore difficult to take seriously any suggestion that Christians in the UK are not free to talk about or practise their faith.”
Theresa May’s Easter message in full
This year, after a period of intense debate over the right future for our country, there is a sense that people are coming together and uniting behind the opportunities that lie ahead.
For at heart, this country is one great union of people and nations with a proud history and a bright future.
And as we face the opportunities ahead of us – the opportunities that stem from our decision to leave the European Union and embrace the world – our shared interests, our shared ambitions and above all our shared values can - and must – bring us together.
Values of compassion, community, citizenship. The sense of obligation we have to one another.
These are values we all hold in common – and values that are visibly lived out every day by Christians – as well as by people of other faiths or none.
We should be confident about the role that Christianity has to play in the lives of people in our country.
And we should treasure the strong tradition that we have in this country of religious tolerance and freedom of speech.
We must continue to ensure that people feel able to speak about their faith, and that absolutely includes their faith in Christ.
We must be mindful of Christians and religious minorities around the world who do not enjoy these same freedoms, but who practise their religion in secret and often in fear.
And we must do more to stand up for the freedom of people of all religions to practice their beliefs openly and in peace and safety.