A Cabinet rift has erupted over plans to give new legal rights to Muslims and other minority religious groups. Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman has drawn up measures aimed at forcing councils, schools, hospitals and other public bodies to treat members of all faiths equally.
But MPs and Christian campaigners fear the move will lead to a fresh onslaught of politically-correct rulings, such as banning Christmas celebrations and outlawing crucifixes from the workplace. Tory MP Mark Pritchard, a leading campaigner against anti-Christian discrimination, said:
“This will undermine rather than enhance community relations between different religions. Labour untie the Judeo-Christian cords that have held this nation together for centuries at their peril. This is not about equality, it is about shoring up Labour’s declining Muslim vote.”
Simon Calvert, of the Christian Institute, said: “We are worried that this will further squeeze out Christians. Christian groups already find it difficult to get funding from local councils.” He feared town hall bureaucrats could “over-interpret and goldplate” the measures. “It will mean more of the politically-correct measures we have already seen,” he added.
Recent decisions which have caused outrage include the outlawing of hot cross buns in hospitals and an attempt at one town hall to stop councillors eating biscuits during Ramadan.
A Whitehall source confirmed “unease” within the Cabinet over the measures. The source said the move appeared to fly in the face of a recent Government decision to try to take the initiative away from hardliners inside the Muslim community.
He added that it was easy to see how the law could be misapplied by local authorities and other public bodies who were too willing to give in to extremists.