The pattern is now fully established: public figure says homosexual acts are sinful and public figure is forced to resign. Tim Farron was not able both to lead the Liberal Democrat Party and hold to traditional Christian teaching, and the latest casualty is Richard Smith, lately mayor of Ferryhill, Co Durham, who on his private Facebook page apparently shared social media posts which criticised homosexual activity as a sin. That is now the secular equivalent, it would seem, of the sin against the Holy Ghost.

The storm that followed was made up of intolerance, ignorance and the usual indifference to public opinion. Although the first and the last of these are worrying it is the second which should most concern Christians. Whatever assurances (and there were several) that ministers gave every time a piece of legislation promoting rights for homosexuals was before Parliament, there is now no effective protection for Christians. The list of those who have suffered for their beliefs grows longer without any sign of Parliament giving tuppence for their plight.

As for indifference to public opinion, it speaks volumes that in this case a local newspaper conducted a poll as to whether the mayor should resign, but desisted from publishing it when it became clear that a majority favoured his staying. Similarly, much was made of a petition signed by 400 people calling on Mr Smith to resign, but one with four times that number wanting him to stay was ignored.

Indeed, the Prime Minister herself is now pressing ahead with transgender legislation despite having the support of only 18 per cent of the populace.

However, it is, as I say, the ignorance which should trouble us most. Once we all understood the concept of sin; understood that, some saints apart, we all sin all day long; that every flash of jealousy, every rush of irritation, every moment of idleness was sin.

Similarly we understood that Christ died for everyone and paid the price for all sin great and small. We grasped that because we all learnt Scripture at school and because the syllabus for O-level religious education was based heavily on the Gospels. The Good Samaritan, Doubting Thomas, whited sepulchres and “thou shalt not steal” were part of the nation’s lexicon. Believers and unbelievers alike knew the basic tenets of the Christian faith and recognised quotations from the Bible, The Book of Common Prayer and Hymns Ancient and Modern.

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