British Prime Minister David Cameron was accused on Monday of sowing sectarianism and division after stressing in an Easter message that Britain was still a “Christian country”.
The criticism came in an open letter signed by 55 public figures, including writers Philip Pullman and Terry Pratchett and the Nobel Prize-winning scientists John Sulston and Harold Kroto.
Cameron, a member of the established Church of England, has been increasingly vocal about his beliefs recently, and in an article published last week urged Christians to be “more evangelical” about their faith.
Commentators suggest he is trying to build bridges with the Church, which opposed government plans to introduce gay marriage, and following vocal criticism from many clergy about the impact of the government’s austerity measures.
“Some people feel that in this ever more secular age we shouldn’t talk about these things. I completely disagree,” the Conservative prime minister wrote in the Church Times, an Anglican newspaper.
“I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country, more ambitious about expanding the role of faith-based organisations, and, frankly, more evangelical about a faith that compels us to get out there and make a difference to people’s lives.”
The open letter, which was organised by the British Humanist Association and published in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, disputes Cameron’s claims that Britain is still a Christian country.
“Constantly to claim otherwise fosters alienation and division in our society,” it says.
It adds that highlighting the social contribution of Christians above others, which was also a theme of remarks Cameron made to an Easter reception at Downing Street, “needlessly fuels enervating sectarian debates”.
The 2011 census found 59.3 percent of people in England and Wales said they were Christian, down from 71.7 percent ten years earlier.
The number of those reporting no religion was 25.1 percent, up from 14.8 percent in 2001.
Cameron has always been open about his faith but not evangelical, following the trend of British politicians to keep their religious convictions to themselves.
Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair was a devout Christian but said he was careful not to speak openly about his faith while in office because “you always get into trouble talking about it”. He converted to Roman Catholicism in 2007 after leaving office.
A spokeswoman for Cameron said the prime minister had made clear as far back as December 2011 that he believed Britain was a Christian country, although he recognises the importance of different faith groups.
“He has said on many occasions that he is incredibly proud that Britain is home to many different faith communities, who do so much to make the UK a stronger country,” she said.
Trump administration quietly guts COVID-19 paid leave provision that already excluded 75 percent of workers
The Trump administration has quietly issued new guidance that will exempt many small businesses from having to provide some workers with paid leave during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Department of Labor issued a temporary rule Wednesday that effectively exempted businesses with fewer than 50 workers from being required to provide 12 weeks of paid leave for workers whose children are suddenly at home from school or child care under the coronavirus stimulus package signed by President Donald Trump.
This article first appeared in Salon.
Trump is deploying national guardsman to provide pandemic support without any health benefits: report
The National Guard are an essential part of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, and thousands of them have potentially been exposed to infected civilians, making it a particularly dangerous and important time to serve.
But according to The Daily Beast, the guard has been deployed in a way that prevents them from being eligible for the military's health care system.
"The approximately 20,000 guardsmen who have been called up to help states around the country deal with the spread of the coronavirus are federalized on what’s called Title 32 status, which puts them in command of their various state governors but with the federal government paying costs," wrote senior national security correspondent Spencer Ackerman. "But according to the National Guard’s advocates and the U.S. governors’ association, the guardsmen are activated on orders that last 30 days. That puts them one single day shy of the requirement allowing the military health insurance system known as TRICARE — think of it as Medicare For All In Uniform — to cover them."
Vaccine researchers grew ‘alarmed’ as Trump’s CDC wasted weeks of their time with a flawed coronavirus test: report
According to a report from the Washington Post, in the early days as health officials became concerned about the possibility of the COVID-19 pandemic blossoming out of China, researchers sat and wasted days they could have used to start developing a vaccine because they were assured by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that a testing kit was on its way.
As it turned out, that test was flawed.
Relying on emails and interviews, the Post is reporting, "On a Jan. 15 conference call, a leading scientist at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assured local and state public health officials from across the nation that there would soon be a test to detect a mysterious virus spreading from China. Stephen Lindstrom told them the threat was remote and they may not need the test his team was developing 'unless the scope gets much larger than we anticipate,' according to an email summarizing the call."