Tim Farron quits as leader of Lib Dems over his religious views on homosexuality, abortion
Tim Farron has resigned his position as leader of the Liberal Democrats, telling his MPs that he struggled to marry his religious views with his job as leader of the political party.
In a speech to staff, Farron said: “The consequences of the focus on my faith is that I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader.
“A better, wiser person than me may have been able to deal with this more successfully, to have remained faithful to Christ while leading a political party in the current environment.”
Farron suggested that it was ‘impossible’ for him to stay on in his role while staying true to the Bible’s teachings: “To be a political leader – especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 – and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me.”
He continued: “I’m a liberal to my finger tips, and that liberalism means that I am passionate about defending the rights and liberties of people who believe different things to me.
“There are Christians in politics who take the view that they should impose the tenets of faith on society, but I have not taken that approach because I disagree with it – it’s not liberal and it is counterproductive when it comes to advancing the gospel.
Farron said that he was the “subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in,” suggesting that he felt uncomfortable with the media’s examination of his religious views, and how they inform his actions as the leader of the Liberal Democrats.
Farron’s resignation comes after his personal views on social issues including homosexuality and abortion were closely examined during the general election campaign.
When Theresa May called the snap general election in April this year, Farron was subject to questions about his views on homosexuality after a 2015 interview emerged in which he refused to affirm whether he believes gay sex is sinful. Farron dodged the question each time, responding with “to understand Christianity is to understand that we are all sinners.”
Later, when asked the same question in parliament, Farron said emphatically: “I do not. I do not.
“I’m very proud to have gone through that lobby behind the honourable gentleman in the coalition government where the Liberal Democrats introduced gay marriage, equal marriage, and indeed did not go as far as it should have done in terms of recognising transgender rights.
“However, there is much more to be done,” he continued. “We need to make sure that we do not in any way become complacent about LGBT rights not just here but in other parts of the world – in particular what is going on in Chechnya at the moment.”
His religious views came under the spotlight again later in the campaign after he refused to clarify his personal position on abortion rights during an interview with Sky News. When asked whether he thinks abortion is ‘wrong’, he replied: “Well, I believe that women should have access under law which is safe and legal and I think that’s the critical issue.”
Before Farron’s resignation yesterday, openly gay home affairs spokesperson Brian Paddock quit over concerns about Farron’s stance on “various issues”. Addressing Farron’s resignation yesterday evening, Paddock said “I’m very sad for Tim Farron. I had a long conversation with Tim yesterday and we have a lot of respect for each other.”
Farron’s resignation comes after the Liberal Democrats increased their number of MPs from 8 to 12 after last week’s general election.