Longtime public official suggests Christians in British government have been 'silenced'

by Tobin Perry, |
Westminster Abbey remains one of the most significant Christian images in Great Britain. William Nye, a long-time public official in the U.K., says Christians are being silenced in the country's public square.  | Kevin Poh/Creative Commons

LONDON (Christian Examiner)—A longtime senior official in the U.K. government claims Christianity is being subtly "silenced" within the country's public sector, according to The Telegraph.

There has been, in the 20 years I was in the public sector, a sort of squeezing out of Christianity from many aspects of the public sector.

William Nye, a former senior civil servant and private secretary to the prince of Wales, made his comments after being recently appointed as the Church of England's most senior lay official.

Despite public expressions of support to Christianity by Prime Minister David Cameron and other ministers, Nye told the Telegraph a "secularizing spirit" permeates the "machinery of government." He notes that ministers and the general public would be surprised at how "odd and unusual" Christianity seems within the Britain's public sector.

"There has been, in the 20 years I was in the public sector, a sort of squeezing out of Christianity from many aspects of the public sector," Nye said.

Nye noted that the silencing of Christians may not be completely the fault of the government either. Many Christians, he suggests, self-sensor themselves in their governmental positions in response to the working culture.

"Looking back on it I feel there may be an element of that and, I think, just a sense that it's not really the 'done thing' to talk about religion in the 21st century, especially in government," Nye told the Telegraph. "You know: does it imply that you've somehow got some sort of axe to grind or it's something odd and unusual?"

Nye says he believes that most U.K. governmental officials generally try to be neutral and objective, but they all "bring their beliefs to bear" while Christians simply stay quiet.

Nye's comments come as the place of religion in the U.K. public arena is being hotly debated. According to an earlier article in The Telegraph,a report last month by a two-year commission called for Britain's public life to be "de-Christianized." Because of the rise of Islam and other faiths in the country, the commission suggested a "new settlement" is needed for religion in the U.K. The commission wanted to give more "official influence" to non-religious and non-Christian voices within the public square.

The commission took particular aim at the Christian influence within the nation's education system. Education Secretary Nicky Morgan struck back later in the month by declaring that the country's public schools would continue to refer to Great Britain as a "Christian country" and had the right to give preference to traditional religions over non-religious voices.

Nye's new posts as the secretary general of the Archbishops' Council and secretary general of the General Synod of the Church of England come at a significant time for the future of the church as it tries to turn back a longstanding decline in church attendance and influence. Nye will attempt to shake up "red tape as part of the drive to win people back," according to The Telegraph.

Though he is "prayerfully confident" the church can return to growth in the U.K., Nye recognizes it will take time.

"I am always happy to be taken by surprise by some unexpected good news, but realistically I think it is probably at least five years," Nye said.