Lib Dem leader Tim Farron refuses to say whether he believes homosexuality is a sin

'I’m not going to spend my time talking theology or making pronouncements,' says leader

Maya Oppenheim
Wednesday 19 April 2017 15:47 BST
Tim Farron refuses to say if he believes homosexuality is a sin

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has refused to say if he thinks homosexuality is a “sin”.

Mr Farron, who had previously declined to say whether gay sex was a sin, was again pressed about his views on LGBT rights on Tuesday night.

He was asked by Channel 4's Cathy Newman: “A while back I asked you if you thought that homosexuality was a sin and you struggled to answer.

“Now you’ve had a while to consider that question, what is the answer?”

Mr Farron, a devout Christian, replied: “I don’t think I struggled to answer it at all, Cathy.

“I talked about the fact I’m not in the position to go making theological announcements over the next six weeks. I’m not going to spend my time talking theology or making pronouncements.”

Ms Newman reminded the Lib Dem leader that in 2015 she had repeatedly asked him whether he thought homosexuality was a sin, but he continued to circumvent her line of questioning during the latest interview.

She said: “This is an important issue for your voters. I asked you three times if homosexuality was a sin and you said ‘We’re all sinners’. Is that still the answer?”

Mr Farron, who is the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, replied: “As a Liberal, I’m passionate about equality, about equal marriage and about equal rights for LGBT people, for fighting for LGBT rights, not just in this country but overseas.

“Just because I’m Christian, it would be a bit boring for everybody to spend the next weeks asking me to make theological announcements that I’m not going to make.”

The Lib Dem leader was later pressed on the matter in parliament and insisted he did not believe homosexuality was a sin, saying: "I do not".

Mr Farron’s initially evasive views on homosexuality and religion are likely to be at odds with the views of many of the liberal Remainer voters the party has been working hard to win over.

Since Britain voted to leave the European Union last June, the Lib Dems have sought to position themselves as the leading anti-Brexit party, consistently calling for a second referendum on the final Brexit deal Theresa May secures after negotiations with the EU.

The party have further bolstered their position since Ms May’s decision to call a snap general on Monday, with Mr Farron releasing a statement saying: "If you want to avoid a disastrous Hard Brexit. If you want to keep Britain in the Single Market. If you want a Britain that is open, tolerant and united, this is your chance. Only the Liberal Democrats can prevent a Conservative majority."

His initial remarks sparked outrage among politicians, commentators and other high-profile figures.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said on Good Morning Britain that it is "appalling" if Mr Farron believes homosexuality is a sin and called for him to clarify his position.

Great British Bake Off's Sue Perkins said: "Tim Farron on C4 news failing to clarify his views on the gay community. 'We're all sinners'. It's 2017."

Comedian David Walliams said: "Mr Tim Farron you are definitely a sinner for your continued intolerance & prejudice. Please try and join the rest of us in the year 2017."

Fellow comedian David Baddiel added: "Problem with people saying it's Tim Farron who's talking the most sense is: He's a fundamentalist Christian homophobe".

A spokesperson for Stonewall, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender charity, told The Independent: "This election campaign will be about the kind of society we want to live in, and it’s vital that all the parties contesting the election demonstrate that they will be working to ensure LGBT people do not face discrimination and are accepted without exception in all communities, including those of faith.

"Stonewall works with many faith schools, leaders and groups across Britain that support equality for all lesbian, gay, bi and trans people. We will continue to work alongside these groups, to create a world where LGBT and faith communities are inclusive and welcoming of one another, and to dispel the myth that the two cannot coexist."

In his 2015 interview with Ms Newman, Mr Farron also gave his view on abortion. The politician restated his personal view that the law was "about right" and that every abortion was "a tragedy" after the host suggested that he had appeared to suggest that abortion was "wrong".

In May 2013, Mr Farron – then president of his party - was one of nine Lib Dem MPs who abstained at the third reading of the bill introducing same-sex marriage, despite previous votes in favour.

Mr Farron said during his campaign for the Lib Dem leadership that it was a matter of "regret" that his abstaining "misread" as him being "lukewarm" to equal marriage.

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