Political

Tim Farron reveals he regrets saying that gay sex is not a sin

Oh, Tim:

Former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron has spoken of his “regret” at bowing to pressure he felt to say homosexual sex is not sinful.

The Christian politician also voiced frustration that his views on sexuality distracted attention away from the Lib Dem’s General Election campaigning last year.

Speaking exclusively with Premier’s Inspirational Breakfast presenters John Pantry and Rosie Wright, he said: “The bottom line is, of course, I did [feel pressured] and there are things – including that – that I said that I regret.

The full interview with Premier Christian Radio emphasises how difficult Tim Farron felt it was to reconcile public pressure on him and his personal religious views. At the heart of it he felt that sticking to his faith was not compatible with the sort of public comments a party leader has to make – such as being asked about sin in interviews.

It’s worth noting that those questions to Tim Farron last year weren’t some special, unfair treatment directed towards him. Other party leaders get them, as did Theresa May. The difference is that her answer whether or not she thinks gay sex is a sin was a prompt and clear ‘No’. That’s why Tim Farron kept on getting asked questions in 2017 whilst the Prime Minister didn’t. One gave a clear, unequivocal and confident answer, the other didn’t. Nor were such questions a surprise. The topic had come up in the 2015 leadership contest near the start and in the media at the end.

Regrettably, in the interview Tim Farron says you have to pretend not to have a Christian faith to be a public political figure in the UK. Not only do people like Theresa May show otherwise, so do many Liberal Democrats, including the party’s current President, member of the House of Lords and former target seat candidate, Sal Brinton. She writes openly about her Christian faith. It’s hard to reconcile Tim’s comments with the examples of so many others. Some – most famously Tony Blair – do indeed decide not to talk about their religious views at all when in office or seeking office. But that’s not the only route people can, and do, take. And on the off-chance anyone of faith is reading this and is in any way influenced by my views, I hope you will look to the examples of people such as Sal to see that there is very much a role for people of public faith in politics and in the Liberal Democrats.

(It’s also worth adding that if the media had really wanted to treat Tim Farron badly, there’s much more that could have been raised which wasn’t. His past controversies over whether claims about prayer in advertising and his choice of religious interns barely got a mention in 2017. Tough and relentless though the media pressure on him undoubtedly felt, it was in truth rather less tough than it could have been, or probably would have been had the party being going up sharply in the polls.)

As far as I can work it out from having read and listened to Tim Farron at length on the issue, his views come down to ‘I think same-sex relationships are wrong and go against God’s teachings, but I think you should be free to make that I decision and I still love and respect many people who do’.

Hence the number of people in same-sex relations who have known him closely for long periods of time and are convinced he does not bear them any ill will. Hence his voting record. Hence also his comments in interviews like the one today.

Perhaps had he ever been able to find a way of saying something along these lines in public, things would have turned out differently.

The interview has not gone down well with other Liberal Democrats:

Here’s the interview with Tim Farron about same-sex relationships, and other matters, in full:

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9 responses to “Tim Farron reveals he regrets saying that gay sex is not a sin”

  1. Wasn’t May asked the question after Tim? And only because Tim had been asked? Do you really think that if Tim had given a clear, unequivocal and confident answer of “Yes” the matter would have been dropped?

    • Paul: if you read on in the post, you’ll see what I suggest he should have said (and that’s rather different than what you suggest in your comment, making it a bit of an unhelpful straw man I think?).

      • Well, maybe. But I suspect if he’d tried something along those lines the interviewer would simply have said “So that’s a Yes, then?” (No straw intended.)

  2. “As far as I can work it out from having read and listened to Tim Farron at length on the issue, his views come down to ‘I think same-sex relationships are wrong and go against God’s teachings, but I think you should be free to make that I decision and I still love and respect many people who do’.”

    Mark, I totally agree with your precis of what best represents Tim’s views. I didn’t think it was that difficult to have said that (I’m probably naive) and was frustrated that Tim couldn’t find a way to say that. It was pretty clear that what he said in the run up to the GE (that he has now regretted) was a nonsense, and I am actually pleased he has said what he said today. The problem (again) is that he hasn’t yet AFAIK gone any further to clarify what he actually thinks, just saying that he plans to develop his ideas in the coming weeks.

  3. Isn’t Farron’s problem that he belongs to an evangelical strain of Christianity that seeks literal interpretations of the Bible. Other Christians like May or Brinton may find it easier to say gay sex is not a sin because their Christianity is less rigidly defined by Scriptures.

  4. I think if he’s said what you had suggested, then I suspect the headline would have been “Homophobe Farron says gay sex is a sin.” Let’s be honest, the tabloids are not known for understanding nuance. He was damned no matter what he did. That said, it would have been a seven-day story instead of a 3-year story.

    Given the reaction today, however, I understand why he never came out with this statement before.

  5. Isn’t the problem that “sin” is an emotive term and a purely religious one, in a society where about 50% identify as non-religious. He is entitled to his personal views, as defined in our own constitution, and his voting record on this issue is good . However Tim’s judgement seems poor in keeping the same subject warm, or hot. He must know that the media never bothers with nuanced arguments, and will pick holes in changes of mind. Even the BBC’s accurate headline “Tim Farron regrets saying gay sex not a sin” implies that he meant to say it was / is. Keeping up good work he does as a constituency MP should be his priority.

  6. As a fairly newbie when Tim was elected leader, I was baffled that so many young members championed Tim, brushing aside his views on gay sex as inconsequential, in spite of equality being an issue on which Lib Dems normally stand above other parties. He IS a nice guy, he doesn’t judge, but we’re avoiding, as did the media, the killer question – is an antipathy to gay sex liberal?

    • I’m a theologically liberal Christian who doesn’t have to deal with Tim’s theological problems with gay relationships. There is nothing illiberal about his believing that gay sex is wrong, though. A liberal supports the freedom of LGBT people to make their own choices, and Tim’s view on what he would do in their circumstances is irrelevant to whether or not he is in the right party. He is clearly a liberal and Lib Dem.
      Whether he could have handled the press better, I doubt. Most of the media were out to land a punch, and he was either going to be disbelieved or treated as homophobic.
      The implications are serious for all of us, not just evangelical Christians, traditional Muslims and others who think gay relationships are sinful. It suggests that no one can hold a personal moral or religious view, even if it is not reflected in their politics, if others might find it objectionable. Vegans, pacifists, believers in reincarnation etc. please note.

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