After facing backlash for his Christian faith, the head of the UK’s Liberal Democratic Party announced his resignation on Wednesday, claiming that leading the party was becoming incompatible with living his faith.
“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,” said Tim Farron, noting he would hold his position until the parliamentary recess begins next month.
Farron’s announcement follows significant media attention surrounding his answers to press questions on abortion and homosexuality.
During the recent election, Farron had been asked repeatedly by reporters about his views on the morality of homosexual acts.
Earlier this week, the party’s home affairs spokesman Brian Paddick – a prominent gay politician – resigned abruptly, citing concerns over opinions held by the party’s leadership.
Despite the Liberal Democrats gaining several parliamentary seats under Farron, he faced opposition from within his own party.
According to the Telegraph, one senior Liberal Democrat said Farron was “unhelpful during the campaign.”
He also said Farron’s “views [were] not compatible with being the leader of the Liberal Democrats.”
Simon Hughes, formerly the party’s deputy leader, said “it became unfairly difficult that Tim was put in the firing line and felt that he couldn’t adequately do justice to his faith while upholding the liberal values that he has argued for all his life.”
“It would be the same for people of other faiths who have strong faith views, where there are issues that are very controversial within that faith community,” he told the BBC.
Farron noted the “scrutiny” he faced when “asked about matters to do with my faith,” claiming he felt unable to remain Christian in the current environment and could not benefit the party in its mission of upholding everyone’s rights.
He said journalist had the right to question him as they saw fit, but that the scrutiny of his faith in the public eye drew away attention from the message of the Liberal Democratic Party.
“I felt guilty that this focus was distracting attention from our campaign, obscuring our message,” he said, identifying a major aspect of that mission as “defending the rights and liberties of people who believe different things to me.”
“In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society,” he said.
He clarified that he disagrees with “Christians in politics who take the view that they should impose the tenets of faith on society,” saying that this is “counterproductive when it comes to advancing the gospel.”
Farron ended his address stating that he loved his party – a party he joined when he was 16 – and encouraged his successor to “fight for a Britain that is confident, generous and compassionate.”
“My successor will inherit a party that is needed now more than ever before. Our future as an open, tolerant and united country is at stake.”