Tim Farron: I regret 'gay sex no sin' statement

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Media caption,

Speaking on Premier Christian Radio he said he had been "foolish and wrong"

Tim Farron has said he regrets stating he did not believe gay sex was a sin during last year's general election.

The ex-Lib Dem leader told Christian Radio he had been "foolish and wrong" and had spoken partly to try and get the issue of his faith "off the table".

The committed Christian said the focus on his beliefs stopped him getting his message across during the campaign.

"It was a little bit like having your main advertising hoarding permanently damaged and vandalised," he said.

Mr Farron also said he had been right to step down immediately after the election, in which the party did not make as much ground as it had hoped, saying he found himself in a situation where "either I let the party down or I compromised my faith".

During the six-week long campaign, he was asked repeatedly about his religious beliefs and, specifically, about whether he believed gay sex was a sin.

After initially appearing not to answer the question directly, he said he did not want people getting the "wrong impression" about his views, telling the BBC "I don't believe that gay sex is a sin".

Election opportunity

In an interview with Premier Christian Radio, Mr Farron - who is now the party's environment spokesman as well as MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale - said he now regretted not being honest with himself at the time and admitted his answers had been motivated, partly, by political expediency.

Asked whether he had felt under pressure to deal with the issue while touring the country, he replied: "The bottom line is, of course, I did."

"There are things - including that - that I said that I regret. There was a sense I felt I had to get this off my table: here's a general election, a great opportunity for the Liberal Democrats... and all they wanted to do was talk about my Christian beliefs and what it meant."

Media caption,

What Tim Farron told the BBC during the election campaign

"I would say foolishly and wrongly, [I] attempted to push it away by giving an answer that, frankly, was not right."

Part of the difficulty he said he found himself wrestling with was the different understanding of what sin constitutes for Christians and non-Christians.

"In the end, if you are a Christian you have a very clear idea of what sin is. It is us falling short of the glory of God, and that is something all of us equally share.

"So to be asked that question is essentially to persecute one group of human beings because sin is something, Jesus excepted, we are all guilty of. But if you are not a Christian, what does sin mean? It is to be accused of something, to be condemnatory, and so we are talking different languages.

While he said he could have tried to explain the Bible's teaching on sex and sexuality, he said it would have been "naive in the extreme" to expect journalists to give him a hearing on the theological details.

Reflecting on his experience, he said that while he did not believe there was "a wicked agenda" to marginalise or ridicule Christians, he said there was a risk of society becoming "tolerant of everything apart from the things we don't like".

He added: "There are some who just can't comprehend that somebody can have really strong convictions and be a Bible-believing Christian on the one hand and at the same time really passionately believing in people's rights to make their own choices, which essentially is what liberalism is."

Sir Vince Cable, who succeeded Mr Farron as leader, was quick to stress that his colleague's views did not represent party policy.

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