World Bulletin / News Desk
UK Prime Minister David Cameron has been criticized after writing an article describing Britain as a "Christian country".
A group of prominent public figures including academics, scientists and broadcasters wrote in an open letter published on Monday that Cameron was fostering divisions in society.
Prime Minister Cameron penned an article for the Anglican newspaper Church Times last week saying Britons and the UK should be "more confident about our status as a Christian country".
More than 50 signatories to the open letter said in response that they "respected" Cameron's right to his religious beliefs, but added: "We object to his characterisation of Britain as a 'Christian country' and the negative consequences for politics and society that this engenders."
In a letter to the UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper, the signatories also underscored: "Repeated surveys, polls and studies show most of us as individuals are not Christian in our beliefs or our religious identities and at a social level, Britain has been shaped for the better by many pre-Christian, non-Christian and post-Christian forces."
"To constantly claim otherwise fosters alienation and division in our society," said the 55 members of the group that also included Nobel prize winning scientist John Sulston.
"It needlessly fuels enervating sectarian debates that are by and large absent from the lives of most British people, who do not want religions or religious identities to be actively prioritised by their elected government," the letter added.
The 2011 census showed Christianity was the largest religion in England and Wales but the number of people who described themselves as Christian had fallen from almost 72 percent in 2001 to just over 59 percent, or 33.2 million people.
About 14 million people said they had no religion.
Cameron told an Easter reception this month he was "proud to be a Christian myself and to have my children at a church school".
In an article in the Church Times last week, he described himself as "a member of the Church of England, and, I suspect, a rather classic one: not that regular in attendance, and a bit vague on some of the more difficult parts of the faith".
Cameron's comments follow a period of tension between the Church of England and the Conservative party, the major partner in Britain's coalition government that faces a parliamentary election next year.
Church leaders have joined forces to criticise welfare reforms and the rising use of free food banks across Britain.
A spokeswoman for Cameron said the prime minister's view that Britain should not be afraid to call itself a Christian country did not mean he felt it was wrong to have another faith, or no faith.
"He has said on many occasions that he is incredibly proud that Britain is home to many different faith communities, who do so much to make the UK a stronger country," she said.Last Mod: 21 Nisan 2014, 15:54