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Defender of the Faith - Paul Diamond

The Christian and moral landscape of our nation is changing. As more and more laws are introduced that pose a great challenge to historic Christian freedoms, one leading religious rights barrister is daring to defend those squeezed out for their faith.

Twenty years ago, few of us would have thought twice about wearing a cross to work or asking a customer or a patient if they would like us to pray for them. Those days are disappearing fast.

Many of you will have read in the national media about the cases of the praying nurse, the Christian foster parents and the British Airways worker who was suspended for wearing a cross. Few of you will have realised that these are just some of the cases fought by Barrister Paul Diamond, on behalf of the Christian Legal Centre, the sister organisation of Christian Concern.

While some are called to preach, and others are called to teach, the 51-year-old Standing Counsel to the Christian Legal Centre is called to fight.

“I have a calling from God.

If I had money and fame and won all my cases I’d do it, if I lost all of my cases and went to prison, I’d do it. I wouldn’t stop. I have a calling. I can never let go of the issue,” said the father-of four.

Paul has been sneered at by others in the legal profession, criticized by Christians and threatened with being debarred, but despite this, he champions the cause of those he represents.

He has written various articles in legal journals.

He has appeared at all levels of the court system, including the House of Lords, and is currently taking a cross case to the European Court of Human Rights.

“I am a ‘risk taker’; using the law and promoting Christian values was totally novel in the Christian world,” said Paul. “The whole project of raising awareness in the Christian community to the current situation was pioneering.”

Paul has a deep understanding of the legal, political and media trends and knows instinctively how to structure a case for maximum impact.

He admits: “God prepared me well; my early training was in European law with the emphasis on employment. I won a scholarship to The Hague Academy of International Law.” And this excellent background in legal studies stands him in good stead for his current workload.

“We have repeatedly broken through legal barriers; a number of my cases in the European Court in Strasbourg are considering the concept of ‘reasonable accommodation’ of religion (as apart from discrimination). I first argued this in 2005 and it found favour with a Lord Justice of Appeal. Many of our cases involve novel legal arguments and that is why they ‘set the pace’ for others,” said Paul.

Most people do not realise how far the situation has deteriorated in Britain because it does not affect them. Paul said: “Most people have not experienced how limited our freedoms are. My case load is full of discrimination against Christians (primarily by public bodies, but, also, private employers).

“I believe we have brought this worrying situation to the attention of the wider public.

When we commenced this work, street preachers were physically attacked and the Christian voice was almost non-existent. The situation is now better. I dread to think where we would be if this work had not been started.”

Paul considers there is still a lot of serious work to be done. Currently, most of the discrimination against Christians is as a result of the exercise of discretion by public and private bodies and hostile Court decisions. “In the next 10 years this could ‘harden’ into statute law and the situation will become very serious for Christians, unless we act now,” he said.

“Also, we were and still are very close to the formal introduction of Sharia law.” Paul says that in principle, he would be in favour of religious communities being able to resolve their own ‘minor’ disputes, but “it is an anti-law, as we understand it, as it is not based on reason, it discriminates against vulnerable groups, and has violent and cruel punishments. The dangers are self-evident.”

Paul often finds himself in a David and Goliath situation.

“When I am in court I am frequently outgunned; In the worst case, I counted 13 legal representatives against me. Our opponents are serious, our opponents put up money, our opponents get state support, Legal Aid or the Human Rights Commission intervenes. We need to grow and improve our legal team, I’d love to see this work develop, there is so much more we could achieve with the right resources.

He said Christians need to be more proactive and become involved citizens by joining political parties, writing letters to MPs and signing petitions and, support those, like Christian Concern, who are on the frontline with prayer and financial support.

“The pressures on all of us who fight this battle are very strong,” added Paul. “Along with running cases at a domestic and international level, Christian Concern runs a number of campaigns and serve an ever increasing membership list.

“Christian Concern, as well as myself, are under constant spiritual attack from those opposed to Christian values, bodies have threatened and have taken steps against Christian Concern and me as a barrister; and people go to great lengths to label the efforts to safeguard religious freedom as extreme, homophobic or Islamophobic.

“It is ironic that the more the climate becomes pitched against Christians, the more important Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre becomes”.

In Paul’s opinion, the current human rights agenda has in many cases become a tool used to impose a secular humanist ideology on society. “It is an attractive ideology that many believe in, but like all Utopian ideologies, the end game is human misery. Christianity represents an attractive and viable alternative that has been successful and was formerly dominant.

There is a misunderstanding that those freedoms and virtues we like and have gained through our nation’s Christian tradition can be sustained without tolerating the manifestation of Christianity itself. That is why there is so much focus to undermine biblical values and smear Christian Concern and myself.”

He added: “The country needs firm Christian leadership. It is a very difficult situation in which there increasingly appears to be no coherent framework for our society. Without serious intervention, there is likely to be an increase in factionalism and the weakening of personal inhibitions will have frightening impact in years to come. We need wisdom and Christians need to work together for the freedom of the Gospel and the good of our nation.”

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