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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Catholic Dogma Must Not Be Written Into British Equality Regulations

Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly must not be allowed to write Catholic dogma into British law, says the National Secular Society (NSS). The call follows reports that Ms Kelly is about to grant exemptions relating to gay adoption in new anti-discrimination legislation at the demand of the Catholic Church.

The exemptions would form part of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2006 for Great Britain which will shortly be announced, following several months delay, widely thought to be caused by religious objections. Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society, said: “The Catholic Church has been exerting enormous pressure on Ms Kelly. The Archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols, even went so far as to threaten to close Catholic adoption agencies if gay couples were permitted to adopt. If Ms Kelly does give in to the demands, the Regulations will be seriously undermined.

“It will also prove that those who expressed misgivings about Ms Kelly’s appointment to such a sensitive role in Government were right. It raises questions about just who is in charge of her department – Ms Kelly or the Catholic bishops.”

Keith Porteous Wood observed that “the Northern Ireland version of the regulations, which came into effect on 1 January, were approved by large majorities in the House of Lords and the Commons. If these exemptions are made for the regulations that apply to England, Wales and Scotland, the Northern Ireland version will have to be watered down too. The Scottish Parliament has only recently legalised adoption by gay couples, and if these exemptions were made they would effectively over-rule that law, potentially causing another constitutional crisis.”

Mr Porteous Wood added: “When she was appointed, Ruth Kelly assured us that her attachment to an extreme Catholic religious sect – whose stated aim is to recruit people in influential positions to promote its agenda – would not affect the way she ran her department. She promised equality for all. We now know that her adherence to Opus Dei is completely incompatible with her job in a government department that promises to protect people from the very discrimination the Catholic Church wants to practise. It is reported that only a small minority of the Cabinet favour this exemption for the Catholic Church and that as well as Ruth Kelly it includes Tony Blair whose enthusiasm for the Roman Catholic church is well known.”


Published Sun, 21 Jan 2007