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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Equality Regulations – Are The Churches Now Going To Carry Out Their Threats?

The National Secular Society has welcomed the approval last night by the House of Lords of the Sexual Orientation Regulations. These give protection against discrimination in the provision of goods, services (including education) and accommodation. The approval was by 168 votes to 122.

Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society said: “We commend Parliament for placing individual human rights ahead of allowing the religious to discriminate against others. The arguments by religious interests that their rights have been compromised are a complete fabrication. There are no threats to the freedom to believe or manifest beliefs in these Regulations.

“Both Anglican and Catholic churches have shamelessly threatened to withdraw services to the vulnerable people they serve if they did not get their way over these Regulations. The Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool threatens to withdraw all cooperation over schools and charity programmes if the law goes through. The (Anglican) Bishop of Rochester says it will damage church work in inner cities.

“Well they haven’t got their way; are they going to carry out their threats? Or were these lies as well as blackmail?

“The churches put a huge amount of effort and resources into this campaign and they have failed spectacularly. As well as two senior bishops, they fielded the Archbishop of York who even apologized for the absence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. All spoke and voted against the Regulations. Baroness O’Cathain, the well known Roman Catholic closely associated with the Christian Institute, tabled a wrecking amendment which also foundered.

“And the defeat came despite the religious campaign being riddled with dishonesty and fear-mongering. The campaign by Christian evangelicals was hysterical, misleading and, in the end, counter productive. The tactics used by groups such as Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship, singled out for comment twice in the debate, were unprincipled. The notorious sensationalist full-page advertisement in The Times has been shown to be riddled with misleading statements about the Regulations. The demonstration outside parliament with “six, seven and eight year-old children holding homophobic placards” was cited in the chamber as a demonstration of why the Regulations were necessary. This also applied to the tasteless youtube spoof gay sex lesson circulated to alarm parents.

“Because of this hateful tub-thumping, Christian campaigners have gained themselves a reputation for bigotry and carelessness with the truth that could well cause them long term damage.”


Published Thu, 22 Mar 2007