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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Petition Queen to Block Anti-Gay Discrimination Regulations Is “An Affront to Democracy”

The National Secular Society has condemned an evangelical Christian group’s intention to petition to the Queen to intervene over Parliament’s introduction of anti-discrimination provisions to be a “publicity stunt seeking to sideline the democratic process”. The group, Christian Concern for our Nation (CCN), is seeking in effect to emasculate the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006.

Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society said: “Scare mongering, gross exaggeration, and even factual inaccuracies are being employed by Christian groups to try to panic politicians into rejecting these regulations. Their tactics are becoming ever more desperate and misleading.

“CCN claim in their petition that the Regulations will force Christians to ‘encourage the practice of homosexual relationships’ and ‘will make it unlawful for a Christian to refuse to promote homosexual practice’. This is just scare-mongering; we can see nothing in the Regulations requiring this. They also claim on their website that ‘Using power they gave to themselves through the Equality Act 2006, the government are pushing through a new law (the SOR)’. In fact, our duly elected Parliament gave the Government the power.

“A whole page advertisement placed by another group, ‘Coherent and Cohesive Voice’, in a national daily on 28 November attacking the Regulations made four claims about the Regulations. All four claims have been confirmed to be incorrect by the Government in a Parliamentary answer*. The advert also wanted a clause inserted: `Nothing in these Regulations shall force an individual to act against their conscience or strongly held religious beliefs'. This would destroy the Regulations, which is the real intention. These Christians are happy to have the law protect them from discrimination, but clearly do not care about others being discriminated against.

“According to a newspaper report, ‘the Church of England has pointed out that priests could be sued for refusing to bless same-sex civil partnerships under the rules.’ Yet civil servants confirm that the Regulations would not require Christian ministers to bless same-sex partnerships.

“On the other hand, claims that the Regulations would preclude B&Bs from refusing double-bedded rooms to registered civil partners on the grounds of their sexuality are correct. While the complainers object to this they would presumably not support the right to discriminate against people on the grounds of their religion or race – so why not sexuality? Anyone setting up a business for the public should not be permitted to discriminatorily refuse to serve anyone."

The National Secular Society considers that the religious concessions in the Regulations already go too far. They will allow religious organisations to discriminate in the services they provide. When religious organisations are administering faith-based welfare these Regulations will not prevent them from discriminating on grounds of sexual orientation, but the law will not permit any gay groups wanting to discriminate against anyone persecuting them on religious grounds.

* Lords Hansard Column WA 198


Published Tue, 02 Jan 2007