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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

The Sexual Orientations Uphold Human Rights. They Should Not Be Subject To Religious Bigotry.

Religious groups are issuing a “torrent of lies” in order to have a new law that prohibits discrimination against gays annulled, says The National Secular Society. The campaign of panic-mongering and distortion has come to a head as the House of Lords prepares to consider tonight a motion to annul the newly introduced Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006.

Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, said: “Scare mongering, gross exaggeration, and even outright lies are being employed by Christian groups to try to mislead politicians into rejecting these regulations. Their tactics are becoming ever more desperate and dishonest.

“This is a question of Human Rights. It should be no more acceptable to deny goods, services or accommodation to homosexuals than it should to people because of their race. The people lobbying so strenuously for carte blanche exemption from the Regulations are the religious, the very people most likely to want to discriminate. Parliament must not pander to their bigotry.

Their campaign has been peppered with exaggerations and misinformation. Either these people are careless to the point of negligence or they are simply trying to mislead.

“A whole page advertisement placed by ‘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. "

* Lords Hansard Column WA 198


Published Tue, 09 Jan 2007