Christians fight on gay Regulations

by
22 March 2007

by Bill Bowder

Religious groups demonstrate outside the House of Lords during the Sexual Orientation act debate earlier this year

Religious groups demonstrate outside the House of Lords during the Sexual Orientation act debate earlier this year

SEXUAL Orientation Regulations that will ban discrimination against homosexual people in the provision of goods and services were passed by the House of Lords on Wednesday, despite widespread concern they would limit churches in the expression of their doctrines and practice  (News and Comment, 16 March).

Three prelates voted for an amendment that would have delayed the regulations, far fewer than the 26 bishops campaigners had called on to be present and voting in the Upper Chamber. The amendment was lost by 122 votes to 168.

The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu said in the debate that by introducing the regulations, the government was "venturing down an unconsidered path through the establishment of a new hierarchy of human rights."

The Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, Dr George Cassidy, said "the right to freedom of religion was being treated as of lesser weight than other human rights."

The Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Michael Scott-Joynt, regretted the government had chosen "to legislate to coerce the churches and others" to accept as a social norm patterns of living that many people believed were "less than the best".

The draft Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 were approved by the House of Commons on Monday by 310 to 100 votes. Following the vote in the Lords, they will come into force on 30 April in England, Scotland, and Wales

Forty-two lay members of the General Synod signed a letter to the bishops who have seats in the House of Lords, asking them to attend the vote on Wednesday. Anthony Archer, one of the authors of the letter, said that the bishops should unite against the Regulations.

In the letter, he said that the fears expressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, on his return from China in October, that Britain could "privilege" anti-religious policies "look perilously close to becoming a reality".

The Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales condemned the Regulations as "an abuse of parliamentary democracy".

Around 1,000 opponents protested for an hour outside Parliament on Wednesday, amid claims that the regulations made it compulsory to teach that homosexual relationships were equal to marriage.

One group placed on the YouTube website a mocked-up film of a primary-school teacher instructing children in the merits of gay relationships.

Colin Hart, the director of the Christian Institute, said the Regulations would "enshrine" religious discrimination.

But the Government stated that the Regulations would not affect school curricula. Tony Blair said that there would be no exemptions for faith groups, but that religious agencies would have 21 months to prepare for the new laws.

The Christian organisation Faithworks said that the Regulations posed no threat to Christians, and warned against "caricaturing" them. "This is not an argument about Christian morality. It is, rather, a discussion about discrimination and prejudice," the Revd Malcolm Duncan, leader of Faithworks Movement, said on Tuesday.

In a summary of the Regulations, Faithworks said schools could still share biblical principles about marriage. But teachers could not withhold teaching from pupils who were homosexual, or had homosexual parents. "Currently the SORs do not relate to what is taught in schools. Rather, they relate to who is taught," it said.

Three prelates voted for an amendment that would have delayed the regulations, far fewer than the 26 bishops campaigners had called on to be present and voting in the Upper Chamber. The amendment was lost by 122 votes to 168.

The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu said in the debate that by introducing the regulations, the government was "venturing down an unconsidered path through the establishment of a new hierarchy of human rights."

The Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, Dr George Cassidy, said "the right to freedom of religion was being treated as of lesser weight than other human rights."

The Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Michael Scott-Joynt, regretted the government had chosen "to legislate to coerce the churches and others" to accept as a social norm patterns of living that many people believed were "less than the best".

The draft Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 were approved by the House of Commons on Monday by 310 to 100 votes. Following the vote in the Lords, they will come into force on 30 April in England, Scotland, and Wales

Forty-two lay members of the General Synod signed a letter to the bishops who have seats in the House of Lords, asking them to attend the vote on Wednesday. Anthony Archer, one of the authors of the letter, said that the bishops should unite against the Regulations.

In the letter, he said that the fears expressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, on his return from China in October, that Britain could "privilege" anti-religious policies "look perilously close to becoming a reality".

The Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales condemned the Regulations as "an abuse of parliamentary democracy".

Around 1,000 opponents protested for an hour outside Parliament on Wednesday, amid claims that the regulations made it compulsory to teach that homosexual relationships were equal to marriage.

One group placed on the YouTube website a mocked-up film of a primary-school teacher instructing children in the merits of gay relationships.

Colin Hart, the director of the Christian Institute, said the Regulations would "enshrine" religious discrimination.

But the Government stated that the Regulations would not affect school curricula. Tony Blair said that there would be no exemptions for faith groups, but that religious agencies would have 21 months to prepare for the new laws.

The Christian organisation Faithworks said that the Regulations posed no threat to Christians, and warned against "caricaturing" them. "This is not an argument about Christian morality. It is, rather, a discussion about discrimination and prejudice," the Revd Malcolm Duncan, leader of Faithworks Movement, said on Tuesday.

In a summary of the Regulations, Faithworks said schools could still share biblical principles about marriage. But teachers could not withhold teaching from pupils who were homosexual, or had homosexual parents. "Currently the SORs do not relate to what is taught in schools. Rather, they relate to who is taught," it said.

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