Monday, 7 September 2009

CofE guidance on the Equality Act 2006

Here’s a document I should have linked over two years ago, but I only discovered its existence today.

The Church of England Archbishops’ Council published this guidance on the Equality Act 2006, prepared by the Legal Office at Church House (.rtf format), in May 2007.

As the CofE website page says:

Equality Act 2006

The Equality Act 2006 – relating to religion and belief, and sexual orientation – came into force on 30 April 2007. Guidance on this legislation has been issued by the Archbishops’ Council and is available here. The guidance is intended as a basic guide for dioceses, parishes and incumbents and should not be treated as a substitute for specific legal advice.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 7 September 2009 at 6:03pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: equality legislation

Two interesting paragraphs in the Guidance:

"31. It should further be noted that in all three cases of discrimination, it will not be possible to avoid a finding of unlawful discrimination by saying that it was not the person’s sexual orientation as such that was taken exception to, but only their sexual conduct. The law does not make such a distinction, and discriminating on grounds of same-sex conduct will amount to discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation under the Regulations and therefore be unlawful unless one of the exceptions in the Regulations applies."

[The law "gets it" even if the Church does not...]

and, a few paragraphs later, the guidance that a minister can refuse Communion to a partnered gay person, but only if the minister also refuses Communion to unmarried, sexually active heterosexual persons.

[Would that include divorced and remarried persons also?]

Interesting also that a Church of England minister cannot bar gay persons in the parish from attending services; they have the legal right to attend. Perhaps sit-ins will be called for?

Posted by: Charlotte on Monday, 7 September 2009 at 6:56pm BST

Am I the only one who thinks there is something really quite bizarre about the C of E issuing guidelines to explain to incumbents just what you might be able to get away with legally in terms of keeping gay people OUT of your churches, church halls etc, rather than issuing guidelines suggesting what incumbents could be doing to attract more gay people IN to them?

Posted by: Fr Mark on Monday, 7 September 2009 at 9:05pm BST

These were guidelines issued by the Church of England in 2006. What I would like to know is whether they have been either ratified or amended since the current legislation has been brought into use. Interesting though, the comments of Charlotte and Mark. The provision Mark speaks of sounds rather like the tax lawyer's 'evasion or avoidance' controversy.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 7 September 2009 at 10:17pm BST

CofE - who brought us Nazir-Ali and Wright - yeah, that's who I look to for guidelines on equality.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Tuesday, 8 September 2009 at 5:25am BST

I'm rather late to this party, so please excuse my belated comments, but:
The CofE feels it (or a priest) could be sued if a priest refused communion to a partnered gay person, but not to a partnered, but not wed, straight person?? I know the CofE is an established church, that the US and England are two countries divided by a common legacy, and all that, but that concept sounds bizarre. I mean, suing a business because it hires straight people but not gay ones is one thing, but suing a church over its doctrinal practices?

Posted by: peterpi on Wednesday, 9 September 2009 at 4:20am BST

They were in fact issued in May 2007, when the legislation (passed in 2006) took effect. I only just became aware of them, when searching for something else. I do not think they received any publicity at the time of publication.

They were published in the name of the Archbishops' Council, so must be presumed to have been approved by that body.

It would appear not.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 9 September 2009 at 8:55am BST

Para 45 starts:
"There was a certain amount of discussion, during the passage of the Regulations, about whether they would affect the ability to refuse to admit to Holy Communion persons to whose sexual conduct exception was taken."

To be fair to the authors of this document, I think this is a true statement of what occurred, and paragraphs 45 and 46 are no doubt intended as a response to that discussion.

The regulations provide an exemption specifically "if it is necessary to comply with the doctrine of the organisation" .

And also "so as to avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion's followers."

It seems to me that the latter exemption is the more questionable one.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 9 September 2009 at 9:03am BST
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