Monday, 16 November 2009

JCHR report on Equality Bill

Updated

The Joint Committee on Human Rights has published its report Legislative Scrutiny: Equality Bill.

The web version of this report starts here. A PDF version is also available from here.

The portions of the report relating to Religion are interesting.

Go here for the section headed EMPLOYMENT BY ORGANISATIONS BASED UPON RELIGION OR BELIEF. This starts at paragraph 164, and should be read in full. The evidence given to another committee by the CofE and Roman Catholic Church representatives is considered. Evidence given to this committee by the Church of England can be found starting at page Ev 114 of the PDF. That is page 250 of 344! A third memorandum from the Board of Education and the National Society is at page Ev 190 (322 of the PDF).

Update
There are direct links to each of the Church of England memoranda:

The JCHR conclusions include these paragraphs:

174. We welcome the clarification in Schedule 9(2) and 9(3) of the circumstances in which occupational requirements linked to a religious belief or ethos can be imposed by faith-based organisations and organised religious groups. We accept that some limitations on non-discrimination on grounds of religion or belief may be justified and appropriate in relation to religious organisations and that the exemption in Schedule 9(2) fulfils that role. We also consider that in general the provisions of Schedule 9(2) and 9(3) strike the correct balance between the right to equality and non-discrimination and the rights to freedom of religion or belief and association, especially if interpreted in line with the approach set out in Amicus v Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, which emphasised the need for such exceptions to the general prohibition on direct discrimination to be “construed strictly” on the basis that they are “a derogation from the principle of equal treatment”.

175. We consider that substantial grounds exist for doubting whether the “religious ethos” exception provided for in Schedule 9(3) permits organisations with a religious ethos to impose wide-ranging requirements on employees to adhere to religious doctrine in their lifestyles and personal relationships, by for example requiring employees to manifest their religious beliefs by refraining from homosexual acts. We agree with the Government that it is “very difficult to see how in practice beliefs in lifestyles or personal relationships could constitute a religious belief which is a requirement for a job, other than ministers of religion” (which is covered by a different exception). This should put beyond doubt the position that the exemption in Schedule 9(3) cannot be used to discriminate on the basis of sexual conduct linked to sexual orientation. We support this view and recommend that this be made clear in the Bill.

176. We are concerned about the status of employees of organisations delivering public services who find themselves as employees of organisations with a religious ethos who have been contracted to provide the public service. They have a right not to be subjected to religious discrimination on the basis of the ethos of the contracting organisation if they are otherwise performing their job satisfactorily. We are concerned that the widespread use of the “religious ethos” exception set out in Schedule 9(3) by organisations based on a particular religion or belief who are contracted to deliver services on behalf of public authorities could result in public functions being discharged by organisations in receipt of public funds who are nevertheless perceived to discriminate on the basis of religion or belief.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 16 November 2009 at 10:31am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: equality legislation
Comments

Well the legislative beat goes on, apparently.

As a citizen and believer in a western democracy, I generally hope for two outcomes. First I hope that exceptions which permit acts of religious prejudice and discrimination are heavily underlined in law and public policy, so that sufficient publication occurs wherein we are all duly and clearly informed - as in this case: No Queer Folks, Please. The more religious organizations have to duly inform us, all signs in nice big letters shown off in all windows, the better off we shall generally be. Principle one in law and public policy should therefore be, Religions, Warn In Advance.

This goes, too, in my view, for people who might end up needing and/or using the services of such religious organizations. Shelters, meals, health care, assistance of all kinds. Tilted that way, the pinciple becomes: Religions, Identify Your Mean Selves Clearly.

Second outcome dearly desired is that we people in western democracies shall nevertheless have plenty of alternative occasions and instances of law and public policy which do not claim a special ethos which requires prejudice, discrimination, false witness against queer folks who are neighbors, and of course, the very important Earthly Punishment As Sign Of Eternal Punishment.

Both outcomes are transitional. Demonstrations of where we are right now, right in the midst of changing people, changing society, changing family, changing work, changing church. If RW and other leaders use the new covenant to nail all that to the wall forever; the change will not stop, just thinking Anglicans will further dwindle down. Then those changes we Anglicans will not permit God to do in our church lives, God will still probably be able to do in wider western democratic society, law, and public policy.

Posted by: drdanfee on Monday, 16 November 2009 at 6:52pm GMT

"Then those changes we Anglicans will not permit God to do in our church lives, God will still probably be able to do in wider western democratic society, law, and public policy."
- drdanfee -

Dr. Dan is surely right about this. If the Church demonstrates its institutional discrimination against women and gays in the ministry and other forms of leadership within its ranks, then this could be the end of Anglicanism as it has always been represented in and to the world. Doubtless, this would not spell the end of traditional Anglican Inclusiveness, especially in those parts of the world, such as the home of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, where institutional discrimination has already been put to death.

No doubt, the output of bodies like the Revision Committee of the Church of England, when they put their final propositions before the C. of E. General Synod, will influence whether or not the more eirenic parts of the Communion will sign up to the proposed Anglican Covenant.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 16 November 2009 at 11:01pm GMT
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