Friday, 8 January 2010

Equality Bill in the Lords

Amended again Monday afternoon

My report in last week’s Church Times on the December debate in the House of Lords, can be now be read at Religion is more than this, say peers.

The consideration of the Equality Bill will resume next week, when the House of Lords considers the bill in Committee. The following five dates have been allocated: Monday 11 Jan, Wednesday 13 Jan, Tuesday 19 Jan, Monday 25 Jan, Wednesday 27 January.

Numerous amendments have been proposed, see the new marshalled list of amendments to be moved in committee, starting here.
Monday And now this revised marshalled list starting here.

The Conservative party spokesperson, Baroness Varsi, together with Baroness O’Cathain, Lord Anderson of Swansea, and the Bishop of Winchester have put down an amendment to strike out the whole of the new definition of the purposes of organised religion. Amendment 100. The latter three have also put down an amendment to remove the word “proportionate” in paragraphs 5 and 6 of Schedule 9 clause 2. Amendments 98, 99

Baroness Varsi and Baroness Morris have also put down an amendment which would remove the word “philosophical” from the definition of “belief”. Amendment 20

The Bishop of Winchester had put down an amendment dealing with religious marriages and gender reassignment discrimination. This is not in the current list because it has been withdrawn for redrafting.I am told it will be resubmitted shortly.

The Bishop of Chester has put down an amendment to insert the words “under medical supervision” into the definition of gender reassignment. Amendment 10

Baroness Turner of Camden has put down amendments to ensure that the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 will have to be read in light of Schedule 9 (3). Amendments 124, 125 and 137

She has also put down amendments:

- to modify paragraph 8 so that it reads (addition in bold):

Employment is for the purposes of an organised religion only if the purpose of the employment wholly or mainly involves—

Amendment 100

- to qualify Clause 3 of Schedule 9 (Other requirements relating to religion or belief) to add:

(d) A is not operating as a public authority, on behalf of a public authority or operating in relation to a contract with public authorities.”

Amendment 101A

Lord Alli has put down amendments:

- to allow civil partnerships to take place on religious premises Amendment 119A

- to delete the clause in Schedule 9 paragraph 2(4) which reads “(f) a requirement related to sexual orientation.” i.e. the transposition of the 2003 SO Regulations paragraph 7(3). Amendment 97E

Lord MacKay of Clashfern has put down this amendment:

“Conscientious objection
Nothing in this Act shall have the effect of requiring a person (A) to provide a good or service to a person (B) when doing so has the effect of making A complicit with an action to which A has a genuine conscientious objection.”

Amendment 57A

Michael Foster MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Equalities has today announced that the Government will propose an amendment:

Contrary to some reports over the weekend, the Equality Bill will still allow churches to hire only male clergy and will let faith-based charities continue to recruit people of the same faith where this is a requirement of the job, such as care staff who may also be asked to pray with the people they look after. We have been absolutely clear on this throughout the Bill’s passage, but as there has been some misunderstanding around our intentions we will amend the Bill to make this clear beyond doubt.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 8 January 2010 at 9:10am GMT | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation
Comments

"The BISHOP OF WINCHESTER had put down an amendment dealing with religious marriages and gender reassignment discrimination. (This is not in the current list)." C/of E. Synod schedule -

What's His Lordship up to now, I wonder? Who is he planning to 'put down' now? And, one wonders why his amendment has not yet been detailed in the 'current list? Is this because it might be a little contentious - like his stance on the employment of LGBT by the Church of England?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 8 January 2010 at 10:10pm GMT

The amendment was among those posted earlier on that website but the earlier pages have now been withdrawn. I am investigating what has happened to it, and would advise not jumping to conclusions.

There is no doubt about it having been put forward though, as I have an explanatory note from Church House Westminster to go with it. I just don't have the text of the actual amendment now!

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 8 January 2010 at 10:58pm GMT

Simon,

I noticed that, based on your close study of this law and your attendance at the recent press briefing, you were able to rebutt press accusations that the Government was knowingly creating a situation where secularists and religious organisations would have to fight in the courts over the exact application of these anti-discrimination rules to religious employment.

Do you also have anything you can say in response to the assertions, made by several Bishops, that the restrictions will remove the religious freedom to appoint leaders, pastors and other key employees who believe and live according to that religion's rules - unless their activities are wholly or mainly restricted to teaching doctrine, leading worship or promoting the religion? ie was anything said about Archbishops, Bishops, Deans or key diocesan employees - who mainly spend their time on tasks such as leading the religion or its organisation, pastoral care of adherents, or leading cathedral staff teams?

Posted by: davidwh on Saturday, 9 January 2010 at 12:19am GMT

"The Bishop of Winchester had put down an amendment dealing with religious marriages and gender reassignment discrimination. This is not in the current list.
The Bishop of Chester has put down an amendment to insert the words “under medical supervision” into the definition of gender reassignment. Amendment 10"

Oh brother (formerly known as "sister", or vice-versa). I sense uninformed mischief above...

Speaking personally --- though a Yank --- re +Chester's amendment: not ALL "gender reassignment" REQUIRES it be "under medical supervision", y'know?

I can see it now: "As a church-worker, if you have a Y chromosome, you'll have to bring a letter from your doctor to your bishop, before you'll be publicly permitted to wear a skirt . . . unless you're Scottish, of course!" ;-X

I guess it's just not possible to treat the "freaky He-Shes" as if they have any common sense, is it? {snark/Off}

If only I could believe that +Winchester was slightly interested in actual "gender reassignment discrimination", then issues of what should/shouldn't be "under medical supervision" would take care of themselves. IMHO.

[NB: in the USA, there is the additional barrier that the kind of "gender reassignment" requiring that it be "under medical supervision" is next-to-impossible to pay for---usually even WITH "good" health insurance!]

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 9 January 2010 at 7:37am GMT

davidwh

Those who are complaining about the new definition embodied in paragraph 8 fail to recognise that the law as it stands is already extremely limited in scope. Even if that paragraph is deleted from the bill, they will not have the kind of scope to make appointments that you suggest, as they do not have it now. The current exemption with respect to Sexual Orientation is subject to two important restrictions:

The "Amicus" judgment which you can find at
http://www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk/judgmentsfiles/j2478/amicus-v-ssti.htm

The original text of the EU Directive which required the UK to introduce the employment regulations in the first place, you can find that at
http://www.eacih.eu/024cc19be10754402/024cc19be109bc40c/index.html

And, the EU has recently taken the view that the current UK law, and in particular SO Reg 7(3), does not conform to the latter, being too wide in scope. The UK government has to respond to the EU Commission's "reasoned opinion".

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 9 January 2010 at 12:32pm GMT

Agreed, Simon. Indeed, to quote davidwh
Do you also have anything you can say in response to the assertions, made by several Bishops, that the restrictions will remove the religious freedom to appoint leaders, pastors and other key employees who believe and live according to that religion's rules - unless their activities are wholly or mainly restricted to teaching doctrine, leading worship or promoting the religion?

My response would be - absolutely, and even that gives homophobic religionism more 'respect' than it deserves. I think they should be tolerated as we tolerate the existence of the BNP.

Posted by: Merseymike on Saturday, 9 January 2010 at 12:39pm GMT

To continue...

Very recently, the argument has been advanced that the wording of paragraph 8 excludes those clergy who do not spend the majority of their "working week" in the activities described. It is curious that this argument was not raised at an earlier stage, e.g. during the Public Bill Committee hearings in the House of Commons.

The government has denied that this is a valid interpretation of the paragraph, and has shown no inclination to change the wording, nor to modify the guidance text accompanying the bill to make it explicit that this is not what is meant.

It seems clear that in the Lords the Conservatives are going to press the government further on this point.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 9 January 2010 at 12:44pm GMT

Simon, thanks for your thoughts..

It would be perverse to legislate that religions do not have the freedom to select their leaders and representatives from among their own adherents.(!)

And it seems curious that the Government shows "no inclination" to consider what different religion's leaders actually do while legislating such a restriction!!!

ps Interestingly, I think that this restriction may little problem for Muslims and Evangelicals, more so for Anglicans and Catholics ....

Posted by: davidwh on Monday, 11 January 2010 at 12:20am GMT

Discrimination on the grounds of religion by religious organisations is covered in an entirely separate clause from the one we have been discussing. Please look here:
http://thinkinganglicans.org.uk/uploads/schedule9clause3.html

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 11 January 2010 at 12:38am GMT

Yes, but isn't that the problem; in most religions you can't separate belief and practice like these regulations do - beliefs involve theory and practical outworking or, as Barth said: "orthopraxy is orthodoxy".

The Government can't say it is respecting religious belief if it doesn't respect religious practice... so potentially preventing a religion from employing (or not employing) someone because they don't adhere to its behavioural norms is the same as preventing them from employing (or not employing) someone because they don't adhere to its theoretical beliefs. Even when we don't approve of those behavioural norms!

Posted by: davidwh on Wednesday, 13 January 2010 at 3:40pm GMT

David

you're still not getting it. Why should I be affected by your religious beliefs? You are free to have your beliefs and you are free to act according to them, up to the point where they have a negative impact on other people who do not share them.

Or what makes your personal religious belief so much more important than mine, and so much more worthy of legal protection? Why should I have to experience actual restrictions in my life because of your unrestricted right to your beliefs?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 13 January 2010 at 4:39pm GMT

Erika,

re: "you're still not getting it. Why should I be affected by your religious beliefs?" You must expect to be so restricted if you take a paid job with my religious community 10% of which is spent teaching the community's children the doctrines of our faith. I would expect the South Place Ethical Society to refuse to pay an evangelical Christian caretaker for conducting an occasional humanist funeral.

Posted by: Richard Wilkins on Wednesday, 13 January 2010 at 9:16pm GMT

Erika, I think that we should both have equal rights. Are you suggesting that you think that you are being restricted because you don't have the right to be a key employee of a religion you don't agree with? Isn't that a rather worrying way of thinking?

The religion I adhere to should have the right to govern itself according to its own theology, behavioural practices, and order requirements - and restrict its employees to people who agree ... and yours should also have the right to govern itself according to your own theology, behavioural practices, and order requirements - and restrict its employees to people who agree.

Each religion has different beliefs regarding theology, behavioural practices, and order requirements - by definition!!! Inevitably, if you adhere to one you will think that other religions' are to some extent wrong, silly, down right bad or even find them personally hurtful. I will probably think the same about yours, and the majority of the general public will probably think that about both of our religions!!!

But the whole point of freedom of religion, like freedom of speech, is that if you are not free to be wrong you are not free at all.

Posted by: davidwh on Thursday, 14 January 2010 at 12:37am GMT

Richard and David

We've been round this particular house many many times.
You are free to discriminate against me within the confines of your homophobic church.

But if you offer a public service you have to abide by public standards of decency and public laws.

There is no single credible reason why a gay maths teacher should not teach in a CoE school.
He isn't teaching anything about the doctrines or practices of your particular brand of the Christian faith, he is not seeking to indoctrinate children against your unhealthy core beliefs and he is not leading worship.
A lesbian dinner lady does not slip your children pro-gay pamphlets with their fish fingers, a gay caretaker does not dab pro-gay slogans on the school fences he mends.

Discriminate, if you must, but only where it's within your core role.

As an aside: taken to its logical conclusion your attitude that gay people should not be offered employment in a moral and faithful environment really means that, if only all of society were as moral and upright as you, no gay person would ever be allowed to work anywhere. You might want to think about that in a little more depth.

As to " Are you suggesting that you think that you are being restricted because you don't have the right to be a key employee of a religion you don't agree with?" - Actually, you can no longer pretend that homophobia is something intrinsic to the Christian faith and accepted by all Christians. Many many of us disagree with your view of our faith. So I’d be really grateful if you could stop speaking of “the religion” as though you view and yours alone was IT.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 14 January 2010 at 9:44am GMT

Whatever the outcome of the debate about freedom to restrict categories of employment within specific religious establishments, there still remains the problem of the Roman Catholic Church's established tradition of not ordaining women priests. How will this tradition be affected by the proposed legislation, I wonder?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 14 January 2010 at 10:59pm GMT

Richard,

even if I shared your particular theological standpoint (which I don't), surely there are better ways of witnessing to the world than saying "no homos or unbelievers can be caretakers in our church"?

Surely?

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Saturday, 16 January 2010 at 1:31am GMT
Post a comment









Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.