Thursday, 14 January 2010

Equality Bill - new definition proposed


The Government has proposed a new definition of when “Employment is for the purposes of an organised religion”.

Here it is:

Employment is for the purposes of an organised religion only if—

(a) the employment is as a minister of religion, or

(b) the employment is in another post that exists (or, where the post has not previously been filled, that would exist) to promote or represent the religion or to explain the doctrines of the religion (whether to followers of the religion or to others).

This would replace the current wording found in Schedule 9, Paragraph 2(8).


In order to evaluate this, it may be helpful to recall that this clause is designed to cover a variety of issues, not only sexual orientation.

(a) a requirement to be of a particular sex;

(b) a requirement not to be a transsexual person;

(c) a requirement not to be married or a civil partner;

(d) a requirement not to be married to, or the civil partner of, a person who has a living former spouse or civil partner;

(e) a requirement relating to circumstances in which a marriage or civil partnership came to an end;

(f) a requirement related to sexual orientation.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 14 January 2010 at 11:47am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: equality legislation

I think you mean Schedule 9, Paragraph 2(8) Simon.

yes of course, fixed, thanks.

Posted by: tommiaquinas on Thursday, 14 January 2010 at 1:00pm GMT

Has been withdrawn I believe. Original wording stands.

Posted by: themethatisme on Thursday, 14 January 2010 at 1:47pm GMT

This is an extraordianary step back from the Government.

I would say that this so increases the scope of jobs barred to gay people that it might fall foul of the European "legal opinion". It certainly gives all Fittall and the CofE were asking for - his advert for a Press Officer can certainly now include -
"No gay person need apply"

The exclusion of gay people within the C of E can hardly now avoid the description of "institutional homophobia" - and who would have thought that this deepening rejection of gay people would happen on Rowan Williams' watch.

I suspect that the Cutting Edge Consortium will be pooing their pants at this climb down - expect a loud if rather impotent reaction.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 14 January 2010 at 2:01pm GMT

I don't think (b) would be acceptable. Many posts might exist to "promote" a religion or to "represent" it, so this would be a big hole in the code against unlawful discrimination.

However, even if it passes in this form (which, as a government amendment, it probably will), the Courts will likely apply a very restrictive interpretation so perhaps it would not matter too much.

Posted by: badman on Thursday, 14 January 2010 at 2:38pm GMT

I see no evidence that this amendment has been withdrawn as yet. It is proposed as an amendment (addition) to paragraph 6, on the presumption that the amendment to delete paragraph 8 will also be passed.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 14 January 2010 at 4:38pm GMT

I agree with Martin that this is dreadful. But surely it may fall foul of the European court? Off-topic - but in one sense it isn't, because everything in the C of E is affected by our low-grade leadership - did anyone hear Sentamu's disgraceful ramblings about the Haitian earthquake in response to John Humphrys's predictable inquisition? It seems simply staggering that the C of E number two cannot produce anything better when confronted with the problem of evil, though, come to think of it, Rowan Williams was equally hopeless in relation to the Tsunami (Keith Ward, of course, was right on the ball). I think Sentamu 'deserves' a separate post, so poor was he.

Posted by: john on Thursday, 14 January 2010 at 4:51pm GMT

I can see it is real progress that I and other ministers of religion can be discriminated against by our churches. First rate. Are we being sacrificed in order to get the other more progressive itmes through the Bill ?

It beggars belief that in 2012 a young minister (or one of any age) has no protection from abuse and discrimination, for ordinary everyday extra-ordinary things like falling for someone, having a relationship and getting hitched at the Town Hall.

And yet the C of E accepted myself and my partner, from theological college to ordaining bishop, onwards and that was 36 years ago -- now they want to turn round and say "Oh the deals off!"

Give me a break - I'll be drawing my (C of E) pension soon with its provision for my Civil Partner to receive it in the event of my dying first ...

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Thursday, 14 January 2010 at 7:54pm GMT

Are people angry about this wording suggesting that it should become illegal for the Catholic Church to refuse ordination to women?

Posted by: Edgar on Thursday, 14 January 2010 at 9:52pm GMT

In the US the Courts will not determine who is orthodox in religious this would be interference by the Government telling us what we should believe. It is intrinsic to the Catholic Faith that those in Holy orders must be male.

Posted by: Robert Ian williams on Thursday, 14 January 2010 at 10:50pm GMT

Blah, blah, blah in the face of Haiti's suffering.

When will the C of E have the courage to press for dis-establishment?

Posted by: J Michael Povey on Thursday, 14 January 2010 at 11:07pm GMT

While I can imagine giving enthusiastic support to having the Roman Catholic Church brought into line with all equalities legislation - I regret that the present Bill will not do.

I saw the report in the Telegraph saying that CARE had obtained a legal opinion making the claim Edgar is repeating - but it is all part of a well organised scare campaign dealing out (for the most part) lies.

If anything worries me it is this, that the Christian groups and Churches opposed to this legislation have been willing to use such deceit and disinformation to achieve their goals.

I remember the same spin over previous equalities legislation - the claim was that Christian hoteliers and wedding photographers would be dragged into courts in their hundreds by litigious gay people demanding their services. In fact, despite a massive effort - just a few rather dubious examples were dragged into the public eye - and even some these have been manufactered, managed and manipulated to hide important details.

I believe that many people will see through this spin and the ONCE AGAIN all of us who delight in the gift of being Christians will suffer because of their hideous deceptions to be allowed to discriminate - something I believe we all should be ashamed of and we all WILL be ashamed of one day.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 14 January 2010 at 11:33pm GMT

The Government recognise that the wording has to be interpreted in the light of the EU directive

But the time really should come where gay people need to make their choice - stay in an institutionally homophobic body or leave.

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 14 January 2010 at 11:46pm GMT

John - yes I can hardly believe how woeful +Sentamu was. Disorganised thought processes, all over the place and not answering the questions put to him. Full of pious platitudes - especially in his incomprehensible reply to 'How can God be seen to be all Merciful and all Powerful with regard to Haiti?'
A shocking embarrassment.

Posted by: Neil on Friday, 15 January 2010 at 12:55am GMT

Are people angry about this wording suggesting that it should become illegal for the Catholic Church (sic) to refuse ordination to women?

Posted by: Edgar on Thursday, 14 January 2010 at 9:52pm GMT.

The Catholic Church does ordain women.

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Friday, 15 January 2010 at 4:58am GMT

But if disestablished who will protect the Church from itself (and the rest of us from it) ?

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Friday, 15 January 2010 at 5:00am GMT

Contrary to some postings, this amendment is not primarily about homosexuality and the C of E.

Whilst I personally believe that the RCC should follow the C of E in having women priests I canot imagine anyone of integrity believing that this should be achieved by UK legislation. Meanwhile the bishops in the Lords have been speaking in their role not as defenders of the Established Church but in their accepted position as defenders of faith in general - a role much supported by other denominations and faiths.

In strictly C of E terms the main threat to the status quo would probably be to canon C4, which requires the investigation into the circumstances of previous marriage breakdowns in advance of a candidate who is remarried (or married to someone who is remarried) going forward for ordination as deacon or priest.

The state must tread very carefully when legislating in ways that impact upon how mainstream religious bodies and their adherents are able to live out their faith. What was initially proposed showed woeful ignorance of how faith bodies work, the revised definition is much clearer and will allow appropriate exceptions to a generally good Bill whilst preventing faith based bodies from restricting all employment or office holding too tightly.

Posted by: David Walker on Friday, 15 January 2010 at 8:43am GMT

Achilles is back.

Apropos Sentamu, and then Giles Fraser today; at least Fraser has the wit to invoke profound intellects, such as Leibniz and Voltaire, even though he personally also veered off into anodyne, comforting territory.

The leadership of the CoE is neither intellectually able, morally feisty, nor pastorally effective.

I am close to tearing up my membership card here, in fact close to turning my heels and walking away entirely from this whole 'Christian' thing.

Posted by: MikeM aka Achilles on Friday, 15 January 2010 at 11:28am GMT

Perhaps faith bodies should not be allowed to 'work' in that way, David. Perhaps there is a case for forcing you to change.

Posted by: Merseymike on Friday, 15 January 2010 at 12:18pm GMT

"Meanwhile the bishops in the Lords have been speaking in their role... as defenders of faith" - David Walker

I disagree. They perceive their role as defending the prejudices of the past because they cannot accept that Moses is leading us across the Red Sea once again allowing us to be bolder in our faith. They are making a lot of noise because they are finding themselves on the wrong side of the water and increasingly isolated.

If they had the interests of a minority of the faithful - created by God in her/his image - at heart, they would be at the leading edge of efforts to end the appallingly discriminatory practices still allowed to carry on in the Church.

But then it took them a while to accept Abolition...

Who pays their pension?

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Friday, 15 January 2010 at 1:28pm GMT

The way things now stand between church and state, most liberals like me will prefer the attitude of the state to women and to LGBT people.

However, it does not take a huge leap of imagination to put ourselves in a position where this is not true any longer. Suppose the state started taking quite other attitudes - as in the past it did in the Third Reich, or as it does in Uganda today. Would you really really want to give the state the ability to dictate the churches' standards? Really?

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Friday, 15 January 2010 at 1:55pm GMT

I seem to remember a scriptural injunction that puts Love above Law. Quite apart from the State needing to defend the democratic freedoms of ALL people, surely the Church is pledged to something even more precious - 'Mishpat' - True Justice, Mercy, etc.

In the end, permissions to go forward for ordination will still be in the hands of the local Bishop. What sort of theological and ethical stance he/she will bring to the issue: in the C.of E., for instance - whether or not to ordain anyone who feels called by God to minister - whether male or female, gay or straight. it could really be quite simple - if the C.of E. could only move forward in Faith and Hope and Love, following the example of some of its more Gospel-oriented provincial partners.

One day, bishops who discriminate unjustly will be judged by the people they are appointed to serve and, hopefully, given their due reward.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 15 January 2010 at 6:30pm GMT

David Walker how have 'the bishops'been 'defending faith' ? It escapes me.

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Friday, 15 January 2010 at 11:42pm GMT

"Love above Law" - Ron

Love IS law.

Remember Jesus' commandments upon which hang all laws. If we regard gay people as our neighbours, then according to the second commandment the bishops' actions are contrary to God.

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Saturday, 16 January 2010 at 10:29am GMT

L Roberts "David Walker how have 'the bishops'been 'defending faith' ? It escapes me."

A very good question. Defending prejudice, and, seen in the most charitable light, temporising with regard to institutional injustice, are ways of harming the faith very greatly, not defending it at all.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Saturday, 16 January 2010 at 12:24pm GMT

"It is intrinsic to the Catholic Faith that those in Holy orders must be male." - R.I.Williams -

Not the Catholic Faith, Robert, just the Roman Catholic Church. There is nothing in the Creeds that says that ordination is only for males.

In Catholic Churches where the Holy Spirit is still seen to be alive and active, there has been for some time a realisation that Saint Paul's statement: "In Christ, there is neither male nor female", can be applied to those who are called to doing the work of Christ in the ministry and leadership of the Church.

The Church is no longer bound by all of Paul's ideas about women, but this has been seen to meet the needs of the Church in the modern world, where women are no longer subservient to men.

When your own Roman Church eventually comes to the realisation that God's Image and Likeness resides equally in every single human person - regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation, it might be more successful in drawing more of its people into fruitful ministry.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 2:17am GMT
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