Saturday, 23 January 2010

Equality Bill: statement from three bishops

Church of England press release received at 11 am Saturday

Equality Bill: ‘Churches must not face further restrictions’

23 January 2010

A statement issued on behalf of the Rt Revd Michael Scott-Joynt, Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Michael Langrish, Bishop of Exeter and Chair of the Churches Legislation Advisory Service and the Rt Revd Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester, as bishops who have taken a keen interest in the progression of the Bill:

“This Monday, as Peers meet to consider the Government’s Equality Bill, they will be asked to vote on an issue of great importance to Christians and all people of faith. At stake is how we, as a liberal democracy based on Christian values, strike the right balance between the rights and responsibilities of different groups to be protected from harassment and unfair discrimination and the rights of churches and religious organisations to appoint and employ people consistently with their guiding doctrine and ethos.

“The Christian Churches, alongside many other faiths, support the Equality Bill’s wider aims in promoting fairness in society and improving redress for those who have suffered unjust treatment.

“However, unless the present drafting of the Bill is changed, churches and other faiths will find themselves more vulnerable to legal challenge than under the current law. When regulations on employment discrimination were passed as recently as 2003, churches and other faiths were granted certain limited exemptions by parliament to be used when recruiting ministers of religion or others to a small number of lay posts. These enabled religious organisations to apply requirements that candidates for certain senior lay posts that involve promoting and representing the religion are able to demonstrate an ability to live a life consistent with the ethos of the religion, as well as sharing the faith.

“The government have said that they share our view - that the current limited exemptions for organised religions are balanced and should not be further restricted. Yet they are proposing to modify them. They have produced no convincing case for change. They have now offered to amend their original proposals in the Bill but instead of reverting to the status quo have produced words which will still create difficulties for churches and religious groups. This despite our raising the problem many months ago and offering various ways of resolving the issue.

“We must conclude therefore that the only way to maintain the status quo in exemptions for religious organisations is for Peers to support amendments 98, 99 and 100 on Monday, tabled by Baroness O’Cathain and the Bishop of Winchester, over and above the Governnment’s compromise amendment 99A.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 23 January 2010 at 11:21am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation

With the Churches and their Bishops so against it the Government must have got this about right.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Saturday, 23 January 2010 at 12:33pm GMT

With bishops lining up to defend privilege and put down moves towards equality, we seem to be back in the days of the Reform Bill.

Can these ancien régime bishops not see how damaging it is to the Church's standing in society for them always to be fighting losing battles against equality? Are there any enlightened bishops prepared to come out with a strong statement in favour of moves towards greater equality?

Posted by: Fr Mark on Saturday, 23 January 2010 at 4:42pm GMT

Ah! These bishops who have already distinguished themselves with their homophobic comments (and I use the word advisedly) appear to have tasted blood!

They are not defenders of faith - they are nasty men:

Do you remember the Dromantine Anathema?

"The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us."

Yet listen to my Lord of Winchester chilling description of us and our families in an earlier debate in the House of Lords:

"are less than the best, less than the most healthy, and less than God's will for humankind."

Thrice he diminished us!!

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Saturday, 23 January 2010 at 5:25pm GMT

These people are liars. There is no further restriction, just clarification as directed by Europe and by the cases lost by the church

Just shows there will never be any pleasing these people - there should be no exemptions for anyone and if that affects their institutional homophobia, tough.

More evidence that religion should have no place at all in the public sphere.

Posted by: Merseymike on Saturday, 23 January 2010 at 6:47pm GMT

Might it be appropriate to describe these 3 bishops (et al) as "Concern Trolls"? >;-/

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 23 January 2010 at 7:45pm GMT

"are less than the best, less than the most healthy, and less than God's will for humankind."

- Martin Reynolds, on Saturday -

Is, I wonder, My Lord of Winchester, here quoted as speaking of the LGBT community or of certain English Bishops? If indeed these were the words of this learned cleric, and he was speaking about homosexual people, he really does need to up-date his understanding of human sexuality.

This style of condescension no longer does credit to the hierarchy of the Church of England. How can the hereditory Lords continue to live with such proponents of sexist rhetoric? It simply is not cricket!

Posted by: Fatrher Ron Smith on Sunday, 24 January 2010 at 5:00am GMT

More like the Three Stooges JCF.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Sunday, 24 January 2010 at 11:31pm GMT

Well, a united episcopal front as it were? A bitterly cold front, blowing in from an inhospitable due North?

Their common cause spin doctor gloss intends to confuse us, as I read it. The preponderance of the available empirical evidence is that most religions continue to proclaim flat earth notions about queer folks in particular, period.

We are supposed to be alarmed that any regulation or law would narrow or omit the established religious leeway for preaching these flat earth notions about queer folks as essential, unchangeable, utterly true divine revelation.

But, check the details. Nobody is forced to discontinue believing the earth is flat at all; however if faith-based communities wish to successfully and safely operate airports, patting themselves self-regardingly on the back as God's best and only chosen or called to the aviation industry; they shall have to allow public safety to trump many of their traditional core practices. In fact the trump has already taken place, as queer folks are no longer to be burned-tortured publicly at the nearest square with the local revs and/or bishops solemnly in prayerful and sadistically satisfying attendance. When did we shift all that great stuff, and why did we shift it? It was our holy norm, backed up by readings from scripture that were centuries old, hardly doubted before by anybody, except perhaps those being tortured/burned?

Now we come to the hot button nubs. What will the church do, faced all around - firstly by solidly competent queer folks whose competency should and ought to trump all the nasty bad neighbor stuff the church continues to preach about them in so many sad instances - and faced, secondly, by all the allies, family, friends who have allowed the sheer competence (and frequently, sheer lovingkindness) of those same queer folks to trump and shift traditional negative opinions, beliefs, and yes, employment practices?

Posted by: drdanfee on Tuesday, 26 January 2010 at 8:32pm GMT
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