Religious beliefs give no right to discriminate against gays is the title of an article in The Times today, written by David Pannick QC. This article is concerned with the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007. (PDF of print version here.)
Mr Pannick is a barrister at Blackstone Chambers and a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He writes a fortnightly column for The Times Law section.
Part of what he says:
…The regulations do not prevent anyone from believing whatever they like for whatever reason they wish. But although freedom of belief is absolute, freedom to manifest belief is strictly limited. This was confirmed by the law lords last year when rejecting the claim of the schoolgirl who wanted to wear a particular form of religious dress in defiance of the school uniform policy.
The right not to be discriminated against on the ground of sexual orientation is a fundamental right, any interference with which requires substantial justification. That the discriminator is acting by reference to his or her religious beliefs cannot of itself provide a justification, any more than if the provider of the services (perhaps Boers who emigrated from South Africa after the National Party lost power) have a religious objection to dealing with people of a different race.
No doubt the State should interfere with the manifestation of the religious beliefs of others only where that is justified. But the religious objector is entitled to no special protection in this respect. If I run an adoption agency and believe that it is wrong for children to be adopted by homosexuals, the fact that my views are based on logic, careful study of reports, and an expertise in child psychology cannot make my beliefs less entitled to respect than if they are based on a belief that God told Moses or Muhammad the right answer…