The bishops say in their press release that they are supporting three specific amendments to Schedule 9 Clause 2 of the Equality Bill. Here is the detail of the third one. As before, please remember two things:
– this clause does not deal with discrimination on the grounds of Religion or Belief, that is covered in Clause 3.
– this clause deals with a variety of other requirements as listed in paragraph 4.
Amendment 100 is sponsored by Baroness O’Cathain, Lord Anderson of Swansea, the Lord Bishop of Winchester, and Baroness Butler-Sloss.
This removes paragraph 8 entirely, thus:
(8) Employment is for the purposes of an organised religion only if the employment wholly or mainly involves— (a) leading or assisting in the observance of liturgical or ritualistic practices of the religion, or (b) promoting or explaining the doctrine of the religion (whether to followers of the religion or to others).
There is no such wording in existing legislation.
Before that amendment is considered, Amendment 99A will be moved by Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, on behalf of the government. This amendment inserts the following wording at the end of paragraph 6, leaving paragraph 8 unchanged. However, Baroness Royall has stated that if Amendment 99A is passed, the government will accept Amendment 100.
”( ) 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).”
The government says that this is only a clarification of the existing law, and does not constitute any change. It refers to the statement made by Lord Sainsbury of Turville in the House of Lords in 2003:
“When drafting Regulation 7(3), we had in mind a very narrow range of employment: ministers of religion, plus a small number of posts outside the clergy, including those who exist to promote and represent religion.” [Official Report, House of Lords, 17 June 2003; Vol. 649, c. 779.]
The bishops say “the current limited exemptions for organised religions are balanced and should not be further restricted.”
What they ask is for candidates for “a small number of lay posts”, or more exactly “certain senior lay posts that involve promoting and representing the religion” to be required “to demonstrate an ability to live a life consistent with the ethos of the religion”.
There are two other amendments being proposed to Clause 2.
In Amendment 97E Lord Alli proposes to delete paragraph (4f) thus
(f) a requirement related to sexual orientation.
In Amendment 100A Baroness Turner of Camden proposes to insert three words in paragraph 8, thus:
-(8) Employment is for the purposes of an organised religion only if the purpose of the employment wholly or mainly involves etc.