The Church Times today carries my report of recent events under the headline: Churches to keep their exemption from equality law, Harman confirms.
THE LAW covering church employment will stay as it is, the Minister for Women and Equality, Harriet Harman, said on Tuesday. She was speaking after the defeat in the Lords of an amendment to the Equality Bill (News, 29 January), which sought to clarify the exemption for religious bodies from the existing legislation, to ensure that it applied only to church ministers…
This report also includes two sections on more of the House of Lords debates from Monday and Wednesday of last week, including the one on Civil Partnerships venues.
Earlier on Monday of last week, the House considered a proposal from Lord Alli to to amend the Civil Partnerships Act to allow religious venues to be used.
Lord Harries, the former Bishop of Oxford, spoke in support. He said: “The Government were absolutely right to respect the religious sensitivities of the Church of England when the Civil Partnership Bill went through Parliament, but since that time a new situation has emerged. The Quakers, liberal Jews, and other religious bodies have made it quite clear that they want permission to conduct these ceremonies in a religious context with religious language. This is a fundamental issue of religious freedom…”
Cif: belief yesterday carried a comment article by Riazat Butt headlined More Catholic than the pope.
There is still much anger over the pope’s comments about UK equality laws. Part of me wonders why people are surprised by the nature of his observations – they are exactly what one would expect – and part of me also wonders why people are focusing on the equality bill, which was more about Anglicans than Catholics. The Catholic bishops did not turn a blind eye to the proposed legislation, but it was the Lords Spiritual who went to war over it. They won. Well done them. That the established church is trying to shut out people whose lifestyle is at odds with Christian ethos brings the words “stable”, “door” and “bolted” to mind. Their attempts to legitimise “sexual cleansing” also reminds me of the time that Katharine Jefferts Schori accused the C of E of double standards…
and she concludes:
While I accept the pope was out of order for passing judgment on equality legislation and UK attitudes towards homosexuality, the same level of anger and outrage must be directed at those Church of England bishops who fought tooth and nail to keep the status quo, to preserve their right to discriminate against gays and lesbians and to institutionalise and legitimise prejudice against anyone they deemed to be unfit for purpose because of their lifestyle.