The Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) has queried the last-ditch tactics of religious lobbyists trying to extend the “religious opt outs” to the Equality Bill currently before the House of Lords.
The proposed legislation already allows religious organisations to discriminate on grounds of sex and relationship status when it comes to roles which relate specifically to promotion of the religion in question, which will enable for example bans on women priests or gay clergy to remain in place.
The lobby is demanding the right to maintain many other jobs as “no go” areas for gay people, or for people who are not followers of their religion. This could be used to justify to a ban on, say, gay clerical staff or atheist maths teachers in religiously run schools.
GALHA Secretary David Cahristmas commented:
“The behaviour and tactics of the religious lobby, with their powerfully placed friends, including bishops in the House of Lords, almost call to mind the late Rasputin.
“Again and again their arguments have been rebutted, but again and again, just when you think that the point has been won, they return with more demands for opt outs. On the one hand the churches and other religious groups insist that they have the right and the duty to provide services in the wider world, including education and social services.
“Humanists welcome their contribution, provided that they don’t discriminate against people either as employees or members of the public, and provided that they don’t make demands on wider public funds. We also welcome the opportunity to work with members and supporters of faith groups who are also challenging religious opt outs, and in particular we applaud the founding of the Cutting Edge Consortium. ”
“However, some religious bodies seem to be under the bizarre illusion that if they themselves are not allowed to discriminate, then this somehow constitutes discrimination against them. This is political incorrectness gone mad.
“We call on the government to keep its nerve and insist that all employers, religious or not, treat their employees and their customers with equal respect irrespective of gender, sexuality or religious belief. We call on the religious objectors to repeat after me. “Discrimination is discrimination even when it is my “religion” that is telling me to indulge in it.”