Is the Government Backing Down on the Equality Bill?

Simon Sarmiento at Thinking Anglicans has highlighted the fact that the Government has tabled in the Lords an amendment to the Equality Bill which would essentially cave into the position held by the Church of England that churches must be free to employ key workers in line with orthodox doctrine.

The amendment would change the wording of the religious exemption in Schedule 9, 2(8) from

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).

to

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).

Essentially this amendment means that it will be legal for churches to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation when employing youth workers, evangelists or any post that involves at an point articulating a matter of doctrine. One could easily see how you could change the job description of most roles to fit this profile (e.g. a receptionist who “might need to explain beliefs to people”).

This still leaves me with one question – if the key issue for conservative Christians is sexual behaviour not sexual orientation, does this amendment now allow churches to discriminate when they shouldn’t?

(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

15

practices of the religion, or

(b)

promoting or explaining the doctrine of the religion (whether to

followers of the religion or to others).

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