Britain’s New Equality Bill

Have you heard about the new Equality Bill, currently going through Britain’s Parliament? No, I hadn’t heard about it either.

It seems a curious piece of legislation, officially aimed at ironing out what are deemed to be “inequalities” in life, but actually creating a whole new range of offences which could see people being penalised for doing or saying quite ordinary and inoffensive things. It is especially scary in its possibilities for restricting Christian activities and the work of churches.

The Christian Institute, an evangelical-based organisation, has expressed strong concerns:

“Under the current law, religious groups can restrict posts to Christians whose private conduct is consistent with the Bible’s teaching on sexual ethics. These posts must be for the purposes of organised religion, which could include jobs like a youth worker.

But under the Equality Bill, the Government is specifying that this protection can only apply to posts that mainly involve leading worship or explaining doctrine.

The Bill’s explanatory notes make it clear that this protection “would not apply to a requirement that a church youth worker or accountant be heterosexual”.

In its evidence to MPs, the Roman Catholic Church said that, under proposed ‘harassment’ provisions that the Bill could add to employment law, a church could be sued by an atheist cleaner who took exception to crosses and other religious displays in its buildings.

The Bill also introduces a new Equality Duty, which would force public bodies such as schools and the police to promote ‘equality’ on grounds including sexual orientation and transsexualism.”

Recently the media has been dominated by revelations about Members of Parliament claiming huge expenses – for example, for the refurbishment and redecoration on their homes – and then there was the resignation of the Speaker of the House of Commons and the controversial appointment of a new one who has announced that he intends to abolish all sorts of traditions associated with Parliament and its heritage. Discussion of actual legislation going through Parliament has been a bit minimal.

So what does the Equality Bill actually involve? Debate so far as not been vigorous. But the points raised by the Catholic Bishops, and the Christian Institute, do merit a response.