Gay rights organisation Stonewall has described claims by Christian and Muslim activists that new anti-discrimination regulations will force religious groups to hire gay people as fantasy.
Ben Summerskill, Stonewall’s chief executive, also accused evangelical Christians of breaking one of the ten commandments.
Evangelicals have stated that the regulations, which will outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation when accessing goods or services, will force them to promote homosexuality in schools and hire out their church halls to gay groups.
A spokesman for the Lawyers Christian Fellowship, which is organising a protest march on Parliament next week, told The Daily Mail, “The regulations not only force people to assist and promote activities contrary to the historic teachings of their faith, whether Christian, Jewish or Muslim, but also censor them from speaking freely about their beliefs.”
“This is not a misunderstanding of the regulations, it is an invention,” said Mr Summerskill.
“These Christian groups are breaking the ninth commandment, namely ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness.’
“There is in the Northern Ireland regulations and will be in the England and Wales regulations an exemption on the grounds of doctrine.
“At exactly the same time parallel regulations will be coming into force protecting Muslims, Christians and Jews.”
The Sexual Orientation Regulations (SOR) came into force in Northern Ireland on January 1st.
Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly delayed their introduction to England and Wales until April, after protests from religious groups.
Muslim activists have said that the SOR will force them to appoint homosexuals or anyone with any “sexual deviation” in Muslim institutions, mosques and schools.
This misrepresentation is causing frustration at Westminster, where the House of Lords will debate the regulations next week.
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Lester used a series of questions to Northern Ireland ministers last month to debunk some of the myths being propagated by evangelicals, such as their assertion in a newspaper advert that a Christian printer would be compelled to produce literature promoting gay sex.
“We understand that Ministers are furious as it has been pointed out by a range of people that what they are saying is completely untrue and they continue to say it,” commented Mr Summerskill.
“These protests smack of desperation.”
Mr Summerskill said that Stonewall had worked over the Christmas period to exert as much pressure as possible in support of the new rules to protect gay and lesbian people from discrimination.
Secular gay rights activists have also criticised the methods being used by religious groups. George Broadhead, secretary of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association, told PinkNews.co.uk:
“These evangelical groups are becoming hysterical and desperate as they pile on the pressure to destroy the new Sexual Orientation Regulations.”