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Stonewall ‘deeply disturbed’ at equality commission U-turn on religious rights

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  1. Robert J Brown 12 Jul 2011, 2:18pm

    Errrr . . . EXCUSE ME!!!

    If I remember rightly it was Stonewall who supported the previous Labour Government in allowing religious organisations the ‘right’ to opt out of equality legislation . . .

    The Buddhist organisation I’m a member of is not allowed to have legally binding same sex marriages because it is classed as a religious institution. It can host same sex blessings, but not marriages or civil partnerships . . .

    That inequality is down to the previous Labour Government and Stonewall . . .

    1. Maybe, but it’s time to move on imo

    2. Mr Sanderson of the NSS said religious believers were protected from discrimination – even though their beliefs were not.

      “Human rights are for human beings not for beliefs or ideas,” he said.


  2. A case of reaping what one sows – time to start wriggling again Mr Summerskill.

  3. Jock S. Trap 12 Jul 2011, 2:28pm

    I support Stonewall on this.

    The EHRC should beware of it’s decision damaging Equal Rights to all that are there to expect them, themselves included.

    1. I too support Stonewall on this one.

      Not only is it wrong to weaken the rights of LGBT people because of any other right (regardless of the type), but it is also incredibly wrong for the EHRC to make such a statement without speaking to stakeholders or board members

      1. Robert J Brown 12 Jul 2011, 5:15pm

        Yes . . . I’m with Stonewall on this as well . . .

        However – it was thanks to Stonewall and the previous Labour Government that we have gotten to this point.

        If Labour hadn’t given religious institutions the right to ‘opt out’ when legislation came in years ago then we wouldn’t be having this debate.

    2. Another Hannah 12 Jul 2011, 5:57pm

      I want my right to stone people who commit certain crimes to death as outlined in the bible. Also my beliefs are Quakers, and Quakers believe in gay marriage, so presumably we now have the right to do this? The Conservatives should think about how long people are likely to remeber something like this (a lifetime), and consider all those lost votes.

  4. Stephen Frost 12 Jul 2011, 2:32pm

    In this country, freedom of speech has never allowed for hate speech and discrimination. This should be the same. Do what you like, so long as it doesn’t harm others. There’s no place for bigotry in our country!

    1. Another Hannah 12 Jul 2011, 5:58pm

      No Stephen I want my right to stone adulterers and money lenders….

  5. This is a HUGE step backwards

  6. The Equality Commission is intervening in the Europe case to downgrade human rights for gays, on behalf of a claimed religious right to discriminate. This is following a meeting with the Evangelical Alliance, that that Alliance is trumpeting in a press release. Here is a disturbing report from Wikipaedia about this aggressive group, apparently supporting violent revolution:

    “In November 2006 the Evangelical Alliance released a report which stated that violent revolution should be regarded as a viable response if British legislation encroaches further on Christian rights: “If, as most Christians accept, they should be politically involved in democratic processes, many believe this may, where necessary, take the form of active resistance to the state. This may encompass disobedience to law, civil disobedience, involving selective, non-violent resistance or, ultimately, violent revolution.”

    1. I am very disturbed to hear of the Evangelical Alliances view on this and it worries me that soon if we do not get this matter legitimately resolved civil disobedience from many religious groups and LGBT people (and maybe others) may well happen.
      We can not sit back and watch our rights being undermined.

    2. You’ve summed up the problem very clearly Alf. These people are not looking for compromise and appeasing them in this way is not going to help.

      1. One wonders if the HREC will also be meeting with hate preachers who are currently banned from entering the UK to see how they can accommodate their desire to see us “eliminated”.

    3. Taking up the points so far about the EA. Whenever have Fundamentalist Christians like the Evangelical Alliance been interested in compromise?!!!
      One might argue that Evangelical Alliance are up for a fight to assert and defend their “Cultural beliefs” which now although extremely marginal, have become entrenched in a non-negotiable position.

      Therefore, one wonders how there can ever be any form of civil responsibility attached to an onto-epistemological view of the world from a fundamentalist Christian perspective, which covets and assert the supremacy of heterosexuality, and a divine right to act as if LGBT people were second class citizens.

      1. JohnK: while I agree EA members in the main believe hetero sexual relations are ok (but only within marriage) and homo sexual ones aren’t, I don’t know any who regard LGBT people as second class citizens.

        While I am not always supportive of EHRC, I do feel I can in this case because they are doing what British legal institutions sometimes fail to do and that is to uphold peoples rights to act according to their religious convictions.

        I would like to see a society that can accommodate people acting according to their conscience providing it doesn’t harm those who see differently and living in harmony if at all possible – or am I being naïve?

        1. @JohnB

          I would like to say you arent being naive. I would like to think that we could live in a society where people were free to have their own religious beliefs and conscience on decisions and that they would not hinder the rights of others and there would be harmony. I suspect life isn’t so rose tinted in all situations – firstly, some would take advantage of the harmony (on both sides of the debate on rights etc), secondly, there would be tenuous debate on harm and thirdly, there is already a clear direction from the likes of EA towards endorsing violence.
          I must admit apart from clear decisive, honest (hopefully balanced) positioning where we seek to protect LGBT rights and enhance them; I don’t know how to react – I don’t want violence but unless we find some way to achieve a level of harmony then it is inevitable that there are some tricky and possibly explosive times ahead.

          1. @JohnB
            I usually would be very surprised at an organisation such as EA endorsing violence but to quote their report Faith and Nation, “The church is urged to come to a consensus that at some point there is not only the right but the duty to disobey the state” and “violent revolution should be regarded as a viable response”. Mike Morris the executive director refused to condemn or play down such violent reactions.

        2. “I would like to see a society that can accommodate people acting according to their conscience providing it doesn’t harm those who see differently and living in harmony if at all possible”
          So would I, JohnB. But the danger is that it’s not just religious beliefs that are protected it’s ‘beliefs’. If a religious person is allowed to exercise their belief then what’s to stop a racist seeking to exercise theirs?
          You mention not harming anyone else and I wholly agree with that. However, discriminating is harmful, I think. I’m not a Christian but I would never treat a Christian any differently than any other person, so why can’t Christians and others act in the same way? Why do they want their beliefs accommodated if some of those beliefs hurt other people?
          We should all obey the law and not discriminate – that way it’s simple. Religions shouldn’t get an exemption. The law applies to everyone.
          I agree that we should all live in harmony but causing divisions won’t achieve that.

          1. “JohnB” has been on this site before, and was previously known as “John” and also “Another John”.
            What I understood about JohnB’s, Plymouth Breathren beliefs in a nut shell, is that LGBT people are sinful and have no place in Gods plan for the world.
            So when JohnB argues that the Evanglical Alliance (which have similar beliefs to JohnB) do not view LGBT people as second class citizens, this is mindless denial in the extreme!!!

        3. Stu: I appreciate your conciliatory comments although I take issue with the EA condoning violence point. I believe the EA line is more about doing the right thing according to God’s word, while accepting we live in a society that in the main does adopt that position.

          Iris: I know how much you hate racism (as do I). I also detest discrimination on any grounds … but when I read the PN article … “The EHRC said today that some judgements – such as the case of a Christian registrar who refused to carry out civil partnerships – had been too “narrow” and that it will seek to speak up for religious plaintiffs in upcoming European court hearings” I have to concur, even though I disagree with some of their other judgements e.g. prisoners being given the right to vote. People with strong religious views and gay folk (and the two aren’t mutually exclusive) can live together but insisting someone do something, that in all conscience they cannot do, is not something I can condone.

          1. correction: change “does adopt” to “doesn’t adopt”. My point is that I think while EA members would like to see a society following godly principles, it also recognises they are part of a society that doen’t adopt those principles and they can at best be a positive influence and show by example, bearing in mind the two great commands to love God and to love our neighbour.

          2. Apologies my reply has posted out of sequence (reply above)

          3. It’s amazing how Ladele’s religious conscious only extends to gay people, she seems to have no trouble marrying straight people in civil weddings which is also against her religion. And MacFarlane has such strong Christian beliefs that he has no problem counselling straight unmarried couples, tell me what Christianity says about that. These Christians want to be allowed to treat gay people as second class citizens but I note they are not averse to drawing salaries in part funded by the taxes of gay people. St Paul says that it is a sin not to obey the law of the land, they seem to be ignoring that bit. Perhaps you can explain what happens if a doctor refuses to treat a gay man in A&E or a fire crew won’t attend a gay couple’s residence?

          4. Stu: thanks for the reference to the EA report, which is comprehensive. From my scan read, it seems substantial discussion centres around whether Christians can use violence to resist state tyranny and is inconclusive. It does endorse peaceful protest however and even civil disobedience in exceptional cases and upholds the age old principle of obeying God rather than man.

            Marjangles: I presume your point about marrying straight people applies to divorced couples and others doing so “unbiblically” and why make the distinction if this and gay civil unions are both wrong. If so, it seems to me not unreasonable. As for St. Paul, he did encourage obeying civil authorities, yet the same authorities put him to death because he refused to renounce his faith. As for A&E and fire crew points, I agree with you that would be totally wrong. The point about how taxes are to be used is a matter for civil authorities, which in a democratic society is/should be subject to the will of the people.

          5. I assume then JohnB you agree with me that Ladele and others like her are hypocrites who, rather than wanting to safeguard religious freedom, want to simply preserve their right to disciminate against gay people. You should consider that, they want to discriminate, they want to use their religion to cause harm to people like me. Is that Christian?
            St Paul said that if you don’t follow the civil law then you should accept the consequences of that, so by appealing against the decision of the court, Ladele is continuing in a state of sin, seems that’s ok though so long as she can discriminate against gay people.
            And you missed my point about tax money. If she can’t fulfil all of her duties as a state employee then she should be returning a proportion of her salary that corresponds to the section of society that she refuses to serve. But I suspect she won’t do that.
            And if fire crews and doctors are not allowed to exercise their religious beliefs at work, why should Ladele and MacFarlane?

  7. This is the reply I got from Stonewall regarding this travesty:

    Responding to the statement issued by the EHRC on their desire to intervene in European Court cases of claimed discrimination against Christians in the workplace Ben Summerskill, Stonewall Chief Executive said:
    ‘Stonewall is deeply disturbed at the EHRC’s statement announcing applications to intervene in European Court cases of claimed discrimination against Christians in the workplace. The case features two individuals, Lillian Ladele and Gary McFarlane, who have refused to provide public services to gay people.

    The Commission should be crystal clear that if it seeks to defend the claimed right of any public servant to turn away any user of a public service, it will face strong opposition. Gay taxpayers currently contribute £40 billion a year to the cost of Britain’s public services and no lesbian and gay person should ever be deprived of access to them.
    (continued below)

    1. The EHRC’s announcement, which has apparently been made by officers without consulting its board, confuses a settled legal situation that is currently clear. If employees are allowed to discriminate against gay people in the delivery of publicly-funded services, using the cloak of religion as justification, then we risk seeing a situation where Muslims may start refusing to treat alcoholics in hospital or social workers might decline to assist single mothers.

      Recent research has demonstrated that the majority of religious people in Britain are proud of our progress toward gay equality. They understand that religious beliefs do not mean individuals have a right to treat lesbian, gay and bisexual people unfairly. We regret that the EHRC does not appear to support this sentiment. We hope it will now offer an unambiguous clarification of its position.’

      1. It’s a strong statement, but quite limited in its scope.

  8. We must bombard this discredted commission with our outrage.
    Here is their email address:

  9. But Stonewall and PN must have known about these European court cases months ago, it was reported publicly by the Telegraph on the 5th June. It seems the Christians orgs have already got to the equalities commission first, why wasn’t Stonewall there before them making sure that our rights were not in jeopardy? Have they made any representations on our behalf on these cases to the Equalities commission or did they assume that the Christians would fail in Europe? Why was the LGBT community not told about these cases? I don’t know what the equalities commission can do now, they’ve done the damage. What exactly is BS wanting them to do, retract this statement, nothing less would be good enough.? I’d like to know how the tory/lib dem govt are now going to respond to this case in Europe. What statement have they issued. The case is against the British govt, are they going to defend the equalities act and the British judges?

    1. Let’s not play the blame game. It doesn’t look like we can rely on the government or the HREC to protect us . As said in a previous thread, we need other human rights organisations to urgently step in such as Liberty, Stonewall, Ekklesia to fight our corner. Maybe Stonewall can contact all the players. Our opponents currently have up to 5 lawyers, probably QC’s, to persuade the Court to downgrade our Human Rights to appease religious extremists who apparently don’t believe in obeying the law of the land in any event. These cases will most likely just be a first step to trying to eliminate all human rights for gay people.

      The French might have an interest too, as the cases could greatly affect the secular nature of their society.

  10. I would be more than concerned I’m terrified.

    This is what you get with a Tory government who are homophobic and won’t challenge this. The Eu … Why n institution. Beyond corrupt and another whore to religious nutters

    The rights and feelings of people are less important than those of a book and spirits. What a world.

    1. de Villiers 12 Jul 2011, 4:34pm

      I am sure this has nothing to do with the Conservative government. In any event, the Minister for Equality is a Liberal Democrat.

      1. ooer missus 12 Jul 2011, 4:51pm

        Well perhaps the nice Minister can tell us what the government action or non action is in relation to these cases.

        1. de Villiers 12 Jul 2011, 5:51pm

          There is no government action for this. It is a matter for the courts.

          1. I think someone pointed out before govts don’t have to listen to Europe and think France is a prime example of not listenig to European court judgements..Of course the govt can do something, it’s been asked to respond to the court, the case is against the British govt and it’s courts..the equlities commission gives advice , recommendations , it doesn’t make British law nor does Europe..

      2. But whose been asked to respond to this case in Europe, is it the equalities minister or the justice minister?

  11. My own experience of EHRC is that it was a shambles; this buttering up of the homophobic fringe on EHRC’s part is further evidence that the new government is right to trim its funding and use money more productively elsewhere.

  12. Some previous comments on the Lillian Ladele case

    “Ladele was disciplined for refusing to perform the (civil partnership) ceremonies, following complaints from two gay colleagues that her actions were contrary to the council’s dignity for all policy.”

    “Ms Ladele is entitled to her views but not to pick and choose who is worthy of public services.” Human Rights group Liberty

    “This case is part of a homophobic fight-back by Christian fundamentalists who resent the removal in law of their right to discriminate against lesbian and gay people,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

    “Faith can never be a legitimate reason to seek exemption from the law and the moral obligation to treat other people with respect and equality,” Tatchell added.

  13. Someone should refer the HREC to the following statement by Ekklesia in April 2011:
    “There is no evidence that Christians as a group face deliberate, organised discrimination in Britain. Moreover, becoming obsessed or over-anxious about their own privilege and status undermines the Christian message, and is likely to create counter-resentment.
    “The real issue here is how Christians can behave positively within, and towards, a wider social order that no longer automatically privileges them, because the majority are not practising Christians.”

    If HREC have only met with extreme religious fundamentalists, then they have a skewed view. They need to meet with moderates like Ekklesia too, as well as non religious and gay groups too.

    1. I guess that should be EHRC, not HREC. Not to be confused with the ECHR, which is the Court in Europe (phew!)

  14. I thought Buddhism in the West was a philosophy, not a religion.

    1. @post 1, Robert

      1. Robert J Brown 12 Jul 2011, 5:17pm

        The practice of a philosophy is called a religion.


  15. There is no such thing as a christian bigot and racist, you cannot be a christian and be a racist and a bigot they arre totally two of the opposite things, christianity is love and charity and peace in action. religion is not christianity, its a body of people or a person, with there own set rules for thereself or other people that they personly follow good or bad, that no one should ever let religions discriminate , and pass hate messages , that treat others unfairly, you send the wrong abusive message out to children and families, and cause abusers to form every day, disscsrimantion , and unfairness is not christian and not love and not kind , it must be stopped , and all forms of people delegating selvve religioons have to be reprimanded for their abuses against mistreating others, you must treat other with humanity, and equal rights like you would want for yourself , the best lesson for theese types of people is to put them in an enviorment and let themselves be mistreated and

    1. Unfortunately Carrie – not all “Christians” agree with you – including some of the leaders of the EA

  16. religions do not have a right to discriminate, and who ever has allowed it has commited crimes against humanity and human right violations, and all the relighions and those who helped initated it should be reprimanded , religions have become one of the most dangerous institutions inthe hetersexual world that there is , laundhing hate and terroiesm and sex crimes , pedehi;lia and sex trafficking and other mentally and physiscal abuses they must be stopped and they must treat people right and fairly or be shut down, and reprimanded

  17. Another Hannah 12 Jul 2011, 5:53pm

    Right them I’m a Christian, so I’m claiming my right to stone people to death given certain condition as outlined in the bible. Presumably the equality commission will support this? Also my belief is Quaker, and they allow same sex marriages, so presumably they will also be supporting a right to same sex marriages then? The LIb. Dems and conservatives should think about how they arte going to reasure LGBT people before the next election, because I can hardly see thier allowing this to be forgotten in a life time. The open up very expensive legal wrangles, and time consuming rubbish in the courts, that distracts the country from the need to deal with it’s economic problems. Such a major misrepresentation of the law can hardly be forgotten. Obviously the Cons. have to be regarded as not trustworthy.

  18. Why stop at discriminating gays. Why not let ‘Christians’ discrimate against whoever they like.

    Let them discriminate against jews as clearly stated in the Bible (culminating in 2000 years of bigotry and eventually resulting in the holocaust).

    Or better still let ‘Christians’ discriminate against each other like they did in Northern Ireland in the 1960s resulting in near civil war, terrorism and thousands killed.

    1. Mumbo Jumbo 12 Jul 2011, 6:42pm

      Once you equate mere belief with inimical human qualities, why not allow racists to discriminate against those of a different skin colour?

      The EHRC is a joke.

      1. “why not allow racists to discriminate against those of a different skin colour?”

        That’s exactly what they will have to allow if they allow religous people the right to discirminate against gays.

  19. I am really fed up with religious people.

    Thank god atheism is on the rise.

    1. Me too, the argument is no more sophisticated than this:

      Our version of Christian religion has encouraged us to slap gay peoples faces for a very long time.
      Civil equality law is now telling us we cannot slap gay people’s faces any longer.
      We are challenging the law as we feel we are being discriminated against by being asked to stop slapping gay people’s faces when we feel it is our religiuous right to slap gay people’s faces.
      We believe the law has no right to stop us slapping gay people’s faces.

  20. Mumbo Jumbo 12 Jul 2011, 6:40pm

    Here is the reaction of the British Humanist Association:

  21. These haters need to start to be brought to heel, especially the Evangelical Alliance. Last I heard, wanting to overthrow a government by violent means was considered treason.

  22. People should become a member or at least donate however much they can to the National Secular Society.

    Equal rights are at threat by religious groups who wish to impose themselves on the rest of society. We must take a stand:

  23. Protest March&Rally

    Join the “Secular Europe Campaign” in this protest march in central London

    Saturday 17th September 2011

  24. Religious belief is just that: a ‘belief’ … the same as a belief in fairies and Peter Pan. Why should ‘believers’ have special dispensation to discriminate on someone’s human rights? The ‘right to believe’ does not trump a right to be protected from discrimination in the provision of services. The bible condones slavery. Should we reintroduce that as well?

  25. This EHRC decision is ludicrous to the extreme.

    For example, it implies that the rights of gay persons to not have the dispensation of goods and services denied to them by a business or public entity (and thus those who work for a business or public entity) should be usurped by the accommodation of the religious anti-gay moral views of others, or that some form of compromise, whatever that might be, would be acceptable and should be sought.

    The EHRC should not pander to such blatant irrationality. In contrast to being a Christian, nobody chooses to be gay. Discrimination based on the immutable characteristics of others such a colour, ethnicity or sexuality should not and should never be acceptable.

    1. I am finding all of this hard to square with what Trevor Phillips said only about a month ago

      A string of high-profile legal cases involving Christians who feel discriminated against because of objections to homosexuality may be fuelled by evangelical activists who are seeking political influence – not helping their religion – he warned.

      “I think the most likely victim of actual religious discrimination in British society is a Muslim but the person who is most likely to feel slighted because of their religion is an evangelical Christian,” he said.

      “There are a lot of Christian activist voices who appear bent on stressing the kind of persecution that I don’t think really exists in this country. There are some Christian organisations who basically want to have a fight and therefore they’re constantly defining the ground in such a way that anyone who doesn’t agree wholly agree with them about everything is essentially a messenger from Satan.


      1. “I think for a lot of Christian activists, they want to have a fight and they choose sexual orientation as the ground to fight it on. I think that whole argument isn’t about the rights of Christians. It’s about politics. It’s about a group of people who really want to have weight and influence and they’ve chosen that particular ground.

        Personally I don’t know why they don’t choose ground that really is defending Christian values. I wish they’d choose gambling or human trafficking or something.”

        1. Jane Bailey 16 Jul 2011, 11:56am

          Could it be that defending ‘Christian values’ in other areas such as gambling would hurt too many Christian bank balances?

  26. If this allowed to happen, then by the same token, I would assume that gay businesses could also discriminate against anyone they wish based on our beliefs that being gay is immutable and therefore has a right to override the beliefs of others, religious or otherwise? Fair is fair after all.

  27. “Anyone should be able to refuse to serve anyone, regardless. Hopefully we will see this develop.” Have you really thought this through? Any civil servant, hospital employee etc is able to decide whom he/she chooses to serve?

    You are, perhaps, travelling abroad and need to go to hospital. You get there, and the doctor refuses to treat you because you are a foreigner. That is okay by you?

    Your opinion on this matter seems to require further consideration.

  28. I cannot see the courts developing the law to suit the EHRC.

  29. I agree doug and so does the NSS,
    “Religious believers are protected from discrimination even though their beliefs are not.
    Human rights are for human beings not for beliefs or ideas.” (Terry Sanderson)
    The EHRC should take note and be held to account for it’s strange, sudden and new interpretation of what equal human rights consist of.
    The EHRC cannot possibly support special privileges for the religious to arbitrarily discriminate against others while claiming to be an equality and human rights body.

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