The British Humanist Association has criticised the MP-led Christians in Parliament report which backs ‘reasonable accommodations’ from equality legislation as being ‘not at all grounded in any reality’.
The Association said the report presented a “gay rights versus religious rights battle” and a “largely fallacious” idea that religious groups were under threat.
They added that giving religious people further exemptions on the grounds of faith would be “detrimental” to society.
Pavan Dhaliwal, BHA Head of Public Affairs, said: “The findings of this report are wholly ridiculous and not at all grounded in any reality.
“A largely fallacious narrative has been constructed around the notion that Christian and religious groups are under threat and being persecuted. Nor has the EHRC been hijacked. This is a country in which the state allows for exemptions for religious groups in equality laws; funds ‘faith’ schools and allows discriminatory practice within those settings; and reserves places for Bishops in the House of Lords.
“The report presents a gay rights versus religious rights battle citing recent cases as examples of the supposed relegation of Christian rights. The right to your religious or non-religious beliefs is absolute; it is legitimate for the right to act on those beliefs to be restrained so that the rights of others are not violated. Our equality law protects religious people on those grounds in exactly the same way that it protects gay people – but no more than that.
“The vast majority of people in Britain are not members of any local church, religious group or community, and so to lay such emphasis on religious identities as being the ones most important or ones which should be exempt from equality legislation is detrimental to equal and fair society.”
The BHA aims to promote a secular state and “equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief”.
Simon Barrow, co-director of the religion and society thinktank Ekklesia, said yesterday the report “seems to assume that most people who are convinced Christians automatically share, or should share, a range of prejudices – notably against LGBT people – which make them unwilling to comply with requirements to act in a non-discriminatory way in the provision of public services”.
He added: “This is not the case. Many Christians from all traditions believe that equal treatment of others is not simply a legal requirement but a Christian obligation.”