Evangelicals respond to gay equality judgment
The Evangelical Alliance called on Christian evangelicals in the UK to “think about their responsibilities to other people created in the image of God” following yesterday’s court decision on the Sexual Orientation Regulations.
The High Court in Northern Ireland ruled that a provision of the Sexual Orientation Regulations must be removed.
Mr Justice Weatherup said that a provision that protects LGB people from harassment when accessing goods and services should be set aside.
He upheld the rest of the regulations.
Christians who provide goods and services will not be prosecuted for saying they are unwilling to provide them to LGB people.
However, any gay, lesbian or bisexual person who is denied goods and services on the basis of their sexuality will be able to sue the provider for damages, the remedy laid out in the regulations.
The Evangelical Alliance’s National Director Northern Ireland, Stephen Cave, told Ekklesia.co.uk:
“We urge Christians to put more energy, resources and prayers into the province, becoming more familiar with a vibrant church acting with uncompromising love.
“We hope people will know Christ on the streets even more than they know about our legitimate anxieties in Stormont or in court.
“This is also an important opportunity for Christians to think about their responsibilities to other people created in the image of God.
“The contemporary challenge facing not just Christians, but all of us as citizens, is how to balance freedom of conscience with diversity and equality.”
Stonewall said the judgment would make no impact on the SORs in the rest of the UK.
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“It is a small Pyrrhic victory for the Christian fundamentalist organisations that a very small part of the regulations, that we are not convinced are actually needed, have been struck out on the basis they are not in place in the rest of the UK,” said Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill.
The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement welcomed Mr Justice Weatherup’s ruling.
“We welcome the courts decision that the SORs are in line with the general principles of human rights legislation and do not disadvantage any religious group,” said chief executive Richard Kirker.
It was clear that the harassment section would be struck down in keeping with the UK wide regulations. We have consulted closely with government on this issue and will be keeping a careful watching brief to ensure that religious groups do not abuse the exemptions granted in these regulations.
The existing laws already offer substantial protection against harassment and we are fully participating in the review currently being undertaken by the government.
We remain deeply saddened that religious groups alone will be allowed to discriminate against lesbian and gay people – it is a shameful mark of distinction.