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Video urging action against gay employment rights to be shown in churches

Jessica Geen January 21, 2010
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A video urging Christians to take action against the Equality Bill is to be shown in churches this weekend.

Christian Concern for Our Nation (CCFON) warns that under the bill, churches will be sued for not employing “practising homosexuals”.

The Equality Bill will require churches to not discriminate when hiring staff such as youth workers, but will allow them to reject gay candidates for positions which would involve teaching doctrine or leading worship.

CCFON urges Christians to support an amendment tabled by Tory peer Baroness O’Cathain which would remove this provision and allow churches to bar gay people from all employment.

Conversely, openly gay peer Lord Waheed Alli has tabled an amendment to remove all religious employment exemptions related to sexual orientation.

This part of the bill will be debated on Monday, a day after the video is to be screened.

In the three-minute video, CCFON spokeswoman Andrea Minichiello Williams says the bill “amounts to the privatisation of faith” and calls it “the most significant state intervention into people’s Christian freedoms and practices since the Reformation”.

She says: “We have already watched adoption agencies closing because of the existing equality legislation. Imagine what would happen if this bill comes to law as it already goes so much further than the existing legislation.

“Under schedule 9 of the bill, churches and Christian groups will not be allowed to restrict employment to Christians whose private conduct is consistent with the organisation’s ethos and the Bible’s teaching on sexual ethics. . . Churches will find themselves sued for not employing practising homosexuals.”

Williams called on people to write to the House of Lords to complain, saying: “Let the government know that Christians are mobilised and want to be heard and would like their freedom to be protected.”

She also called for people to sign a petition set up by David Skinner. So far, it has been signed by more than 25,000 people.

Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society told “She [Williams] is relying on lies and exaggeration. These are misleading tactics and a panic-mongering account of what the Equality Bill means to Christians. It’s not true, or at least misleading.

“They are entitled to show the video but people who go to church should be aware that this is a desperate bid to mislead.”

The government has said that the bill will be amended to make clear that faith groups will continue to be allowed to refuse employment to people on the basis of their sexual orientation or if they are not of the same faith. Religious groups would not be able to refuse employment to gay people whose jobs would not involve teaching doctrine or leading worship, under current provisions.

The bill also allows churches to continue employing only male clergy.

Ministers are said to be planning to amend the bill to clear up “confusion” about the impact it will have on faith groups.

A government Equalities Office spokesman told the Daily Mail: “In the case of youth workers, a church is likely to be able to impose a requirement about sexual orientation if the job is mainly teaching a bible class.

“However if the youth worker’s job is mainly organising entertainment activities, then the church would not be able to apply such a requirement.”

Equalities minister Michael Foster said last week: “We have been absolutely clear on [these provisions] throughout the bill’s passage, but as there has been some misunderstanding around our intentions we will amend the bill to make this clear beyond doubt.”

To watch the video, see below.

More: Andrea Minichiello, bill, Christian, Christian Concern, Employment, Equality, equality bill, equality legislation, faith, lord waheed alli, Terry Sanderson, tory peer

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