By Hilary White
BELFAST, September 11, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The homosexual political movement in Britain was dealt a rare setback this week as a Northern Irish court ruled to curb some parts of notorious regulations. The Sexual Orientation Regulations of the Equality Act, that came into effect in January, would have allowed gay activists in Northern Ireland to prosecute people expressing religious oppositions to the homosexual lifestyle. The judge struck down the harassment provisions appearing in the legislation for Northern Ireland but supported the Regulations in general.
According to the ruling, Christians or other religious people will now be allowed to "express their disapproval" of homosexuality in public.
In his 42-page judgment, Mr Justice Weatherup at the High Court in Belfast, ordered that the provisions be set aside because not enough time had been allowed for consultation before the government introduced the legislation.
The Christian Institute, a nondenominational Christian charity, with a group of churches, launched a suit against the SOR’s. The passage of the secondary legislation was met with protests from Christians, Jews and Muslims who saw in them further encroachment on the principles of religious freedom in the UK.
Churches and groups represented in the suit included the Reformed Presbyterian Church, the Congregational Union, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Association of Baptist Churches, the Fellowship of Independent Methodist Churches and Christian Camping International. The Catholic Church came into the case later as an "intervenor".
The ruling comes at the moment when the Labour government is contemplating new legislation that it claims will protect people from "hostile or humiliating environments". Christian groups are warning that the proposed legislation will lead to further restrictions on religious belief.
The Daily Telegraph reports that the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship has warned that the new proposals, which may be included in a Single Equality Bill, could allow homosexuals to sue clergy for preaching against homosexual activity. The group said that churches could be sued for "gently refusing membership" to an unrepentant, practicing homosexual.
In his ruling, Mr. Justice Weatherup said he did not believe that the regulations unfairly treat evangelical Christians "less favourably than other persons to the extent that they are subject to civil liability for manifesting the orthodox belief in relation to homosexuality."
"I am satisfied that the regulations do not treat evangelical Christians less favourably than others."
Despite this, Colin Hart, director of the Christian Institute, told the BBC that he was "delighted" the harassment portion of the legislation had been struck down. "It means that freedom of speech is preserved," said Mr. Hart.
Ben Summerskill of Stonewall, the premier homosexual lobby group in Britain, told Pink News, the homosexual online news source, "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."
Read related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Homosexual Man Wins "Landmark" "Discrimination" Case Against Church of England
Northern Ireland Assembly Fails to Stop UK Homosexual Law, Christian Group Files Suit