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UK Christians afraid to come out of the closet: Equality Commission

The report is too little, too late, say religious freedom advocates.
Thu Apr 2, 2015 - 11:05 am EST
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LONDON, April 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A survey of 2,483 people in Britain has found that Christians are increasingly afraid to express their beliefs in the workplace. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has found what they call a widespread lack of understanding of equalities laws by both employers and employees.

The report says, “Specific issues raised included conscientious objection in relation to marriage of same sex couples.”

But those who have been at the forefront of defending Christians have said that this report is too little, too late. Citing the case of the Scottish Catholic midwives who were ordered to participate in abortions, Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, told LifeSiteNews, “This latest report covers rather different issues perhaps, but on a brief look it seems of little worth to me.”

A report that “professes to be ‘a qualitative, not quantitative, exercise’ deserves to be ignored,” Tully added.

The Christian Legal Centre (CLC) has called for “urgent action from politicians,” in light of the revelation by the report that Christians in the UK are afraid for their jobs for holding traditional Christian positions on sex and marriage.

Andrea Williams, CLC’s chief executive, said that the organization has represented dozens of Christian professionals, who have often devoted themselves to the helping and caring professions, who have been disciplined and even lost their jobs for refusing to give up or hide their beliefs.

“This research comes too late to help them,” Williams said. “However, it underlines just how widespread and diverse the challenges and hostility encountered by Christians in their every-day working lives can be.”

These, she said, have been “nurses, doctors, magistrates, teachers, foster carers, counsellors, marriage registrars, street preachers, children’s workers, social workers,” who have “faced severe challenges in the workplace simply because they want to live in line with their Christian identity.”

The report is a compilation of responses from a call for evidence issued by the Commission in August 2014. It says, “Some Christian-run services or businesses said they felt in turmoil about behaving in ways that they feared might breach the Equality Act 2010, which protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in access to goods and services.”

Commission chief executive Mark Hammond said the “confusion about the law” has led to “some resentment and tensions between groups,” as well as “anxiety for employers.” The Commission, he said, is preparing “guidance” on the laws.

But it was not merely misunderstandings of the laws that the report noted. Christians surveyed spoke of being intimidated at work: “A recurring theme among some employees was the pressure they felt they were under to keep their religion hidden at work and feeling discriminated against when it came to wearing religious symbols or expressing their beliefs. This was particularly felt by Christians.”
“People reported being mocked for their beliefs, including Christians, who said their colleagues assumed they were bigoted,” the report continues. 

Although some of the respondents said they “experienced no or few negative issues in their workplace,” others “reported that particular beliefs were mocked or dismissed in the workplace or classroom, or criticised [as] unwelcome ‘preaching’ or proselytising, or the expression of hurtful or derogatory remarks aimed at particular groups.”

The problems faced by many Christians in the increasingly aggressively secular British workplace, have left the Equality Act, passed by Tony Blair’s Labour government in 2010, open to criticisms of abuse. It was the Blair government’s interpretation of the Sexual Orientation Regulations of the Act that led to the eradication of Catholic adoption agencies. The government insisted that the Church-run institutions consider same-sex partners as potential adoptive parents, which resulted in either the closure or secularization of the Church’s entire adoption service for England and Wales.

LifeSiteNews asked Paul Tully whether since the passage of the Act, there are religiously-inspired ideas and positions that are effectively outlawed in Britain, including conscientious objection on abortion for healthcare workers.

Tully responded that SPUC is involved in several such cases, and are currently funding the legal fight of a Catholic teacher “who was sacked after he distributed campaign postcards opposing same-sex ‘marriage’ to colleagues at his school.” In this case, despite their mandate, the Equality and Human Rights Commission was nowhere to be seen.

“Last December,” Tully added, “the UK Supreme Court ruled in the Glasgow midwives’ case that the conscience clause in the British Abortion Act does not protect senior midwives if their managers wish to force them to supervise abortions performed by staff midwives.” The midwives’ conscientious objection was supported and evidenced by their Catholic faith. The Scottish Human Rights Commission followed the case, but also refrained from intervening.


  christianity, freedom of religion, united kingdom

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