Coalition opposes wide religious exemptions from the Equality Bill

By staff writers
14 Dec 2009

A unique coalition of faith-based and non-religious social justice organisations, civic groups, trades unions and professional associations is calling on the House of Lords to reject wide exemptions for religious organisations at its second reading of the Equality Bill on 15 December 2010.

Founder-member Maria Exall from the Cutting Edge Consortium (CEC) commented: "It is vital that progressive faith and secular voices are heard loud and clear supporting the Equality Bill and equal rights for LGBT people."

She added: "Parliament must understand that many members in good standing in a variety of faith communities do not share the views expressed in public by some religious leaders. We urge the House of Lords to stand firm for justice and equality at this time."

The Consortium has provided a briefing for members of the House of Lords, across various parties. CEC’s Steering Group will also be meeting senior Government representatives to voice their concerns about any widening of Schedule 9, Clauses 2 & 3, and Schedule 22 of the Bill.

The coalition has welcomed the European Commission’s recent “reasoned opinion” requesting strict compliance of Clause 2 with the European Directive 2000/78/EC. CEC believes the “ religious ethos argument” in Clause 3 should not be used as a back-door mechanism for allowing additional discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

CEC also objects to Schedule 22 which allows religious requirements to be placed on many staff in faith schools despite the absence of any genuine uccupational requirement.

The Cutting Edge Consortium has been built on ground-breaking 2007 & 2009 Conferences on Faith, Homophobia, Transphobia & Human Rights, opening up new possibilities of dialogue between a huge diversity of interests in order to support the Equality Bill.

Consortium members so far include the Interfaith Alliance UK, Muslim Education Centre Oxford, Liberal Judaism, the Christian think-tank Ekklesia, the Trades Union Congress, the British Humanist Association,the Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement, A: Gender, the Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality, Inclusive Church, the LGBT Consortium of Voluntary & Community Organisations, Progressive British Muslims, and Pink Triangle Trust.

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