Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Equality Bill Petition

I wish to alert you to amendments to the Equality Bill that are to be voted on in the House of Lords on 14th Jan which potentially will take away the right of every citizen to live according to their religious faiths and consciences, especially with regard to employment and the way their places of worship operate. The Equality Bill will strike out all exemptions on the basis of religion which will mean that all will have to conform to secularist values and ideology. Whether in our places of worship, the workplace and even the home.
Please sign the on- line petition to the Prime minister asking for the removal of Schedule 9, Paragraph 2, subsection 8 of the Equality Bill which can be found at: http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/harryhammond/
This petition reaches out not just to Christians, who will be most affected by this legislation, but to people of all faiths and none: all those who value the freedoms that have cost the lives of millions of our ancestors over many centuries to live according to their consciences. We are looking for at least a million signatures by the 14th of Jan but the petition will remain open until the election, in three months time, so as to send a strong message to the contesting parties.
By not signing the petition you are inviting your own oppression.

The Equality Bill's employment provisions reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of faith and the religious life. To commit oneself to a faith or follow a religion is much more than to give intellectual assent to a particular set of doctrinal propositions or express a desire to worship in particular ways. In their truest form the life of faith, the religious life, is just that - a way of living in which people manifest the values and beliefs about God and humankind. These values and beliefs are incorporated into the lifestyle of persons following a religion; they are not an 'optional extra to formal worship and/or doctrinal instruction. So to attempt to separate behaviour, ethics and way of life from 'doctrine' or 'formal worship' is to strike at the heart of what constitutes faith. To insist on such a distinction in law, as the Equality Bill's current proposal does, is actually to deny people the fundamental right to freedom of worship and religion.

The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 provide exceptions relating to sexual orientation where the employment is for the purposes of organized religion.

The Church of England and the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales have pointed out that if enacted the current bill will restrict the 2003 regulations substantially so that they only apply to employment where it concerns formal worship activities (liturgy) or the promotion or explanation of doctrine.

There is a range of posts, paid or voluntary, where it is essential that a religious organisation should have the right to prefer a candidate whose life is in accordance with its ethos (with particular reference to its requirements for sexual conduct). For example, youth workers are specifically stated in the guidance notes of the Equality Bill as not being covered by the narrowed exemption. Leading worship and teaching doctrine is in most cases not the main task of youth workers. The proposed legislation could leave organizations in the unacceptable position of having a person leading worship services or teaching doctrine among young people who does not comply with the sexual ethos they are required to teach.

The Bill could result in the legal obligation to employ individuals whose sexual practice or beliefs are directly opposed to the teaching which the organization professes and follows. The Bill as drafted would deny to religious organizations the freedoms afforded to others, for example political parties, to employ only those who comply with their beliefs and values.

We therefore invite you to sign the enclosed petition and encourage others so to do.
As people from all walks of life, political parties, professions and religious faiths, we the undersigned have joined together to commit ourselves to reaffirm the value and necessity of religious and civil liberty and the rights of conscience across the UK today.

We believe that religion and civil liberty must include the right to live and speak according to one's conscience privately and in the public sphere, both individually and collectively, without harassment or the fear of civil or criminal penalty.

In particular, we ask that the current employment provisions set out in Schedule 9, Paragraph 2, subsection 8 of the Equality Bill (the occupational requirements relating to sex, marriage and sexual orientation for the purposes of organised religion) be removed. These restrict the rights of religious bodies to employ personnel who conform to their teachings only if their duties are confined to worship activities or the explanation of doctrine.

The proposed subsection mistakenly set out in Schedule 9, Paragraph 2, subsection 8 of the Equality Bill seeks to deny integrity and authentic practical religion by separating religious belief and observance from behaviour and denies to religious groups rights that are extended to all other organisations, to employ only those who conform to their beliefs, practices and ethos.
The petition reads as follows:
Remove the current employment provisions set out in Schedule 9, Paragraph 2, subsection 8 of the Equality Bill (the occupational requirements relating to sex, marriage and sexual orientation for the purposes of organised religion). These restrict the rights of religious bodies to employ personnel who conform to their teachings only if their duties are confined to worship activities or the explanation of doctrine.
As people from all walks of life, political parties, professions and religious faiths, we the undersigned have joined together to commit ourselves to reaffirm the value and necessity of religious and civil liberty and the rights of conscience across the UK today.

We believe that religion and civil liberty must include the right to live and speak according to one's conscience privately and in the public sphere, both individually and collectively, without harassment or the fear of civil or criminal penalty.


The proposed employment provisions set out in Schedule 9, Paragraph 2, subsection 8 of the Equality Bill (the occupational requirements relating to sex, marriage and sexual orientation for the purposes of organised religion) mistakenly seeks to deny integrity and authentic practical religion by separating religious belief and observance from behaviour and denies to religious groups rights that are extended to all other organisations, to employ only those who conform to their beliefs, practices and ethos.

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