EDITORIAL

British law sacrifices religious liberty in the name of ‘equality’

Posted:

Incredible is the only way to describe a so-called Equality Bill currently under consideration in the British Parliament.

The bill, which claims to eliminate discrimination in the workplace, would regulate churches including the Catholic Church as employers. It would make it unlawful to require a Catholic priest to be male, unmarried or not in a civil marriage, since no priest would be able to clearly demonstrate that their time was wholly spent leading prayer, liturgy or worship and promoting and explaining doctrine. The Bishops of England and Wales have protested the bill and its immensely serious consequences for over two years.

The British Government’s clash with religion is led by the Equality Minister Harriet Harman and they have consistently denied such a damaging impact on the Church. However, religious liberty experts have suggested that while the law could not compel the Catholic Church to ordain women but would certainly limit the Church’s ability to ensure priests live a celibate lifestyle. Neil Addison, the director of the Thomas More Legal Centre, suggested that the bill was seriously flawed because it treated religious ministers as employees rather than office holders. He further suggested that: “The supporters of this bill don’t understand why the churches don’t have women priests and gay clergy. The supporters of this bill are very ideological. They want transsexuals to sue to remain priests.”

Catholic Bishops reject claims by the government that as long as priests spend 51 percent of their time leading worship and preaching the Gospel they would be spared any hostile legal action. They suggest that priestly ministry is so diverse and includes pastoral work, private prayer and study, administration and building maintenance that it would be impossible to guarantee that such a condition could be met. The rejection of the government’s claims includes the objection by Catholic Bishops that the government would now effectively define what work a priest must perform. Last month an amendment to protect the liberty of churches was rejected by the House of Commons and as a result the bill will likely become law next year.

It appears that all people and institutions are not in fact treated equally in the British Isles. Those people and institutions that espouse religious values will not be treated fairly or with any tolerance by this horrible law even if government bureaucrats with charming titles like Minister of Equality suggest otherwise to church leaders. While this situation might appear as seemingly incredible to those who respect religious liberty and promote tolerance among peoples, it is frighteningly clear that the British Government has no such respect or tolerance for churches and other religious institutions.

In his novel 1984, the British writer George Orwell described a totalitarian regime that sought to exert mind control and removed all those who opposed “Big Brother.” Such a “Big Brother” is the British Minister of Equality, Harriet Harman, who has disguised intolerance for religion and disrespect of faith communities as a law about equality. Her promotion of a bill that strips churches of religious liberty and redefines fundamental religious teachings in the name of tolerance and equality seems eerily similar to the world described by Orwell. Incredible as it may seem, it is just the beginning for a civilization that has become a champion of the individual as they blindly follow the dictatorship of moral relativism. We hope and pray that such incredible ideas never reach the colonies but we are not optimistic they aren’t already being advanced by government bureaucrats and political ideologues across the nation.