The Equality Act was passed in Parliament on 6 April 2010, with the Government forced to accept defeat over church employment freedom.
The Act permits churches to opt in to allow homosexual civil partnership registrations to take place on their premises. It also imposes a legal duty on public bodies, like schools and the police, to promote homosexual and transsexual rights.
Under the Bill’s original proposals the Government had wanted to significantly narrow the freedom of churches to have employment rules that are in sympathy with church teaching.
But Institute patron Lady O’Cathain led a successful campaign to stop the plans in the House of Lords and – faced with time pressure in the Commons – the Government was forced to concede.
Christians were concerned that the Bill also narrowed the exemption in employment law for “organised religion”. The Bill wanted to shrink the exemption so that it will only apply to posts that wholly or mainly involve leading or assisting worship or promoting or explaining doctrine.
Yet church ministers have many pastoral and administrative tasks which do not directly involve leading worship or teaching doctrine, even more so in the case of pastoral or youth workers.