Govt ponders chaplains safeguard on gay marriage

The Government said yesterday it will think about the need to protect public sector chaplains who disagree with its plans to redefine marriage.

It follows the case of a police chaplain from Scotland who lost his position because he voiced support for traditional marriage.

However, gay MP Chris Bryant said specific protections for public sector chaplains “seems completely unnecessary”.

Penalised

A committee of MPs has been examining the Government’s Bill to redefine marriage.

Yesterday it debated the issue of chaplains who work in places like the NHS, the armed forces, the police, or in universities.

Top lawyers say such chaplains could be penalised under public sector equality laws if they voice disagreement with gay marriage.

Freedom

It recently emerged that Rev Brian Ross had been removed from his post as chaplain at Strathclyde Police because he supported traditional marriage on his personal internet blog.

Tim Loughton MP proposed an amendment to the Bill which would give more protection to public sector chaplains.

He said the amendment “is about protecting liberties and the freedom of the individual to express themselves in a reasonable manner.”

Sacrifice

People shouldn’t be “compelled to sacrifice their employment to protect their religious identity,” he added.

Mr Loughton was supported by David Burrowes MP, who said: “There are chaplains who are employed—and there are also those who are volunteers, whom we can include in the debate as well—who will not endorse the new definition of marriage.

“The Government need to be crystal clear that those people are fully protected.”

Promise

Government minister Hugh Robertson, responded by saying: “we will take the matter away and look at it carefully”.

He promised that the Government will introduce changes to the Bill, but only if they are necessary.

But MP Chris Bryant dismissed the idea, saying it “seems completely unnecessary”. He said it was just a means for arguing against the Bill.

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