The Prime Minister’s office has rejected a petition asking it to reprimand a Christian MP who expressed the Bible’s teaching about homosexual practice.
A statement published yesterday says, “There is no constitutional role for the Prime Minister to reprimand individual Members of Parliament who are accountable to their electorate for their own comments.”
The statement also referred to equality legislation which protects people from discrimination on grounds of religion, as well as sexual orientation.
Iris Robinson, DUP MP for Strangford, was speaking on a BBC radio programme in June when she said the Bible describes homosexuality as an “abomination”.
She also referred positively to the work of Dr Paul Miller, a psychiatrist who helps people suffering from unwanted same-sex attraction.
Following the comments John O’Doherty, Co-Chair of the Northern Ireland Policing Board LGBT Reference Group, made a formal complaint to the police about the remarks.
“People like Mrs Robinson need to learn that their comments have consequences,” he said at the time. The Police Service of Northern Ireland did investigate the complaint.
Mrs Robinson says there has been a concerted campaign to silence her. “I think at the moment there is a witch hunt to curb or actually stop or prevent Christians speaking out and I make no apology for what I said because it’s the word of God,” she said in June.
Mrs Robinson pointed out that her criticism was directed at the practice of homosexuality, rather than homosexuals themselves.
“I was very careful in saying that I have nothing against any homosexual,” she said. “I love them; that is what the Lord tells me, to love the sinner and not the sin.”
The Government statement in full:
“There is no constitutional role for the Prime Minister to reprimand individual Members of Parliament who are accountable to their electorate for their own comments.
“The Government is committed to strong equality legislation in Northern Ireland and citizens in Northern Ireland are protected against discrimination on grounds of race, religious belief or political opinion, gender, sexual orientation, age or because of a disability. If anyone in Northern Ireland believes that they have been discriminated against on any of these grounds they may be able to bring a complaint to a tribunal or to a county court. Further details are available from the Equality Commission whose website is at www.equalityni.org.
“In respect of sexual orientation specifically, the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003 make it unlawful for employers and others to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation in the areas of employment, vocational training and further and higher education. The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (NI) 2006 extend the protection against discrimination to the provision of goods, facilities and services, the management and disposal of land or premises and the provision of education in schools.
“In addition, section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 requires designated public authorities to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity between 9 different groups: religious belief; political opinion; race or ethnic group; age; marital status; sexual orientation; gender; disability; and persons with dependants.
“The Government’s vision is an equal, inclusive society in Northern Ireland, where everyone is treated with respect and where opportunity for all remains a priority.”