David Cameron should launch an inquiry examining the effect of the nation’s equality laws upon churchgoers, a Roman Catholic bishop has said.
In a letter sent to Downing Street last week Bishop Joseph Devine urged Mr Cameron to launch an inquiry into “whether the new equality and sexual orientation legislation infringes the rights of others and especially” those who attend church.
The Bishop of Motherwell warned that an inquiry was needed because of dozens of cases in which churchgoers “appear to be given less respect for their views than other religions”.
It is also necessary because the rights of churchgoers who try to live “according to their consciences” are being “‘trumped’ by the rights of those belonging to other institutions and sexual minority pressure groups,” he said.
He continued: “In fact some might argue that what we have here is less to do with religion and more to do with mind control and thought crime.”
He encouraged the Prime Minister to prove that he does not consider the morality of millions of churchgoers as “bigotry”, saying: “No doubt dependent on your answer to this question our appeal for a commission of inquiry will be decided.”
Bishop Devine’s letter listed a number of examples where churchgoers have found themselves suffering at the hands of the nation’s controversial equality laws.
He said: “There are so many – registrars sacked for not wishing to conduct same-sex civil ceremonies, B&B owners prosecuted in court for refusing to rent a room to unmarried partners, a nurse threatened with dismissal for offering to pray for a patient”.
He added: “I do believe that Britain, more than most other nations in Europe, has chosen to fast-track equality and sexual orientation legislation without due regard for the rights and consciences of many”.
Earlier this month Mr Cameron waded into the row over Christian foster parents’ views on homosexuality, saying Christians should be “tolerant, welcoming and broadminded”.
David Cameron made the loaded remark in response to a question from the Derby Telegraph about a court case involving Eunice and Owen Johns from Derby.
The Christian couple were in line to be respite foster carers for children aged between five and eight.
Pointing out that he is a churchgoer, the Prime Minister said: “This matter was decided by a court in the appropriate way and I think we should rest with the judgment that was made.
“I think Christians should be tolerant and welcoming and broadminded.”
In response Mike Judge, The Christian Institute’s Head of Communications, said: “The Prime Minister has waded in on one side of a deeply controversial case, and suggested that Christians who share the Johns’ beliefs are automatically intolerant, unwelcoming and narrow-minded.”
Earlier this year Bishop Devine said that the coalition was carrying on from the previous Labour Government, forcing people to act against their conscience or face punishment from the state.
Writing in the Scottish Sunday Times, the Bishop likened Britain to a country that has “passed into the grip of secularist militants”.