The European Commission has accepted calls for sexual orientation and religion to be included in a draft anti-discrimination Directive. The move could damage the religious liberty of Christians.
The draft Directive aims to outlaw discrimination in the provision of goods and services. It was originally intended only to cover age and disability.
In April the EU Commission, under pressure from Germany and others, said that sexual orientation and religion would not be part of the Directive.
Those nations were understood to prefer to deal with the sensitive issues of homosexuality and Islam at a national level.
But the Commission has performed a U-turn following a campaign by activist MEPs in the European Parliament including UK Liberal Democrat MEP, Elisabeth Lynne.
Similar laws are already operating in the UK and have caused difficulties for faith-based groups seeking to protect their religious ethos.
Several Roman Catholic adoption agencies are facing the axe unless they break with church teaching and place children with same-sex couples.
If the laws are passed at a European level control of these discrimination laws will pass from Westminster to Brussels, making it more difficult to seek changes in defence of religious liberty.
The draft EU Directive also includes plans to outlaw ‘harassment’ in the provision of goods and services.
The definition of ‘harassment’ could be so broad that moderate explanations of Christian beliefs on sexual conduct or other religions, like Islam, may fall foul.
The British Government has in the past shied away from introducing ‘harassment’ laws in this area, precisely because of concerns about how the law may hamper free speech.
When ‘harassment’ laws were introduced in Northern Ireland’s Sexual Orientation Regulations, a High Court judge removed them because, in part, of their potential impact on freedom of expression.