U-turn: MPs turn their backs on Christian religious liberty
Wed, 27 Jul 2011
Three MPs are scrambling to distance themselves from the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) decision to defend the religious liberty of Christians.
Earlier this month the EHRC revealed that it was planning to intervene in four religious liberty cases heading for Europe.
It also said that employers should do more to “reasonably accommodate” employees with religious beliefs.
While the commission’s decision was welcomed by Christian groups, homosexual activists and humanist campaigners were outraged.
Now three of the nineteen MPs who signed an Early Day Motion welcoming the commission’s decision have withdrawn their support.
Labour MP John McDonnell has claimed that some MPs only signed the motion because they misunderstood what it was about.
According to a prominent homosexual news website the Labour MP has now tabled an amendment to the motion claiming that the EHRC should “ensure that religious belief cannot be used as an excuse for discrimination”.
The amendment also claims that two of the religious liberty cases which the EHRC intends to intervene on are “not legitimate”.
Liberal Democrat MPs Mike Hancock and John Hemming have both declared their intention to remove their names from the EDM.
Mr Hancock explained his decision saying: “I do believe, very strongly, that people’s beliefs should be taken into account when they are working, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of people of whatever religion or sexual preference living as equals in our society.”
The EHRC’s decision to intervene in the four cases marks a considerable shift in emphasis at the commission, which has in the past appeared to be hostile to religious liberty cases brought by Christians.
In one damaging case a lawyer for the commission suggested that Christian foster carers are a risk because their moral beliefs may ‘infect’ children.
In another instance, the commission funded a case against Christian B&B owners who restricted double rooms to married couples.
When the commission won, its lawyers demanded a harsher penalty against the Christians. And the commission listed the case as a ‘highlight’ of last year in a recent report.
The commission’s John Wadham said their intervention into the four cases “would encourage judges to interpret the law more broadly and more clearly to the benefit of people who are religious and those who are not”.