The Christian Institute

News Release

MPs say religious groups need protection from ‘sex change’ Bill

Most MPs back changes to the Government’s Gender Recognition Bill to protect religious liberty, a new poll reveals today. The Bill, which introduces sweeping new rights for transsexuals, will plunge temples, synagogues, mosques and churches into a legal nightmare. The proposed legislation has its remaining stages in the House of Commons on Tuesday (25th May).

CommunicateResearch conducted a survey of MPs earlier this month. It was commissioned by The Christian Institute, which supports amendments to the Bill to protect religious bodies from hostile litigation and to exempt church leaders from fines of up to £5,000.

The poll found that 62% of MPs who expressed a view would support in principle giving religious bodies the same sort of protections that have been given to sporting bodies. Sporting bodies were specifically exempted from some of the effects of the Bill because of fears that male-to-female transsexuals could enter women’s events.

The Bill makes it a criminal offence for any person in an official capacity to disclose the true sex of a transsexual. However, pension companies have been exempted from this. Church ministers who discuss a situation involving a transsexual will be committing a criminal offence punishable by fines of up to £5,000. The poll revealed that 57% of MPs who expressed a view support an amendment removing the threat of criminal liability for disclosure that a person is a transsexual, subject to appropriate safeguards.

An eminent barrister, James Dingemans QC, has produced a legal opinion confirming that the Bill erodes religious liberty. His opinion found that the Government has failed to safeguard the rights of religious believers enshrined the Human Rights Act (the full legal opinion can be downloaded from http://www.christian.org.uk, the site also contains further information about the Bill).

Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said: “This poll of MPs shows there is great support for protecting religious groups from the effects of this Bill. Why should transsexuals be able to force themselves on a church? Why should a church not be able to continue its reasonable practice based on sincerely held beliefs? If sports events can be protected from the Bill, why can’t churches?”

CommunicateResearch surveyed 100 MPs on-line between 26 April and 7 May 2004 (51 Labour, 31 Conservative and 18 from the smaller parties). Data were weighted to reflect the overall balance of the parties in the House of Commons.