Christians who work in the public sector risk being squeezed out of their jobs because of a wrong use of equality and diversity laws, a senior Anglican Bishop has said.
During a House of Lords debate Bishop Michael Scott-Joynt said that some people view Christianity as “abnormal” and think that believers should keep their faith in a box rather than freely express it in public.
The Bishop, who is the fifth most senior prelate in the Church of England, said this attitude “seems to be a thread that is at risk of running through the equality and diversity agenda. In fact, in my observation it does run through it”.
He added: “My concern is for Christians, for the churches, for members of other faiths and their attempts to do what any honest believer would by not keeping their faith in some little box, only getting it out at home or with fellow believers.
“There is also a much greater danger for our society in that we could reach a point where Christians, and peoples of other faiths too, find it increasingly difficult to survive in the public service, and, indeed, in Parliament.”
The Bishop’s comments came as peers debated a proposed amendment regarding discrimination in the provision of goods and services, tabled by Lord Alton.
Lord Alton, a Roman Catholic crossbench peer, said: “My concern is that these provisions may be used, and indeed are already being used, by those whose intentions are hostile to Britain’s Christian heritage.
“Others, who are more well-meaning, may simply be labouring under the mistaken belief that stamping out religious discrimination means stamping out religion. Under the nomenclature and language of equality, this has led to countless, ludicrous examples of risible things which public and private bodies have done in recent years, all under the guise of equality.”
The Equality Bill is being promoted as a way of consolidating existing anti-discrimination legislation into a single law.
However, Neil Addison, a barrister and expert in religious discrimination law, has labelled this claim as “completely misleading and untrue”.
If the Bill becomes law it will dramatically shrink the liberty of churches to insist their staff’s conduct is in accordance with the Bible’s teaching on sexual behaviour.
It would also impose an ‘equality duty’ on public bodies like schools and the police to promote gay and transsexual rights.
A new Christian Institute report has revealed the extent to which Christians are being marginalised by a raft of equality and diversity laws which leave them the first to be punished and the last to be protected.
The report, called “Marginalising Christians”, catalogues numerous cases of Christians being sidelined by public bodies, popular media, employers and barriers to public funding.
The Equality Bill as it currently stands will make the situation worse.