The Equality Bill is an attempt to “drive religion from the public sphere” which will lead to Christian employees becoming increasingly isolated, according to media commentators.
George Pitcher, writing in The Daily Telegraph yesterday, warned that the Bill was being used by “parliamentary secularists to drive religion from the public sphere.”
He added: “Any issue will serve as a means for secularists to marginalise believers. You could call that discriminatory, but to do it under the banner of equality is peculiarly hypocritical.”
His comments follow the admission by Michael Foster, a minister in the Government Equalities Office, that the Equality Bill could lead to legal battles between atheists and the church.
Mr Pitcher said that there was “a delicious irony in equality being thrust upon the household of faith.”
He added: “For orthodox Christians, equality really is not the issue. For them, gay people are equally loved of God; it’s their homosexuality that is sinful in that it is contrary to God’s will.”
Matthew D’Ancona of The Evening Standard also criticised the Bill.
Citing recent examples of Christian employees who have been disciplined for expressing their faith, Mr D’Ancona warned that the Equality Bill “will isolate Christian employees still further and make employers even more aggressive towards those who dare to express their faith in the workplace.”
He added: “The bill’s definition of “harassment” is so general and all-encompassing that more or less any profession of faith could be considered “intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive” and grounds for serious disciplinary action – or even a call to the police.”
Mr D’Ancona also pointed out that “something has gone pretty badly wrong when ministers are talking about legal battles between Christians and atheists”.
The Equality Bill will dramatically shrink the liberty of churches to insist their staff’s conduct is in accordance with the Bible’s teaching on sexual behaviour.
The Bill will also impose an ‘equality duty’ on public bodies like schools and the police to promote gay and transsexual rights.
Several faith groups fear the Bill will add to the weight of equality and diversity rules which have led to several Christians being punished for expressing their faith.
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.