Equality watchdog funds atheist ‘rights’ seminar

The Government’s equality watchdog is funding a series of events at which vocal opponents of Christian freedoms will train public sector workers in equality issues relating to religion.

Keynote speakers at the events, organised by the British Humanist Association (BHA), include:

• Angela Mason, the former head of homosexual lobby group Stonewall who presided over campaigns to allow same-sex couples to adopt;

• Evan Harris MP, an honorary member of the National Secular Society who has attacked pro-life doctors for refusing to perform abortions;

• A C Grayling, a professor of philosophy and well-known atheist often associated with Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Prof Grayling recently said that religious belief shares the same rationality “as belief in the existence of fairies”.

The events are being promoted to local authority workers “who work with equality and diversity issues”. The choice of keynote speakers has raised concern that the content could be hostile to Christians, although Dr Dan Boucher, Director of Parliamentary Affairs at Christian charity CARE, was also invited.

On the agenda for discussion will be the questions ‘Should “religion or belief” based organisations have exemptions from equality laws?’ and ‘What should be done when the rights of one equality group appear to conflict with the rights of another?’.

It is thought that these questions refer to a number of recent cases where the freedom of Christians to express their beliefs about sexual ethics has been seen to ‘clash’ with proposed or existing equality laws.

The Commission is a publicly-funded body which works “to eliminate discrimination, reduce inequality, protect human rights and to build good relations, ensuring that everyone has a fair chance to participate in society”.

But concerns about whether or not the Commission will deal with religious liberty on the same basis as its protection of other groups were fuelled earlier this year by a comment from one of its senior figures.

Bradley Brady, Director of Stakeholder Relations at the Commission, promised at a meeting of homosexual rights activists that the body would work to combat ‘homophobia’ in religion.

Simon Calvert of The Christian Institute said at the time: “The Commission is saying it will tackle homophobia in religion. But many activists regard biblical teaching on sexual ethics as inherently ‘homophobic’.

“Furthermore, can you seriously imagine a senior figure from the Commission saying it will tackle homosexual groups that interfere with religious liberty? No, nor can I.”

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