Harman: Lords vote on Equality Bill will stand

Harriet Harman has indicated that she will not try to overturn the House of Lords votes on the Equality Bill which preserved religious groups’ employment freedoms.

Peers voted on 25 January to keep the current law unchanged, but it was thought the Government might try to overturn the Lords’ decision in the Commons.

However, Miss Harman has now said that the Government will not do so.

The Equalities Minister insisted that the contentious part of the Bill was supposed to be “helpful” for religious organisations.

According to The Times newspaper Miss Harman accused many religious organisations of breaking employment discrimination law. However, this is not the case.

Under the current law, churches and religious groups can protect their ethos by restricting posts to Christians whose private conduct is consistent with the Bible’s teaching on sexual ethics.

The Equality Bill dramatically narrowed this freedom until the Lords backed amendments from Baroness O’Cathain which restored the wording of the current law.

These amendments were supported by Church of England and Roman Catholic leaders who expressed deep concerns about the impact of the change proposed in the Bill.

And the Pope is believed to have been referring to the Equality Bill when he warned about UK legislation placing “unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities”.

After the House of Lords voted to accept her amendments, Lady O’Cathain said: “I know that very many Christians were praying that justice would prevail as the House of Lords voted on this important issue.

“Many also wrote wise, sensitive letters to Peers, seeking to persuade them of our case.

“We give thanks to God for the outcome, and we continue to pray for our Government, as Scripture exhorts us to do, that God would bless their counsels.

“I do also want to thank The Christian Institute for the amazing support they have given to me throughout this campaign.”

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