Christians are being pushed to the sidelines of public life because Labour has put homosexual ‘equality’ before religious liberty, the House of Lords has heard.
Addressing the issue of Roman Catholic adoption agencies, Peers heard they did exceptional work but that in the face of the Government’s homosexual rights legislation they had been forced to close or drop their religious ethos.
Peers who had previously voted in favour of gay rights legislation said there needed to be some balance to accommodate a diversity of opinion.
The House of Lords was debating two amendments to the Equality Bill proposed by former high court judge Baroness Butler-Sloss.
In one amendment she called for adoption agencies to be given the option to have a policy of only placing children with married couples.
It also said they must refer any same-sex couples to another agency.
A second amendment said that employers should grant “reasonable adjustments” to allow employees freedom from carrying out actions which go against their beliefs on sexual orientation.
But the Government opposed the amendments with the Labour leader in the House of Lords, Baroness Royall, saying the Equality Bill was already a “tolerant law”.
Lord Patten, former Education Secretary, praised the work of Roman Catholic adoption agencies.
He said: “As it happens, Catholic agencies have quite simply been the very best agencies for placing children recently, as the record shows.”
“Catholic agencies have been particularly successful at placing children with serious behavioural problems”, he added.
Of eleven Roman Catholic adoption agencies open in 2007, all bar one have now closed or been forced to ditch their religious ethos because of sexual orientation regulations (SORs).
The SORs, which outlaw discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services, were introduced three years ago.
Lord Alton said: “It is a real tragedy when people are pushed underground when they are actually doing great work, which should be seen as such.”
Baroness Butler-Sloss, who has previously voted in favour of legislation to allow same-sex civil partnerships to take place in churches, recognised that there needed to be a tolerant and flexible approach to areas of conscience in sexual orientation legislation.
She argued that “conscience should be allowed to play a part”.
The Baroness raised the case of Lillian Ladele, the Christian registrar who was disciplined for asking not to carry out same-sex civil partnership ceremonies.
Baroness Butler-Sloss said her amendment was “modest” and hoped the Government would find it “acceptable”.
But Baroness Royall said that while everyone is free to hold “personal opinions” about sexual orientation, she did not accept Baroness Butler-Sloss’ amendments.
In reference to the adoption amendment, Baroness Royall said it “would allow discrimination to embed itself where it has no place”.
Earlier in the debate Crossbencher Baroness Murphy slammed the amendments as “shocking”, saying they should be resisted by the Government “at all costs”.
The amendments were withdrawn at the end of the debate, on 2 March, but Baroness Butler-Sloss said she would bring them back at a later stage.
Earlier this month former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey condemned Britain’s marginalisation of Christianity and called on believers to stand up for their faith.
In February, the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Winchester warned Britain’s equality agenda is marginalising Christians.
Dr John Sentamu expressed concern at attempts to “remove religion from public life”, during a lecture in Newcastle.
The Bishop of Winchester, Rt Revd Michael Scott-Joynt, said those who “believe that the churches and faiths are wrong on various matters of sexual ethics, or in having an all male priesthood or requirements concerning marriage and divorce, want to use the law to compel us to act differently”.
He called this “an extraordinarily illiberal stance”.