‘Gay rights’ regulations restrict religious liberty, High Court hears
Churches and Christian charities go to the High Court in Belfast today (Monday 4 June) to argue that Northern Ireland’s Sexual Orientation Regulations restrict religious liberty. If successful the regulations could be declared unlawful. There could also be implications for similar regulations which apply to Great Britain. The case is scheduled to last three days.
The legal action has been brought by The Christian Institute together with a number of evangelical church denominations in the Province who argue that the regulations contravene the Human Rights Act which protects religious freedom. The Roman Catholic bishops, who have similar concerns, have also obtained permission from the court to submit evidence and make submissions in support of The Christian Institute challenge.
The regulations restrict religious liberty in a number of ways. A church leader who holds to the Bible’s teaching and refuses church membership to a practising homosexual could face a harassment action from a gay rights group. The regulations make it unlawful for a publicly-funded religious adoption agency to have a policy of only placing children with married couples. A Christian residential care home could be sued for not providing a double room to a homosexual couple who have a publicly-funded place. A Christian wedding photographer could be penalised for refusing to photograph a civil partnership ceremony.
Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said today:
“We are taking this legal action to protect religious freedom. I believe these regulations discriminate against Christians on the basis of their religious beliefs on sexual ethics. They were introduced under direct-rule powers by Peter Hain without proper consultation. Those involved in the legal action are amongst those who will be directly affected. We have the support of both sides of the religious community in Northern Ireland. People are particularly concerned about the regulations’ impact on schools. We hope our legal action will be successful and that these regulations will be declared unlawful.”