The Christian Institute

News Release

Government ‘equality’ plans will kill freedom of religion

Religious groups face a legal nightmare under a proposed European Employment Directive. The new directive will lead to US-style litigation against vulnerable charities who put all their resources into public service. Legal experts say that Churches and religious charities will be wide open to hostile pursuit by litigious campaign groups.

The Labour Party employs only Labour Party members, but the new Government backed Euro-Directive will make it illegal for Churches to employ only Christians or for Jewish organisations to hire only Jews. Church schools will have to be willing to employ atheists and practising homosexuals on the teaching staff. Only religious education teachers in Church schools, or posts with a direct teaching role such as a Vicar, may be protected.

The Christian Institute today launched its largest ever campaign. It is contacting 13,000 Church leaders pointing out that their Church may face legal action for employing Christian staff. It is urging Church leaders to write to Tony Blair.

The Government is expected to come in for strong criticism as later today the House of Lords debates the move. The Institute is publishing a report containing a legal opinion from John Bowers QC which shows the devastating effect of the directive on religious bodies. Two Law Professors specialising in European Law also voice their concerns.

Christian Institute Director, Colin Hart, said today:

“It is clear that the new directive will be a disaster for freedom of religion. No religious organisation can maintain its ethos if it is forced to employ staff who profoundly disagree with the whole basis of the organisation. That is why the Labour Party only employs card-carrying party members. It is hypocritical for the Government to stop religious organisations from acting in a similar way.”

“Unless the Government vetoes the Directive and removes “religion”, “belief” and “sexual orientation” from its remit, the secular Courts will be given legal teeth to wreak havoc with the ethos of Churches and the non-Christian denominations. Because it is an EU directive the UK courts will have no choice but to implement it even if this means ignoring our new Human Rights laws.

Muslim schools will no longer be able to recruit only Muslim teachers. Under the directive atheists or practising bisexuals will have as much legal right to teach there as a Muslim. The only exception may be the religious education post.

Why should Christian groups carrying out social work in the community be forced to employ unbelieving staff? The Government should be supporting groups like the Salvation Army or the Shaftesbury Society not undermining the very ethos which drives their compassion.

Churches and religious charities do not have limitless funds. They are always vulnerable to litigious campaign groups.

Many Churches and religious charities which stand for family values look at the way in which gay rights groups have pursued children’s organisations such as the American Boy Scouts in the US Courts. They have feared it could happen in the UK. Now it can. The EU Employment Directive has turned their worst nightmare into a reality.”

Notes for Editors:

  1. The Christian Institute is a charity which seeks to promote the historic Christian faith in the UK. Previous campaigns have included the Human Rights Bill (where the Government was forced to make concessions to protect religious groups from litigation), the 1996 Divorce Reforms and Section 28. 2. John Bowers QC is author of one of the standard practitioner’s handbooks on employment law. 3. The Employment Directive also covers employment discrimination on the grounds of age, disability and ethnicity. Christians welcome tackling discrimination on these grounds, but there are different views on the best way to do it.