Lords defeat Government over church staffing vote
The Government yesterday lost a vote in the House of Lords over its plans to change employment law for churches and other faith-based employers.
The Government proposals would have narrowed an existing religious liberty safeguard that allows religious groups, including churches, to protect their ethos by insisting that staff live consistently with the Bible’s teaching on sexual conduct.
But peers voted by 216 to 178 in favour of Lady O’Cathain’s amendment to keep the safeguard unchanged. Then in an extraordinary move the Government broke with House of Lords convention in a bid to damage Lady O’Cathain’s victory. But in two further votes Lady O’Cathain won by 195 votes to 174 and by 177 votes to 172.
The Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales also backed Lady O’Cathain’s amendment.
Reacting to the result, Lady O’Cathain said today: “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.”
The Christian Institute’s Mike Judge said: “The prayers of thousands of Christians and letter writing to Peers was key to protecting our freedom. Surely churches should be free to employ people whose conduct is consistent with church teaching. Surely that’s not asking too much. It called freedom of association, and it’s a key liberty in any democratic society. The fact that the Government couldn’t see this will concern many Christians.”