Politicians call for anti-religious regulations to be dropped
Elected representatives from across the political spectrum have called on the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to withdraw the new Sexual Orientation Regulations which blatantly infringe religious liberty.
The Regulations outlaw discrimination in the provision of goods, services and education on the grounds of sexual orientation. Fines range between £500 and £15,000 but up to £25,000 for repeated breaches.
The Regulations are so loosely worded that they can be used to override matters of Christian conscience or to harass Christians on their beliefs.
At the press conference organised by the Christian Institute, the politicians united in their condemnation of the regulations:
“Political Correctness has gone mad when the Government pushes through legislation that will allow the owners of a family-run Bed & Breakfast to be sued for refusing to give a homosexual couple a double bed in their own home! Once again the views of people from both religious traditions in Northern Ireland are being trampled on by the Government at Westminster.”
Alderman Seamus Close, Alliance Party MLA for Lagan Valley constituency
“These regulations fly in the face of opposition from both Protestants and Roman Catholics and are being implemented for the benefit of a tiny vociferous minority. These regulations are a charter for the persecution of anyone with a moral conscience. A Christian wedding photographer could be taken to court because on grounds of his faith he refuses to take part in a civil partnership ceremony. The legal costs alone could bankrupt his business. This is bad law and will result in the harassment of Christian people. Peter Hain must think again.”
Mr George Dawson, DUP MLA for East Antrim constituency
“The Prime Minister is fast-tracking oppressive laws into Northern Ireland statute. These regulations include a harassment clause that will open the door to spurious complaints against religious groups. The school curriculum and assemblies are not exempted from the regulations. So an aggrieved pupil could sue a teacher who taught that sex is only for marriage. The Government must revise its plans to protect freedom of religion. We must not be used as the guinea pigs for this controversial legislation.”
Alderman Danny O’Connor, SDLP Mayor of Larne Borough Council
“The Sexual Orientation Regulations are yet another diktat from the NIO. The religious exemptions included are merely a fig leaf and could see legal actions launched against churches and religious charities who are seeking to help the most vulnerable in our society. A church-run old people’s home that contracts with a local authority to provide residential care for elderly people could be sued if it refused to provide a lesbian couple with a married couple’s room. The Government must shelve these plans.”
Dr Esmond Birnie, UUP MLA for South Belfast constituency
The Regulations are due to be debated by MLAs in the Assembly on Monday morning. The Christian Institute is considering launching a judicial review because the Regulations blatantly infringe religious liberty and involve a fatally flawed consultation process.
Note for Editors:
- George Dawson MLA, Alderman Danny O’Connor and Dr Esmond Birnie MLA were present for the press conference.
- Alderman Seamus Close MLA asked for the above statement to be read out in his absence.