The Christian Institute

News Release

The right to sue a church should not be a human right

The Christian Institute today voiced its concern over the Government’s position on the Human Rights Bill. The Institute believes that the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, is set to overturn the amendments passed by the House of Lords to protect religious bodies. These amendments give a defence to religious bodies if they are sued for carrying out their religious beliefs.

The British Humanist Association, the National Secular Society and the so-called Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement have made clear their opposition to any protection for the Churches. We understand that the Home Secretary has seen a delegation led by the homosexual MP, Ben Bradshaw together with a representative of the Lesbian and Gay Christian movement.

Colin Hart, Director of the Institute said today:

“The secular Courts have often been used to attack religious belief. On Good Friday it was a secular Court which sat in judgement on the claims of Jesus Christ. In the United States and in Europe, rights-based legislation has already been used against believers.

We have developed a great tradition of religious freedom in this Country, but under this Bill, whilst businesses, trade unions, the masons and political parties will not be sued, new rights are given to secular pressure groups and gay rights groups to sue Churches. The right to sue a Church will become a human right.

The Bill makes it a human right for individuals to sue religious bodies over their public functions. Religious adoption agencies, Christian hospices, church schools, religious charities and denominations themselves could all face costly legal actions over wide-ranging ‘human rights’ in a way not mirrored in any other European country.”

The Liberal Democrats have already tabled amendments to strip the Bill of the protections for religious bodies put in by the House of Lords. The Conservative opposition, on the other hand, has tabled amendments to strengthen the protections.

The Institute has met with the Home Secretary after taking its own legal advice from Lord Rawlinson QC and Paul Diamond, the Human Rights Barrister. It is particularly concerned that :

  1. Church schools could be prevented from sacking headteachers who commit adultery or convert to a non-Christian faith
  2. Religious charities could be forced to keep on staff who fundamentally disagree with the charity on moral or doctrinal issues.
  3. Religious adoption agencies could be forced to place children with homosexual couples
  4. Hospices could be forced to publicise the views of pro-euthanasia groups

The Archbishop of Canterbury and Cardinal Hume have pressed Jack Straw to allow amendments to the Human Rights Bill to protect existing church freedoms. The Church of Scotland, the Free Church of Scotland, Welsh Churches and numerous individual churches and voluntary groups have also protested. They fear the prospect of hostile litigation from anti-religious groups.