The Christian Institute

News Release

Transsexual laws threaten free speech

A vicar could be sued for explaining the Bible’s teaching on transsexualism if he expresses his beliefs outside a church, under new laws being proposed by the Government.

The planned regulations (published last week) will outlaw discrimination on grounds of transsexualism in the provision of goods and services. The proposals include a subjective harassment clause which could be triggered by a transsexual “feeling” offended.

Although the plans contain some religious liberty exemptions, they only apply to non commercial activities at a place “occupied or used for the purposes of an organised religion.” The moment a vicar steps outside his church, he could be vulnerable.

For example, if a church minister visits a male-to-female transsexual in his home to explain that he cannot conduct his marriage to another biological man, the transsexual could sue the minister for harassment. All the transsexual person has to do is establish that he “felt” offended by what the minister had to say.

Or, if a transsexual went into a Christian bookshop and asked for a book on transsexualism and was offered a book saying that transsexualism was morally wrong, the transsexual could sue the bookshop. There would be no religious liberty exemption.

In November 2005 the House of Lords rejected the equivalent harassment proposal for religious discrimination regulations because of concerns about free speech. In March 2007 the Government decided not to include a harassment clause in Great Britain’s sexual orientation regulations because of concerns about free speech. In September 2007 a High Court judge struck down the equivalent harassment clause in Northern Ireland’s sexual orientation regulations because, amongst other things, of concerns about free speech.

Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said today: “Once again the Government is set to clash with church groups over religious liberty. It seems to have the idea that ‘Christians can believe what they like inside their churches, but not in public’. This is yet further evidence of the growing intolerance against Christians, particularly regarding moral issues. Transsexualism is a controversial issue and the Government should not be legislating to censor people’s religious beliefs on the subject.”