Saturday, June 10, 2006

Archbishops’ Council publishes response to consultation on sexual orientation discrimination

9 June 2006

The Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England has today published a response to the Department of Trade and Industry’s Consultation on Proposals to Outlaw Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the Provision of Goods and Services.

The introduction to the submission says: “Church leaders have welcomed the steps taken over recent years to combat all prejudice, to repudiate homophobic violence and to create new legal safeguards. The proposed extension of the Equality Act through these regulations is an important part of that process.”

Acknowledging that there is a range of views on the underlying moral issues, the submission goes on to point out that the Church of England, along with other churches and faith groups, continues to draw a distinction between sexual orientation and behaviour, a distinction not generally recognised in legislation. As a result, the new regulations could, unless carefully drafted, cut across the right of churches and other faith communities and their members “to manifest their own doctrines and convictions in this area without fear of legal sanction. That means that the regulations need to strike a careful balance, as in other anti-discrimination legislation, between potentially competing rights.”

In a covering letter, William Fittall, Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council, welcomes “the recognition that special considerations are likely to justify some exemptions in relation to churches and other religious organisations.” He adds: “Some of the analysis in the consultation document does, however, raise substantial difficulties for us, as for other churches and faith organisations.”

The Church’s submission offers a series of specific suggestions for ways in which these concerns could be met.


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