Monday, 25 January 2010

Equality Bill update

The House of Lords today voted in favour of Lady O'Cathain's amendment to maintain the status quo for religious organisations. The Government’s defeat means no change to the current law, which permits churches and other faith-based employers to protect their ethos by insisting staff live consistently with the religion’s doctrine on sexual behaviour.

I watched the debate this afternoon and early evening and there were some interesting issues. John Sentamu sought clarification on whether, when a post "exists to promote or explain doctrine" that needs to be the defining characteristic of the job or just a part of it. Baroness Royall of Blaisdon clarified that it must be "intrinsic to the post."

Fears were expressed that the bill would affect "healing ministries" (Ellel Grange was mentioned) that wish to employ people whose manner of life is in line with their ethos.

I believe that there is a some level of paranoia. The concerns over the "proportionality" requirement were that it ushered in something new. I think it simply did as the Government claimed, that is clarify the law. Proportionality has always been required, both by EU directives and simply because complaints brought to tribunals do have to be looked at on a case by case basis.

Overall, this is victory for conservative attitudes, but I do not think there will be much jubilation as the bill as ( I think) is to go back to the Commons and there is the issue of challenges and the need to comply with EU directives.

It really aint over 'till the fat lady sings ( which is just a figure of speech and not intended to be offensive and discriminatory to anyone of above average body mass index...)

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