.- The European Union has compelled the British government to remove religious freedom exemptions from an anti-discrimination bill. The move will forbid church bodies from declining to employ homosexual staff.
The National Secular Society had argued that the exemptions went further than was permitted under an EU directive and created “illegal discrimination against homosexuals,” the Observer reports.
The EU commission agreed, ruling that the exemptions are “broader than that permitted by the directive.”
The British government must now redraft anti-discrimination laws. The new proposals would allow religious organizations to decline to employ homosexuals only if their job involves actively promoting or practicing a religion.
The prior law allowed religious groups to refuse to employ homosexuals “so as to avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion's followers.”
Homosexual activist Peter Tatchell claimed that the ruling was “a significant victory for gay equality” and a “serious setback” for religious employers who had been granted exemption. According to the Guardian, he said the move was a “big embarrassment” for the British government, which he claimed has “consistently sought to appease religious homophobes.”
The Christian charity, Care was critical of the decision, the Guardian says.
“If evangelical churches cannot be sure that they can employ practicing evangelicals with respect to sexual ethics, how will they be able to continue?” the organization asked.