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Christian groups challenge equality legislation

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William Crawley | 17:40 UK time, Monday, 18 December 2006

Seven Christian groups in Northern Ireland were this afternoon granted leave to apply for a judicial review of the new equality legislation, which becomes operation on 1 January 2007. This legislation will outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods, facilities and services in Northern Ireland. The groups argue that the government's eight-week consultation was flawed: it took place during the summer, last year, and did not provide sufficient time to consider the proposed legislation.

The government provides an online database of those 373 individuals and groups who submitted written responses to the consultation on the new legislation, enabling the public to read individual submissions. The analysis of those submissions by the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister is published online here. Mr Justice Deeny will hear the case on Thursday.


  • 1.
  • At 06:17 PM on 18 Dec 2006,
  • Hellenica wrote:

Why are Christians SO upset about quality laws? Astounding. I can't say for sure, but i bet these groups have never applied for a judicial review of any other legislation except this or other gay rights laws. What about poverty issues and government laws? Why didn't they bring a judicial review over the water and rates charges? Or the Northern Ireland Act, which released terrorists onto the streets? No, just gay rights laws. What does that tell you?

Hellenica- I totally agree. It's homophobia that drives Christian opposition to equality laws.

(I should say that I oppose the laws for other reasons, but couldn't agree more with your point about the evangelical lobby.)

  • 3.
  • At 06:40 PM on 18 Dec 2006,
  • Elvis Lives wrote:

Have u READ sum of those submishions. Ther barely litterit.


Seriously, though. READ them!

  • 4.
  • At 07:28 PM on 18 Dec 2006,
  • Leonora Green wrote:

This won't change anything. The law has been passed. It's going into effect on January 1. We've already seen two other judicial reviews on other issues this year - the appointment of the victims commissioner, and the new water charges. Both of those reviews were on the same basis: not enough time was given to the consultation.

Even when the courts are critical of the Secretary of State, the law goes into force anyway.

Here's the thing - how long is long enough for a public consultation?

The point of the exercise is to garner as many views as possible before a law is written.

Read the submissions. Those Christians raising concerns about the new laws are not offering any new evidence. All their views are represented in the submissions. The lawmakers were entirely aware of the arguments being made on both sides of the debate about the equality legislation. There was more than enough time to bring views forward for consideration. Some of the submissions you link to here are long and detailed. The churches submitted their views. The Christian Institute, that's the organisation behind this judicial review, even managed to submit a response.

Anyone with any wit can see that this judicial review is bogus. It disguises the real effort here to frustrate new equality legislation under a procedural guise. How much integrity is there in that approach for so-caled Christians. I count myself as a Christian, by the way - and an evangelical Christian at that. I'm slightly ashamed today that the name of Christ is being abused in the furtherance of prejudice.

  • 5.
  • At 10:48 PM on 18 Dec 2006,
  • pb wrote:

come on guys are you deliberately pretending not to understand the issues?

I can see the argument for such laws, but surely you cant see how it could impose secualar values on people of faith if they are required by their actions to work with gay partnerships.

Christian adoption agencies, B&Bs, teachers discussing sex and relationships or RE, ministers teaching from the bible?

It does none of you any credit to pretend there are no real concerns here. No credit at all.


  • 6.
  • At 11:19 PM on 18 Dec 2006,
  • Leonora Green wrote:

pb, you are misinforming people as to this legislation.

Ministers will NOT be required to oficiate at gay weddings, nor will churches be required to accommodate gay receptions.

Ministers can still preach that homosexuality is a sin. That's their right. This legislation will not challenge that right.

Teachers in state school should not be teaching their own moral views, so I challenge the claim that a teacher should be allowed to tell children that homosexuality is a sin. They can tell children that some people believe this, and encourage thinking about these issues. As for faith schools, these schools already have excemptions in law, and I support their right to teach their own moral and religious principles.

You have nothing to fear from equality legislation.

  • 7.
  • At 12:24 AM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • pb wrote:


Looking at this excerpt from the consultation document I am left wondering how you come to the conclusion that Christians have nothing to fear from these proposals.


It is there in black and white that the Government is inviting comment from consultees on whether or not teaching in churches or mosques should be regulated on sexuality.

Have you not read the document?

And you raise the example of a teacher in school discussing sex, that they have no right to introduce their views. Well what if that teacher is a Christian, Jews or Muslim with objections to homosexuality and the curriculum begins to push homosexuality or the children ask questions about it, Where do you draw the line;-

Is the teacher allowed to expound their religious text on homosexuality if it is an RE class for example? or discuss the specific dangers of gay sex in biology? or would they be sued?

There was an outcry in GB over the depth of these proposals which has caused the whole process there to be put on hold.

So I think there are plenty of concerns about what is proposed.

There is any argument to say this is reverse discrimination. In the creation of civil partnerships many people urged the Govt to adopt the French model which was much more tolerant and exclusive and would have allowed hetersexual couples and siblings to have civil partnerhsips for legal reasons.

But the Govt refused and pushed through a narrow ideologically based and discriminatory law in order to make an ideological point/message.

I hear a number of voices stating there is quite likely to be a showdown with EU Human Right on freedom of religion if this law comes into force.


  • 8.
  • At 12:30 AM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • pb wrote:


That is a commendably straight [no pun intended] report of the issues but I do actully like the colour you sometimes add to them.

My only request is that we see at least two contrasting colours on the subject, which I would argue helps to broaden minds.


  • 9.
  • At 01:21 AM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Leonora Green wrote:

Pb, thanks for your comments. The document you link to is the consultation on the regulations rather than the final regulations. The consultation ended in September and it's reasonable that a consultation should ask lots of questions about what is theoretically possible. But the final regulations are no threat to the ability of churches or mosques to teach their doctrine in their churches. It does no service to the debate to pretend otherwise. Frankly, people will not take your position seriously if you misrepresent (even accidentally) what the legislation actually says.

As for the right of teachers to teach. Imagine an atheist teacher who wanted to teach children in a class that religion is a great evil and there is no God (a Dawkins follower, perhaps). The law prohibits a teaching from pushing her own views in this way. Similarly, if a teacher wishes to teach that Islam is the only true religion (or Christianity, or any other faith), we should not permit this. I also believe it is right to restrict a teacher's freedom to push a particular moral view about sexuality or sexual relationships. Perhaps an old fashioned mormon wished to argue for polygamy in class - no thanks. Or if a Christian wishes to argue that heterosexual marriage is the only appropriate context for sex - that, too, is a moral/religious stance which should not be offered in a classroom.

  • 10.
  • At 01:57 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • pb wrote:


I take your point I was linking to the regs and not the actual legislation, which is here;


But there are awful lot of people out there very concerned about the impact of this law.

When you think about it, why introduce it if they are not going to have an impact on society?

And who is it going to impact on? anyone providing goods and services, including education and public services.

I havent studied the whole thing in a lot of detail but here are a few points.

1) I understand that some gay rights groups have lobbied to shape this legislation to use it to actively attack christian and this is fear being expressed.

2) There is much sympathy to reform society on this matter, from certain quarters, and this law is part of that process. This legislation will at the very least "shrink wrap" the space many religious believers have to express their views on this matter.

3) My understanding is that if the elders of a church refuse membership to a gay couple they could be taken for humiliation/harrassment if not discrimination.

It is part of a gradual process and there are no absolutes for us to latch on to.

Recently we saw the Chief Constables Association advocating that sex with children should not be criminal unless the children are preprubescent.
Who would have ever in their wildest dreams have expected that in the uk?

I would argue that this legislation, even if you were right, and stopped right at the door of every believer without infringing any of their rights, is part of a general slide downwards.

However, many better informed legal and faith experts than I fear this is much more dangerous legsialtion than that.

eg what would happen under this law if a gay rights group pressed a muslim printing business to print flyers for a gay rights parade?


  • 11.
  • At 04:13 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • busybee wrote:


I like your style.

Just shout Homophobia enough - that should shut them up.

  • 12.
  • At 04:27 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Gee Dubyah wrote:


"what would happen under this law if a gay rights group pressed a muslim printing business to print flyers for a gay rights parade"

This gay rights group - lets substitute it for a Christian group you might belong to (bear with me here) - are you seriously going to force a humanist prinitng business to benefit from your custom? Do me a favour - keep the fantasy to Creationism...

I don't believe for a millisecond that this is the real issue with the objections to this legislation.

So many folk deep down just want to repress people. Why can't people be what they want?

Come on treat us like adults - if you are going to quote the chief constable, do the man the credit of repeating him in context. You know exactly what I mean.


Have you seen the article on Michael Stone's defence? - you'd love it...

  • 13.
  • At 11:24 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • pb wrote:


Have you ever heard of a Christian group suing a humanist printing press for refusing to publish their literature?

One difference is that I dont imagine a humanist saying the religious literature is immoral.

It appears to me that the biggest fear of Christians here is genuinely that they are going to be lined up like ducks in a shooting gallery under this law.

I cant see there is an equivalent law for people of faith. A gay or humanist could insult Islam or Christianity but there will be no law giving them the same right to sue the perpetrator. That is not equality.


  • 14.
  • At 11:32 PM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • pb wrote:


Will there will be any legal grounds for Christians or Muslims to sue gays for the same offences?

I dont see there is any hidden agenda here, many many Christians feel they are being lined up like ducks in a shooting gallery under this legislation.


PS That is exactly what the Assocation of Chief Constables was saying, by the way. I have not taken it out of context.

  • 15.
  • At 01:40 AM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • David (Oxford) wrote:

Dee Dubya, well said. You're absolutely right. These multiplying scenarios are legal fictions. I want to encourage the fundamentalists like PB to keep making up these stories though. Everytime they talk like this, they lose the support of the public. Those illustrations, bogus though they be, may impress their fellow church-going fundamentalists, but they don't persuade anyone else. Quite the opposite. They reduce the fundamentalis position to easily recognised lunacy. So keep talking PB, you help your opponents every time you open your mouth.

  • 16.
  • At 07:28 AM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • pb wrote:

Hi David

How do you define fundamentalist?


  • 17.
  • At 03:03 PM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Gee Dubyah wrote:


I think the chief constable actually posited a case where a boy 6 months over the age of consent and a girl six months under were having sexual relations, and asking if the state should convict the lad of statutary rape.

  • 18.
  • At 05:03 PM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Billy wrote:

This new iniquitous law (Sexual Orientation Regulation) which will be inflicted upon the people of Northern Ireland by New Labour, who want to impose their gay agenda against the general consensus of the populous, is contrary to Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Its removes the freedoms of conscience of teachers, parents and pupils, this wicked lawwill take priority over their conscience, because all schools in Northern Ireland will be affected, including denominational and independent schools, the school curriculum and assembles are not exempted from Regulation 9.

The school room will become instrumental in promoting the gay rights agenda across the curriculum which will conflict with deeply held views of parents and teachers, e.g. In the English class room a parent or pupil who are pro-gay may object to Romeo & Juliet, because they see it as a heterosexual theme, they will seek legally through the courts to have it replaced with a pro-gay or anti- heterosexual title, as has happened in North America because it was seen to be promoting the theme of heterosexuality.

One only has to look at what has happened in the Universities where gay activists have sought to have University Christian Unions banned from meeting on campus because they see the U.C.U; as homophobic, now school CUs will face the same problem.

This new law will be used to harass Christians from sharing their personal faith with others because the Bible is seen as a homophobic Book by homosexuals, there are gays who while staying in hotels will literally rip pages from the Bible because references to homosexuality are seen as sexual depravity and their conscience is offended.

It is God’s precious word and belief in God’s infallible word that drives opposition to iniquity.
Sola Scriptura

  • 19.
  • At 06:03 PM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • pb wrote:


ref age of consent,

let everyone make up their own minds what he said;-



  • 20.
  • At 06:04 PM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • pb wrote:

David, Oxford

You are on a sticky wicket now;-

The main four NI churches have come out against this legislation so you are going to have to reclassify the opposition as being "fundamentalist", a label I reject and which you have yet to define.

Your tactic of marginalising/minimising the opposition to this law has failed.


  • 21.
  • At 08:14 PM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Gee Dubyah wrote:

Come on guys,

get over yourselves.

What's wrong with equality?

  • 22.
  • At 08:15 PM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Gee Dubyah wrote:

Are Christian Unions not homophobic?

  • 23.
  • At 10:59 PM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • pb wrote:


I hope you are really not so stupid that you cannot see that this is in reality a case of competing and overlapping rights?

I hope you are winding me up here ;-)


  • 24.
  • At 02:36 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Gee Dubyah wrote:


I am astute enough to recognise reactionary bluster when I hear it.

I have nothing to fear from this legislation.

  • 25.
  • At 02:52 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Dennis Golden wrote:

The judge just turned down the Christian groups' request to delay introduction of the gay rights laws. Will's got a new post on it.

  • 26.
  • At 06:25 PM on 26 Mar 2007,
  • james wrote:

well im a gay teenager (17) so im obviosuly going to be bias but i dont think gays and lesbians would go to a muslim firm to print something off for god sake. also all type of sex has dangers who ever wrote that i wont go into detail like but i could. people do need to relaise we are people who happen to like the same sex WOW such controversy hahaha

  • 27.
  • At 06:27 PM on 26 Mar 2007,
  • james wrote:

well im a gay teenager (17) so im obviosuly going to be bias but i dont think gays and lesbians would go to a muslim firm to print something off for god sake. also all type of sex has dangers who ever wrote that i wont go into detail like but i could. people do need to relaise we are people who happen to like the same sex WOW such controversy hahaha

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