Labour’s new Equality Bill – all religions are equal
The Queen’s Speech contained proposals for only 14 Bills, compared with the 18 promised in a draft Queen’s Speech in May. The Government said that their overriding aim was to concentrate on tackling the economic downturn. But there is one Bill which has absolutely nothing to do with this; indeed, it has absolutely not a lot to do with anything of much importance.
Her Majesty possibly had no idea that she was reading out details of one of the most insidious bills to emanate from this Labour government. The proposed Equality Bill consolidates nine pieces of legislation and almost 100 statutory instruments on equality. Public bodies will be under an obligation to consider diversity issues – ethnicity, age, gender, sexuality, disability – in developing employment policies and planning services. Collection of data will therefore be more rigorous, and employment quotas will become the norm. The Bill will abolish the use of secrecy clauses by public bodies which prevent employees uncovering gender pay gaps by discussing their pay, and will permit political parties to use all-women candidate shortlists until 2030.
But the Bill also proposes to extend equality in the provision of goods, facilities and services to cover religion. In the world of Not-So-New Labour, all religions are equal, and the State religion can no longer be more equal than others. Her Majesty may soon find herself Supreme Governor of the Mosque of England. The ‘provision of good, facilities and services’ has such a wide-ranging embrace that it may leave many British Christian traditions open to legal challenge. The Bill potentially spells the end of the privileges of the Church of England, the elimination of prayers in Parliament, the end of the Head of State being Supreme Governor of the Church of England, the end of Christian acts of collective worship in schools, the end of restrictive Sunday opening hours, and the embracing of national holidays around non-Christian religious festivals.
At a time when Catholic adoption agencies are either closing or being obliged to place children with homosexual couples, this new Bill could further oblige them to place Catholic children with Muslim foster parents.
The Muslim Council of Britain has welcomed the proposals of the Equalities Bill. Their secretary general, Abdul Bari, said: "We are delighted that the government has at last listened to the argument we have made for years." He continued: "The proposal requires the support of all fair minded people as it is based on the requirements of treating all equally and fairly. The proposal is a manifestation of Government's recognition of disparity in current laws in this regard - an issue that the MCB has for long campaigned."
And they are very quick off the mark with their generous offers of assistance. Mr Bari announced that the MCB was ready to work with the Government and all other agencies ‘to make this long-overdue change a success’.
Do not places of worship offer a service? Cranmer awaits the first case before the courts of a Christian refused employment in a mosque on religious grounds.
Ah, but it won’t work like that, will it?
No, no, no. Just as the Bishop of Hereford was sued for refusing to employ a homosexual youth worker, it will be the churches and Christian groups who will be obliged to employ those who believe in Allah, Waheguru, Krishna and the tooth fairy. And if they do not, they shall be brought to court to answer for their bigotry. And they shall lose, while the minority faiths shall be exempt from the legislation, because they are already sufficiently persecuted and marginalised by the Christians and do not need their sufferings to be multiplied or their oppression exacerbated by the state.
Is not the provision of education a service? Will this legislation make it a criminal offence for schools to select pupils according to their faith?
And what will this legislation do to Holy Communion? Is the Eucharist not a service? Are not bread and wine material goods? May they be withheld from non-Christians, or will that be an unacceptable discrimination? If people of all religions are equal, then churches shall be obliged to provide the service to all who attend.
Excommunication shall henceforth be illegal. The Lord’s Supper shall be a koinonia for the world and his dog, even if that dog be a Jedi.