Religious groups planning to derail gay protections in Equality Bill

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A number of faith groups are planning to fight anti-discrimination protections for gay people in the Equality Bill.

According to an email seen by, it appears the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is throwing its support behind efforts to exempt religious groups from anti-gay discrimination laws.

The email, sent by law firm Devonshires on behalf of the church, suggests religious groups should band together in a powerful coalition to fight the government proposals.

The Mormon church was instrumental in bringing about Proposition 8 in California, which banned gay marriage in the state. Its members gave tens of millions of dollars towards the campaign.

The issue in question is a proposal to ban religious groups from being able to hire only heterosexual staff, such as youth workers and accountants.

Under current laws, such groups can use discretion in specifying the sexual orientation of those they employ. Although the Equality Bill will continue this protection in regard to those who lead worship or explain doctrine, churches will no longer be able to reject candidates for other jobs on the basis of sexual orientation.

Other contentious issues regard religious adoption agencies and care homes.

The email cites the successful campaign of 2005 when the religious lobby obtained exemptions under the Gender Recognition Act. Law firm Devonshires hosted a number of meetings for religious and non-religious groups to win the exemptions.

The Church of Latter-day Saints now plans to take the government “by surprise” by organising a coalition of religious groups to contest gay protections in the Equality Bill.

It hopes to lobby for religious exemptions when the Bill goes to the House of Lords this autumn, or attempt to stall it before a general election.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, expressed concern that the gay community was not organised enough to fight attempts to derail protections.

He told “It does seem to suggest Mormons are behind this. What immediately struck me were the echoes of Proposition 8 – they pumped millions into the campaign but denied it.

“I have a feeling it could be a substantial amount. Some evangelical groups have already expressed disappointment with the protections it gives to gay people.

“They’re flexing their muscles, looking for battles to fight to give the impression of a kind of persecution. It’s quite sinister.”

The Church of Latter-day Saints has not returned repeated calls for comment.

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