Coalition calls on Lords to reject religious exemptions in Equality Bill

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A coalition of liberal religious and social justice groups is calling on the House of Lords to reject religious opt-outs from the Equality Bill.

The bill is scheduled for its second reading in the Lords tomorrow.

Founder of the Cutting Edge Consortium Maria Exall said: “It is vital that progressive faith and secular voices are heard loud and clear supporting the Equality Bill and equal rights for LGBT people.”

She added: “Parliament must understand that many members in good standing in a variety of faith communities do not share the views expressed in public by some religious leaders. We urge the House of Lords to stand firm for justice and equality at this time.”

The opt-outs in question are schedule 9, clauses 2 and 3, and schedule 22 of the bill.

The European Commission recently ordered the UK to remove exemptions for churches on employing gay staff members. They may only bar gay staff who would lead worship or teach doctrine.

Schedule 22 allows religious requirements to be placed on many staff in faith schools despite the absence of any Genuine Occupational Requirement.

Groups included in the consortium are the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, the British Humanist Association, the Muslim Education Centre Oxford, Liberal Judaism, Progressive British Muslims, Ekklesia and Inclusive Church.