Tory MP defends religious rights motion

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A Conservative MP who tabled a motion supporting the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s push for ‘compromise’ for anti-gay workers says it is about freedom of religion.

Gary Streeter, the MP for South West Devon, said religious people have been marginalised but denied that his early day motion backs discrimination.

The EHRC recently announced it would seek to advise in four court cases where Christians have claimed they suffered discrimination because they were not permitted to express their beliefs. Two of the cases involve workers who refused to serve gay people – a registrar and a sex counsellor.

As previously reported by, the commission says there should be ‘compromises’ and ‘accommodations’ for these employees, such as allowing them to swap shifts to avoid having to deal with gay people.

Mr Streeter’s motion says the move is a “long-overdue recognition of the need to defend religious liberty and marks an important development in relation to a better understanding of the role of faith in public life”.

Although 14 MPs – from all major parties – initially signed the motion, at least three have withdrawn their names after strong criticism from Stonewall and Peter Tatchell over the proposed opt-outs.

Speaking to the Western Morning News, Mr Streeter said: “This is about freedom of religion for everybody in this country, including Christians in their own country.

“A lot of people feel people of faith have been marginalised, and it’s time to debate that.”

He added: “We have been over-tolerant to a number of groups, apart from Christianity. There’s a sort of snarling anger if you do believe what the Bible says.”

Mr Streeter denied that the motion supports discrimination against gay people, adding: “I don’t have a homophobic bone in my body. I believe in ‘live and let live’.”

Early day motions do not require any action from ministers. Instead, they are used by MPs to draw attention to issues.