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The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has launched a consultation on whether it is handling religious equality appropriately. This marks a significant unease with the way in which equality law has dealt with Christians, in particular since 2010. The central question is whether there is anything more to Christian discontent than whingeing about the progress of gay rights.
The Evangelical Alliance sees this move as a triumph. Don Horrocks, a Baptist minister who is its head of public affairs, says the commission has “failed religion and belief totally”.
“Evangelical Christians have absolutely no confidence in the commission whatsoever. People of faith are generally quiet. Now the commission wants to know how many xians and others are being bullied.”
In a reference to the case of Peter and Hazelmary Bull, who attempted to deny a civilly partnered gay couple a double bed because they do not believe in sex outside marriage, Horrocks said: “Look at the B&B couple who just wanted the freedom to run their house on Christian principles. What about the Christians who are told their faith should be left at the door when they enter the workplace? What about all the organisations who wish to maintain a Christian ethos and are told they must actively promote things they don’t believe in?”
So the Evangelical Alliance, which claims to represent 2 million Christians, is asking its followers to write to the EHRC about their concerns. Given the strength of evangelical feeling against homosexuality, this could result in a lot of letters. The difficulty is that most of the alliance’s cases appear to the outside world to be Christians claiming that unless they can discriminate against gay people, they are themselves the victims of discrimination. This is not a view with wide appeal.