Or at least not discriminate against them in hiring decisions. This is a big, big deal. That little separation between church and state doesn’t just keep God out of the classroom; it protects churches and synagogues from violating their own beliefs by being forced to adhere to anti-discrimination laws. And with this move, Britain is opening the door for endless conservative scare tactics about how gay protections are ruinous for religion.
To be clear, Britain’s new Equality Bill does protect churches in some regard. “Those who lead the liturgy or spend the majority of the time teaching doctrine, such as ministers, bishops and their equivalents,” will not be subject to non-discrimination rules. But the law makes looser the definition of other auxiliary staff members, such as receptionists and accountants as well as janitors and drivers. Essentially, any church employee not directly involved in advocating the religion will be subject to the new rules.
Religious organizations, of course, argue that every staffer is integral to their operation, and that they shouldn’t have to employ anyone who doesn’t accept their faith, whether it comes to beliefs on abortion, gay marriage, or whether you can eat shellfish. The Equality Bill no longer gives them that option.
Is this good news for protecting against discrimination? Or over-reaching on religious freedoms?
While this law certainly doesn’t apply to the U.S., its mere existence will only amplify religious conservatives here who already see the same-sex marriage push as an affront to their beliefs (even though no state is requiring priests to conduct gay weddings), as well as anti-discrimination laws impeding on their right to whatever faith they choose, no matter how pro-hate it may be.
Then again, there’s always the question: What homo would want to work at a church that hates him?