Euro rules force Church bodies
to employ atheists
By Jonathan Petre,
Thousands of religious schools, charities and
organisations could face legal action if they refuse to employ
atheists or sack staff who become Satanists under proposed
The laws, which are based on a European Union
directive and which have to be implemented by December, ban
discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of religion, belief
or sexual orientation.
But a report from the Christian Institute says the
laws will restrict the freedom of religious organisations to employ
solely staff who are practising believers.
Christian groups are particularly angry that the
Government has chosen to exempt political parties from the laws, so
that the Labour Party will be able to continue its policy of
employing only party members.
"While the Vegetarian Society can refuse to employ
meat-eaters and the RSPCA can sack an executive who is found to have
invested in the fur trade, churches which employ Christians could
now face legal action for doing so," the institute said."They could
face the possibility of crippling legal actions just for following
Under the new regulations, all religious
organisations, including schools, charities, parishes and mosques,
will need to have a very strong case to require recruits to share
The laws could, for example, prevent Christian bodies
refusing to employ practising homosexuals or bisexuals on the
grounds that sex outside marriage is against Christian teaching.
Moreover, the regulations protect existing staff, so that if a youth
worker employed by a Christian Church converts to Islam, but argues
that he can still do the job, the Church cannot dismiss him.
Teachers in maintained schools escape the regulations
on religion or belief but not sexual orientation. Vergers, youth
workers, evangelists, pastoral staff in parishes and caretakers
could all be seriously affected, however.
In its report the institute said that the proposed
regulations undermined religious freedom.
One of its authors, Prof Ian Leigh, of Durham
University, a human rights lawyer, said: "The Government regulations
have all the potential seriously to undermine freedom of association
for religious people. They place the modern concept of 'equality'
over and above religious liberty."
Previous story: Judge
sets trial date for killing of Soham girls
Next story: MSPs
choose £88,000 desk