26 January 2010
Evangelical Alliance welcomes common sense amendment to Equality Bill
"A victory for common sense" - that's the Evangelical Alliance's response to the House of Lords' decision today on the Equalities Bill.
Following engagement with the Alliance and other Christian organisations, the Lords have rejected an ambiguous Government amendment to the Bill which could have prevented churches and Christian organisations from appointing practising Christians to key roles.
The Lords voted by a significant margin for a different amendment, from Baroness O'Cathain, which will maintain the status quo.
There is much in the Bill that promotes justice, fairness and equality, all hallmarks of a modern society that the Evangelical Alliance enthusiastically supports. However, it is also important that fundamental liberties, such as freedom of religious belief and expression are maintained.
Dr Don Horrocks, head of public affairs for the Evangelical Alliance, said: "We're grateful to the Lords for this result. The Government's amendment was unclear and would have left churches and organisations unsure whether they could prefer practising Christians for the majority of their roles.
"Now, they can continue to appoint people who are committed to the ethos of the organisations they are supposed to represent. It's a victory for common sense. I hope the government will accept this and not prolong the issue by asking the House of Commons to challenge the Lords' vote."
The rejected amendment stated that religious organisations could only prefer candidates if they were applying for the job of minister of religion or posts that "exist to promote or represent the religion or to explain the doctrines of the religion."
The Alliance was concerned it would be unclear how the courts might interpret the word "exist" - few religious posts actually exist wholly or mainly for the purposes stated.
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Notes to Editors
The Evangelical Alliance
We are the largest and oldest body representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians. For more than 165 years, we have been bringing Christians together and helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society. We’re here to connect people for a shared mission, whether it’s celebrating the Bible, making a difference in our communities or lobbying the government for a better society. From Skye to Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, we work across 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of individual members. And we're not just uniting Christians within the UK – we are a founding member of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global network of more than 600 million evangelical Christians. For more information, go to www.eauk.org.