Plymouth MP says Christianity is being marginalised and overlooked
Christianity is increasingly seen as a “private activity” because religious belief is being “squeezed out” of public life, an inquiry has found.
The MP-led Clearing the Ground inquiry has warned that equality legislation is putting the rights of others above Christians.
The cross-party group Christians in Parliament, which is headed by Gary Streeter, MP for South West Devon, was set up last year amid controversy over religious freedoms.
Controversial cases including wearing a cross at work through to refusing to conducting same-sex civil partnership ceremonies.
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Its final report, published yesterday, found there is a “legal and cultural problem” where courts have “created
a hierarchy of rights” and companies, institutions and government “do not take sufficient action” to accommodate religious belief.
The committee of the inquiry took evidence from more than 50, mostly Christian, organisations.
In its findings, the inquiry blamed recent legislation for generating, rather than reducing, social tensions.
Its report highlighted “fundamental problems” with the 2010 Equality Act, and “failures” of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to adequately represent or protect religion, while “privileging the rights of other groups”.
It concluded: “The problems that Christians face are far from universal, but they do represent a trend towards a reduction in the space given to belief in public life. As a result this leads to an assumption that religious belief should be a private activity.”
Mr Streeter, who chaired the inquiry, said: “Of course Christians should obey the law, but the law should reflect the positive contribution the Christian faith has made to the heritage of this country and also respect the sincerely held beliefs of mainstream Christians.
“Our report indicates how this delicate circle can be better squared.”
Its recommendations include looking at the introduction of statutory guidelines for “reasonable accommodation” of religious belief among employers and services.
The report also calls for more public education about religion, better guidance for local authorities and a shake-up of the EHRC.
The Westcountry has witnessed a series of high-profile cases, including Christian guesthouse owners Peter and Hazelmary Bull who refused to allow a gay couple to stay in a double-bedded room in West Cornwall.
This month, the High Court also upheld objections to formal prayers at Bideford Town Council, Devon.