the lesbian, gay and bisexual charity

Stonewall statement on exemptions for religious employers

3 February 2010

Responding to reports that Equalities Minister Harriet Harman will not pursue an amendment to the current Equality Bill on exemptions for religious employers, Stonewall’s Director of Public Affairs Derek Munn said:

'Stonewall has said for some time that the religious exemption in the current employment protections, introduced in 2003, needed clarification. There’s no doubt that the exemption – always intended to apply to a narrow range of posts – has been subject to abuse. While there’s been recent debate on the precise wording the law should adopt, we remain focused on clarity in the law. Religious employers don’t and shouldn’t enjoy a wide opt-out from employment protections. Lay positions like press officers and the vast majority of youth workers shouldn’t be without protection at work on grounds of their sexual orientation.

The issue at stake here is clarity in the legislation. Ministers have made clear their intention that the bill when passed will contain protections equal or identical to those currently in force. If any church were to dismiss someone because they were gay from a role outside the narrow exemption - such as a youth worker or a press officer - we’d support their case.’

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