The British Humanist Association (BHA) has today given evidence to the House of Commons Public Bill Committee, which is scrutinising the Equality Bill. Andrew Copson, BHA Director of Education and Public Affairs, raised concerns about exceptions in the Bill that permit discrimination against non-religious people and others by religious organisations.
Mr Copson stated that, unlike some others also giving evidence, the BHA believe that the exemptions allowing discrimination in employment are not too narrow. They permit, for example, organisations based on religion or belief to put an occupational requirement on very specific posts, such as the chief executive post. He emphasised that the employment exceptions should not be made any wider than they are as currently drafted – this would help to prevent the wide discrimination in employment that we are seeing at the moment by some religious organisations.
Discussing discrimination by religious organisations in service provision, Mr Copson made clear the BHA’s position that religious organisations working under contract to provide public services on behalf of the state must be held to the same legal standards of equality and human rights as contracted secular organisations or the state itself. The Equality Bill, Mr Copson noted, does not at present require this and so should be amended.
Others on the panel giving evidence were representatives from the General Synod of the Church of England, the Catholic Bishops Conference, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Muslim Women’s Network.
For further comment or information, contact Andrew Copson on 020 7079 3584 or 07534 248 596
The British Humanist Association (BHA) is the national charity representing and supporting the non-religious and campaigning for an end to religious privilege and discrimination based on religion or belief.