MPs debate religiously-motivated discrimination in faith schools and public services

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has welcomed debate during the ‘Report Stage’ of the Equality Bill in the House of Commons on issues of concern to humanists. Despite having only one day to discuss important new amendments and clauses to the Bill, MPs were able to debate issues relating to religious discrimination and harassment in faith schools and in public service provision, although none was passed at this stage of the Bill.

At the moment, there is a wide exception in equality law to allow religious organisations to discriminate against service users on grounds of their religion or non-religious beliefs, even when they are working under contract to provide public services on behalf of the state. BHA Vice President Dr Evan Harris MP spoke to amendments to the Bill on public services which would restrict that kind of discrimination: ‘For example, a Jewish care home could not exhibit a sign saying “No Muslims”. A sign like that would not be acceptable in racial terms, and it is not necessary or acceptable in religious terms, because the organisation involved is providing a public service.’

Naomi Phillips, BHA Public Affairs Officer, commented, ‘The Government seem determined to push the Bill through as quickly as possible, even if that means cementing the unjust privileges for religion that are built in to our present laws. We will keep working with our allies in and outside of Parliament as the Bill continues its passage through the House of Lords, to encourage the Government to accept good, simple amendments that would help to realise equality on grounds of religion or belief.’

Notes

Read more about the BHA’s work on the Equality Bill and our briefings to MPs.

For further comment or information, contact Naomi Phillips on 020 7079 3585.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity representing and supporting the interests of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.