The Pope is expected to attack equality laws in the UK and suggest that our liberal, democratic society lacks morality, in a speech on Friday 16th September, during his state visit. The speech follows criticism by Cardinal Walter Kasper of Britain’s mixed, multicultural and largely secular society. Ahead of the Pope’s speech in Westminster Hall in Parliament, the British Humanist Association (BHA) has strongly criticised the Vatican’s attacks on the UK’s domestic law, policy and society.
Commenting on the Pope’s opposition to the UK’s commitment to equality, Naomi Phillips, BHA Head of Public Affairs, said:
‘It is frustrating that the Pope is seeking to impose his views and the illiberal policies of his organisation on our democratic laws. Far from restricting religious freedom, equality laws seek to protect the rights and freedoms of all individuals in our society, including the right for people not be discriminated against on grounds of their religious or non-religious beliefs.
‘The Pope decries our laws as somehow marginalising Christians, but what he is actually seeking is for religious people to be allowed to discriminate against others in employment, services, education and many other areas, unfettered by the laws that everyone else in society must abide by and respect.’
Andrew Copson, BHA Chief Executive, commented:
‘It is disappointing that the Pope is using a state visit to dictate how our state should organise itself. Unlike the Holy See, the UK is fully signed up to treaties like the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantee freedom of religion and belief, and we do not need to be lectured on this issue by the Vatican – seldom in its history an advocate of freedom of conscience. It is not hostility to religion that characterises the negative reaction of many Britons to the Pope’s state visit, but hostility to the Holy See’s bigoted position on so many issues and we should be proud that – unlike the Holy See – the UK is a place of liberalism and tolerance.’
Earlier this year the Pope criticised legislation that sought to increase LGBT and gender equality in employment.
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.