Equality Act gives excessive privileges to religious organisations

On the day the Equality Act 2010 has come into effect, the BHA has drawn attention to the wide exceptions contained in the Act that are provided specifically to allow religious organisations to discriminate on grounds of religion or belief and of sexual orientation.

Naomi Phillips, BHA Head of Public Affairs, commented, ‘Through wide exceptions that exempt religious organisations from significant parts of the law, the Equality Act gives excessive privileges specifically to religious groups, permitting them to discriminate against not only gay and lesbian people but against the non-religious and those of other religions.

‘In employment, the Equality Act fails to protect the rights of employees working for religious organisations, even those organisations working under public contract. The special exemptions enshrined in the Act to permit organised religions to treat lesbian and gay people unkindly, unfairly, and discriminate against them are so wide that the legislation itself may even be in breach of European equality legislation. Service users are also put at risk of religious discrimination if the public service they are accessing, such as a local healthcare service, has been contracted out to a religious provider.

‘In the context of the government’s commitment to localism, including a focus on handing the provision of public services to religious organisations, it is more urgent than ever before to ensure that staff and service users are treated equally regardless of religion or belief.’

The British Humanist Association works independently and with others, including progressive religious groups, to campaign for measures to prevent religious schools and organisations providing services to discriminate in ways which would be unlawful for other organisations.

Notes

For further comment or information, contact Naomi Phillips on 020 7079 3585 or 07540 257101.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) is the national charity representing and supporting the non-religious, campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief.