Monday 25 January 2010

Praise the Lords

No, I’m not blaspheming. The House of Lords does deserve praise for at about 7 o’clock this evening, the Government lost its attempt to change the Equality Bill to prevent churches and faith-based groups to employ only those whose lives conformed to the ethics of their organisations.

Had the government succeeded, churches could have been obliged by law to employ people whose lifestyles were anti-Christian but peers voted 216 to 178 in favour of Lady O’Cathain’s (see picture) amendment to keep the current law unchanged.

In an extraordinary move, the Government then broke with House of Lords convention in a bid to damage Lady O’Cathain’s victory but in two further votes Lady O’Cathain won by 195 votes to 174 and by 177 votes to 172.

In the debate before the votes, the Government had claimed its plans would simply ‘clarify’ the law but churches could see the plans would narrow important safeguards designed to help religious employers defend their ethos.

The Government’s defeat means there will be no change to the current law, which permits churches and other faith-based employers to protect their ethos by insisting staff live consistently with the religion’s doctrine on sexual behaviour.

At this stage it is not known whether the Government will try to overturn the defeat in the Commons but we should praise the Lord for this victory.

If you signed the online petition against the government’s proposed changes (see The Chimes of Freedom, 7 January), thank you. Had the government succeeded in its aim, Christian Witness to Israel might one day have been a victim of the bill.

Tragically, very few Christians did anything to protest the government’s plan. Is that because they simply assumed the bill would fail? Or was it because they just didn’t care?

There was a time when Christians in this country were prepared to be imprisoned or to die for their convictions. Today, it seems conviction is in short supply.

Keith Green’s lyrics to the song Asleep in the Light seem more relevant than ever:

The world is sleeping in the dark,
But the church can't fight, cause it's asleep in the light.
How can you be so dead, when you've been so well fed?
Jesus rose from the grave, and you can't even get out of bed!

Read the full story at the Christian Institute website.

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