EU seeks to end discrimination exemptions for UK’s religious employers

|PIC1|The European Commission has called on the UK to end exemptions to equality laws that allow religious employers to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The European Commission sent a “reasoned opinion” to the UK on Friday for “incorrectly implementing” EU rules prohibiting discrimination based on religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation in employment or occupation.

The reasoned opinion states that the Government’s “exceptions to the principle of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation for religious employers are broader than that permitted by the directive”.

The UK Government permits exemptions for employers who could not conscionably employ homosexuals because of their religious convictions. The intervention means that anti-discrimination will have to be redrafted to ensure that churches and other religious bodies fall in line with all aspects of equality laws.

"Tackling all forms of discrimination – especially at work – has been a priority for this Commission and for me personally. Our legal action has led to better protection against discrimination in workplaces across the EU," said Equal Opportunities Commissioner Vladimír Špidla.

"We call on the UK Government to make the necessary changes to its anti-discrimination legislation as soon as possible so as to fully comply with the EU rules. In this context, we welcome the proposed Equality Bill and hope that it will come into force quickly.”

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said the ruling was a “significant victory” for gay equality and a “serious setback” for religious employers, according to the Guardian.

Christian charity Care voiced concern over the intervention: “If evangelical churches cannot be sure that they can employ practising evangelicals with respect to sexual ethics, how will they be able to continue?”