In the UK last February, what is called the Equality Act received Royal Assent and therefore became law. It has been controversial, for as this legislation passed through Parliament, a section dealing with so-called religious discrimination brought some concern to Christians. They were worried that any preaching that might be critical of other faiths might contravene the Act. It was therefore a relief for many of us that the particular section of the Equality Bill was heavily amended so that any such dangers were removed. The Government was forced to accept the amended version and the Act then passed.
For Christians, a concern still lingers, for there is a little-noticed section of the Act that gives the Government the right to introduce “Regulations” on sexual orientation discrimination. Such Regulations are often referred to as Secondary Legislation. This is because their enactment does not require a complete new Bill before Parliament—the Regulation orders are published by the relevant government department, and then frequently passed quickly through Parliament “on the nod.” In most cases, Parliament’s passage of Regulations applies to England only—Scotland’s Parliament determines its own laws on such matters, and the National Assembly for Wales usually votes on the application of Regulations to the Principality. (In Northern Ireland, similar Regulations could be introduced by a joint decision of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, but since neither office is occupied currently, the Regulations are unlikely to apply to the Province.)
The Government has now published its Sexual Orientation Regulations 2006, and expects to bring them to Parliament and the Assembly in October. The Regulations state that there should be no discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services. It seems possible that this will affect Christian churches in the following ways:
- Churches who use their premises for (heterosexual) weddings may be required to accept civil partnership ceremonies (so-called “gay marriages”) on their premises.
- Churches who hire out church halls or kitchens would not be allowed to refuse to hire them to, for example, the local gay or lesbian organisation—even if the purpose of the booking were to promote homosexual practice.
- Christian conference centres would have to accept bookings from gay and lesbian groups.
Naturally, these are issues of considerable concern to Christians, who have until June 5 to register objections (though Christians can continue to express their concerns to Members of Parliament, and Welsh Assembly, until both bodies vote in October. Christian organisations who have expressed public concern include the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship (www.lawcf.org) and Christian Concern for our Nation (www.christianconcernforournation.co.uk).
There is a warped logic to the proposed Regulations. If one believes that homosexual people are the way they are because either God made them that way, or it is a product of their evolution, then all forms of opposing homosexual behaviour are inappropriate. That, however, is not the Bible’s position. The Bible describes homosexual behaviour as a sin (and describes other things like adultery as sins). See our articles Gays Were Not Created that Way and Creationism and the Problem of Homosexual Behaviour.
When Jesus was asked about marriage, He took His listeners back to Genesis and the institution of the family unit (Matthew 19:1–12; Mark 10:1–12). Marriage between one man and one woman for life is the correct biblical pattern, because that is how God made it at the beginning. When church leaders compromise on the first few chapters of Genesis, they are, in fact, undermining the foundational teachings on morality (as well as other doctrines). Once again, we must note that belief in Genesis is not a side issue—it is an issue of fundamental importance to all our beliefs.