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The Times publish LCF SOR letter

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Date: 30/Apr/2007
Topic: Sexual Orientation

Right of refusal

Sir, The article by David Pannick, QC, (“Religious beliefs give no right to discriminate against gays”, April 24 ) betrays a complete misunderstanding of the concerns of those Christians, and others, who were opposed to the Sexual Orientation Regulations. Those who opposed them did not want the right to throw out lesbian diners for holding hands, or to exclude a child from school for having a gay parent.

Christian organisations and churches run hospices, work with the homeless, children’s after-school clubs, support mothers and crèches, hold parenting classes, marriage counselling, bereavement counselling and operate pregnancy crisis centres. In the vast majority of cases these services are provided equally to all, irrespective of sexual orientation. The allegation that the Christian community is seeking to impose a closed society on others is unfair, and the comparison made to the racist attitudes of pro-apartheid South Africans unfortunate and untrue.

The exemption sought by Christians is simply to prevent them being forced to act against their conscience by having to actively facilitate or promote the practice of homosexuality. Such an exemption need not unduly affect the rights of homosexuals. An example would be a Christian who owned a small printing business. If a restaurant owner, who was a homosexual, wanted him to print some menus, he would not wish or be able to refuse on the ground of the restaurant owner’s homosexuality. However, if he were asked to print leaflets which promoted the practice of homosexuality he would be able to refuse. The printer is not forced to act against his conscience and beliefs; the client remains free to go to any other printer who does not hold such beliefs.

The right to manifest one’s religion is limited by the law (incidentally, so is the right to freedom from discrimination on the basis of sexuality), but it is still a fundamental right in a democratic society.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship London SE1