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Action urged to protect Christian freedom of conscience in the face of the forthcoming Sexual Orientation Regulations (SORs)

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Since the end of the consultation process on the SORs in June this year, the political issue went quiet over the summer. However, with only a week to go before Parliament is recalled, the issue has again leapt to the fore amid concern that in only a few weeks time the Government are going to try and push through a version of the Regulations which does not offer sufficient protection to guarantee Christians’ freedom of conscience. We therefore urge everyone who is concerned by the SORs to write to or visit their MPs to explain that Christians must be given the freedom to live in accordance with the Bible’s teaching: so that we are free to accurately convey the message that Jesus loves homosexuals and yet hates the sin of sex outside marriage. Full details of the issues involved and how to lobby on this issue are contained below.

Back in May and June, Christian Concern for our Nation called the Christian community to respond to the Government consultation in order to stand up for our right to conduct our lives according to the Bible’s teaching. We were amazed at the time, effort, sensitivity and thoughtfulness that people put into responding on this issue. When delegates from the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship met with civil servants at the Home Office, we were told that the Government had been surprised by the numbers who had responded to the consultation: almost 3000 formal responses. The civil servants also said that the majority of responses (around 3/5) were ‘faith-based’. We are certain that many of those were from CCFON subscribers.

Unfortunately, since the consultation closed on the 5th June, the Home Office have not made it very clear about what is happening with the SORs. We do know that they have now finished analysing the responses to the consultation, and are some way to drafting a version of the Regulations which they hope to put before Parliament in mid-October.

From the limited information the Government will give us, we think that despite the strong and principled arguments made by Christians in response to the consultation, they are not intending to address some of our key concerns. It does look like the Government might provide an exception from the Regulations for ‘organised religion’. Ifthis is the case, churches would not be required to provide goods, services, facilities etc to someone, if to do so would promote, assist or encourage that person to continue in sexual practice outside marriage. However, the Government seem determined not to provide that same protection for ‘individual’ Christians. This is extremely worrying. What it would mean is that Mr A, a vicar, would not have to give a blessing to practicing homosexual Civil Partners in his church, but if he also conducts ceremonies in, for example, a Christian convention centre, he would have to give the blessing. This is just one of thousands of possible examples.

As you can tell, to fail to give individual Christians the right to refuse to assist, encourage, promote or facilitate homosexual practice, is extremely worrying for all Christians.

So, it is clear that this issue is far from over, and Christians need to be active in praying and lobbying, in order to safeguard our freedom of conscience: our freedom to act in accordance with the Bible.

Because the SORs are Regulations, not a full Act of Parliament, the SORs when put before Parliament, will not have a full debate. Neither do they need to have the usual 3 ‘readings’ in the House of Commons and House of Lords. It is a much quicker, more straightforward process. The expectation is that with Regulations Parliament will simply ‘rubberstamp’ and give the go ahead. It is over 30 years since a Regulation was defeated once it was put before Parliament.

For this reason, if you want to do something to influence this law, NOW IS THE TIME TO DO IT! We urge everyone to pray and call on the Lord. In order to try and make sure sufficient protections are added to the Regulations, pressure needs to be put on MPs and ministers so that they understand that even if they do protect ‘organised religion’, this is not enough. One of the main problems with the SORs is that there is very little awareness in Parliament that they even exist, and even where MPs have heard of them, they have little understanding. This is where you can make a real difference. We urge everyone who is concerned by the SORs to write to or visit their MPs to explain that Christians must be given the freedom of conscience to live in accordance with the Bible’s teaching. 

A leading QC, acting on behalf of the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship, has drafted a change to the SORs which we believe would offer substantial protection to Christians to guarantee their freedom to act with integrity according to the Bible’s teaching. The proposed amendment is attached to this e-mail and we urge everyone to put a copy of it before their MP

When considering this issue it is good to remember that when Christians were called to act over the Religious Hatred Bill, many thousands campaigned and lobbied their MPs and local members of the House of Lords, and the hearts of many of those politicians were changed. As Christians all we can do is pray that the truth will be made known, do what we can to tell others about that truth, and trust God to use our efforts for His glory.

To help you pray and act on this issues, we have produced a number of resources, all of which are available below.

1) A copy of the SOR amendment we want the Government to adopt.

2) A general briefing sheet setting out the basic issues involved with the SORs.

3) A template letter which can be used as a starting point for what to say to MPs and Peers.

4) A general ‘How to Lobby MPs and Peers’ sheet

5) A copy of the letter which was sent by the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship to MPs explaining our suggested amendment to the SORs.

6) A copy of the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship response to the Government consultation (this is a long document which goes into full detail addressing the SORs)