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Summary of latest news on sors and call for action and prayer

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16th March 2007


** what the government say: these regulations are the “moral and appropriate thing to do” (david Hanson, government minister, and 17TH january 2007)

 

what the regulations say:the fact that one of the persons is a [homosexual] civil partner while the other is married shall not be treated as a material difference” Regulation 3(4).

 

What the government say: “good government is not about ducking difficult questions – it is about robust debate” (ruth kelly, march 7th 2007)


what mpS from all 3 main parties have said:there should have been a full SOR debate in the house of commons, the procedure used by the government has brought parliament into disrepute” (iain duncan-smith, 15th march 2007)


what the bible says:If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then i will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 CHRONICLES 7:14) **

 

 

NB COMPREHENSIVE ‘FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS’ SOR DOCUMENT ATTACHED: PLEASE FORWARD TO ALL CHURCHES, CHRISTIAN CHARITIES AND ORGANISATIONS.PLEASE ALSO USE ITS CONTENT WHEN YOU WRITE TO YOUR MP AND PEERS.

 

 

Summary


Yesterday morning at 8:55am the House of Commons committee of 16 MPs met for just 90 minutes to decide on the fate of the Sexual Orientation Regulations. Even the MPs on the Committee itself had only been appointed 15 hours before it met and the room arranged for the debate was so small that there was not enough room for all the MPs and people had to sit on the floor.


The meeting started in confusion as MP after MP stood up to voice complaints at the way the Government was rushing through the SORs with no time for MPs to look at the Regulations (which having been taken offline were only made available again at 3pm on Tuesday and with over 20 changes from the original published Regulations). Labour, Lib-Dem and Conservative MPs all criticised the Government for refusing to allow a full debate in the House of Commons.


Repeated requests were made to postpone the debate and to give time to find a more appropriate room. The requests were refused by the Labour MP chairing the debate. That chairperson declared that the only way possible to delay the debate would be for a special motion to be passed: David Burrowes MP duly sought to bring such a motion for the Committee to decide the issue and the chairperson refused to accept it: she would not even allow it to go to a vote.


After speeches from only 4 MPs, the chairperson took a vote and the vote was won by those supporting the Sexual Orientation Regulations.


The Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative parties all united to support the Regulations: it was left to back-bench MPs (mostly conservative) to give strong opposition (most of whom were unable to vote because they were not officially on the Committee). However, Eleanor Laing (the official spokesperson for the Conservatives) supported the Regulations and said that “her brand of Christianity“ preached “do unto others as you would have them do to you“ and therefore there was no problem with the Regulations. This contrasted with her fellow-Conservative, the Shadow Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, who spoke about the deep legal flaws to the SORs.


In addition, the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments which met on Tuesday, gave the SORs the ‘all clear’, even though a number of committee members raised serious questions. The way in which the JCSI allowed the SORs to be rushed through, despite many outstanding concerns, seems odd in light of their readiness to draw the “special attention of both Houses to the [almost identical Northern Ireland] Regulations on the grounds that they are defectively drafted” only 6 weeks ago.


ACTION


PLEASE COME TO A PRAYER VIGIL OUTSIDE PARLIAMENT AT OLD PALACE YARD (the square opposite the St Stephen’s entrance to the House of Lords) ON WEDNESDAY 21ST MARCH FROM 7 TO 9PM WHEN THE FINAL VOTE ON THE SEXUAL ORIENTATION REGULATIONS WILL BE TAKEN. WE PRAY FOR A MIRACLE NEXT WEDNESDAY. HOWEVER, WHATEVER THE OUTCOME IT IS VITAL THAT HISTORY RECORDS CHRISTIANS STANDING FOR TRUTH TO THE VERY END OF THE PARLIAMENTARY PROCESS.


THIS DEBATE NEXT WEDNESDAYIS THE CRUCIAL DEBATE. I BELIEVE IT IS STILL POSSIBLE TO PERSUADE PEERS OF THE LACK OF DEMOCRATIC PROCESS IN BRINGING IN THE SORS AND TO PERSUADE THEM OF GENUINE CONCERNS REGARDING THE CLASH OF FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN FREEDOMS.


For either one or both of these reasons we encourage all Christians who have any contact with a member of the House of Lords, or who can locate a member who lives in their area (see the link to the ‘How to Lobby’ sheet, below), to contact them (by letter, email or telephone)  and explain the issues involved. PLEASE ASK THEM TO BE PRESENT IN THE CHAMBER NEXT WEDNEDAY AND TO VOTE FOR BARONESS O’CATHAIN’S MOTION NOT TO APPROVE THE SORS (Please see texts below of the Government’s motion to approve and Baroness O’Cathain’s motion to decline.


Please note that 21 days notice is required to use amplification outside Parliament so it is very unlikely we will be able to obtain permission for such use at the prayer vigil. We intend to use this occasion to make a solemn, prayerful stand for Truth in this Nation.



HOUSE OF COMMONS:


There is one last chance to stop the SORs in the House of Commons:


PLEASE ASK (by letter, email or telephone) YOUR MP TO BE PRESENT AND FORMALLY OBJECT TO THE SORs ON THE FLOOR OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS ON MONDAY 19th MARCH AT THE CLOSE OF BUSINESS.


SECONDLY, PLEASE ASK YOUR MP TO BE PRESENT AND VOTE AGAINST THE REGULATIONS DURING THE ‘DEFERRED DIVISION’ ON WEDNESDAY 21ST BETWEEN 12:30 AND 2:30PM.


Please use the template letter (below) as a guide for some of the points that can be made to MPs when urging them to vote against the Regulations which do not strike a fair balance between freedom from discrimination for homosexuals, and freedom of religion for Christians.


Please use the link (below) to find out how to contact your MP. Alternatively, use the following website: www.writetothem.com



The text of the House of Lords SOR motions

Wednesday 21 March

Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 Baroness Andrews to move that the draft Regulations laid before the House on 8 March be approved. (Dinner break business)

Baroness O’Cathain to move, as an amendment to the above motion, to leave out all the words after “that” and insert “this House, having regard to the widespread concerns that the draft Regulations compromise religious liberty and will result in litigation over the content of classroom teaching, and having regard to the legality of the equivalent regulations for Northern Ireland, declines to approve the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007.”

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld/ldordpap.htm#order



Links




Template letter on the SORs for your MPs (please modify and personalise to write to Members of the House of Lords). Please also used the attached Frequently Asked Questions Document for ideas.



Dear MP

         

I write in relation to the proposed Sexual Orientation Regulations (SORs) which are being considered and voted on by the House of Commons Delegated Legislation Committee on the 15th March 2007 at 8:55am. Firstly, as my MP I would ask that you attend this Committee meeting – any MP is allowed to attend and take part in the debate. I would also ask you not to approve the Regulations when a Motion is put before the House of Commons to do so.


The aim of the SORs is to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in relation to providing goods, services, facilities, premises, education and public functions.

         

As a Christian, I believe in the Bible’s teaching that all humans are my ‘neighbours’ and that I should love all of my neighbours equally. The Bible also teaches the importance of peace, justice and fairness. I therefore support any work done by the Government to promote such principles. However, I am very concerned that the proposed SORs go beyond these principles and encroach on my freedom of conscience.

         

The Government had a large volume of responses to their consultation on the SORs, and the majority of those responses were from religious groups who were concerned that the Regulations would not give them the freedom to continue to profess and live according to their long-standing religious teaching that the only rightful sexual relationships are those between a man and a woman in the context of marriage. It is of grave concern that the Government do not appear to have fully understood those submissions. Although there are some exemptions for religious organisations, there are many areas where the freedom of conscience for Christian, Jews and Muslims, has been left unprotected.


Some of the principal problems with the Regulations are as follows:


1) The Regulations automatically assume that homosexual civil partnerships are fully equivalent to heterosexual marriages and therefore it is assumed that any discrimination (in the provision of goods and services) between married couples and homosexual civil partners is illegal.


2) There is a crucial gap in the protection of vicars and ministers so that it will be illegal for them to teach their congregation that they should follow the Bible’s teaching on sexual morality even where this conflicts with the SORs. For example, it would be illegal for a vicar to cite the example of the Christian printing company and then say ‘it is better to follow the Bible’s teaching and risk being sued than to be complicit in sin by printing leaflets promoting gay pride’.


3) There is no protection for individuals to guarantee their freedom of conscience – the only exemption for religious belief (Regulation 14) applies to organisations rather than individuals. Therefore an individual Christian GP, for example, would have no freedom of conscience to refuse to give a reference recommending homosexual parents as suitable for adopting because the GP did not believe it would be right / in the best interests of a child to be raised without a father and a mother. This does not make sense in light of a doctor’s freedom to refuse to recommend / perform an abortion on the grounds of conscience under the Abortion Act.


4) There is no specific protection for faith schools which are bound by the law in the same way as all schools (see further, below). Also, there is a substantial danger that it will be illegal under the SORs for faith schools to continue to teach that extra-marital sexual relationships are wrong.


5) There is no protection for commercial Christian organisations, however strong their Christian ethos (e.g. a Christian printing company will be acting illegally if they refuse to print fliers promoting gay sex).


6) There is no protection for many voluntary organisations which, although run by Christians who are motivated by their faith, are not strictly 'religious' in the language of the legislation (e.g. a Christian homeless shelter would not be able to hold the policy that ‘we will not provide services to someone if this were to promote homosexual practices’).


7) There is no protection for a church or other religious organisation where they receive funding from the local authority to provide goods or services such that if a church receives state funding to run, for example, an overnight homeless shelter, it will lose all the protection under Regulation 14 and would not even be able to refuse membership of the church to openly practising homosexuals.


8) There is a danger that it will be unlawful for vicars to be able to continue to preach that same-sex relationships are sinful because preaching itself is not protected by the religion exemption and may contravene Regulation 9.


I think (and I invite you to agree with me) that the SORs are based on a significant misunderstanding of faith and religious belief - that the freedom to have such faith and hold such beliefs is only needed at certain times of the week and on certain occasions (on a Sunday for a Christian, on Saturday for a Jew, and on Friday for a Muslim). The reality for me as a Christian is that the teaching in the Bible is just as important to my life outside church as it is inside. This means that if the SORs only allow me freedom to be a Christian on a Sunday (and this itself appears to be limited by the SORs, see 2), 7) and 8) above), they seriously encroach on my right to live as a Christian in this country.


For example, it is no good allowing a Christian who runs a printing press to go to church on a Sunday and express the Biblical view that all extra-marital sex is sinful, if during the week he is forced by the SORs to print a poster advertising an event which will promote homosexual practice. The law would be forcing him to act against his beliefs – to lose his integrity. I am firmly of the belief that the Government should not pass any law which forces me as a Christian to promote, the practising of homosexuality. To do so would force me to contravene my beliefs. To do so would be equivalent to making it illegal to follow part of the Bible.


Yours sincerely



MS Word template letter on the SORs

Pdf template letter on the SORs

SOR Frequently Asked Questions 15th March 2007

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