Trevor Phillips compares Christianity to sharia law
Christians who want their historic freedom of conscience respected are equivalent to Muslims who want to impose sharia law, claimed the chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
Following a week of impassioned public debate over the role of religion in public life, Trevor Phillips stated that:
“Religious rules should end ‘at the door of the temple’ and give way to the ‘public law’ laid down by Parliament.”
“To me, there’s nothing different in principle with a Catholic adoption agency, or indeed Methodist adoption agency, saying the rules in our community are different and therefore the law shouldn’t apply to us. Why not then say sharia can be applied to different parts of the country? It doesn’t work,” he added.
Speaking at a debate in London, he argued that faith groups providing public services such as Catholic adoption agencies must choose between obeying the law and their religion.
All of the Catholic adoption agencies in England have been forced to close in recent years because of equality laws which he promotes.
Mr Phillips is known for being outspoken on religious issues. Last June he caused an outcry by suggesting that Muslims were better integrated into British society than Christians were.
Responding to his comments, The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, said:
“I am very surprised that here he seems to be saying that there should be a totalitarian kind of view in which a believer’s conscience should not be respected.”
“While the basic principles of sharia contradict Western public law, the issue for Catholic adoption agencies was one of “respect for conscience”, he said. “They are two different issues.”
Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, said:
“His comments reflect the myth that secularism can provide neutrality in the public square. In reality, it simply elevates atheist beliefs above the historic Christian faith.
“This philosophy is illiberal and intolerant, and attempts to impose a new political orthodoxy which pushes out those with Christian beliefs because they are not deemed politically correct.
“Many of our laws still emanate from Christian precepts which respect the innate dignity of every human being and have traditionally allowed for difference of opinion and freedom of conscience.
“His comments are hardly neutral. The EHRC is known for its hostility towards the Christian faith. In one of our cases they intervened and said that Christian moral views could ‘infect’ children, and that Christians with such views should not be allowed to foster.”
Neil Addison, a barrister and director of the Thomas More Legal Centre, said: “The EHRC is so obsessed with equality that it has lost sight of freedom.”
Equality and Human Rights Commission
The EHRC has far-reaching powers to enforce equality duties, but the ideology which it has promoted has resulted in controversy.
It has intervened in several cases relating to the clash between Christian beliefs and homosexual rights, and in every case has intervened against freedom of belief:
- The EHRC intervened in Johns v Derby City Council in 2011 and argued that the Council should be able to prevent devout Christians Eunice and Owen Johns from becoming foster parents because their Christian moral views on sexual ethics might ‘infect’ a child. The Johns lost their case and remain unable to foster children, despite having successfully fostered 15 children in the past.
- The EHRC intervened in Catholic Care (Leeds) v Charity Commission and persuaded the High Court to rule that Catholic Care (Leeds) could not continue to place children for adoption with married couples only. The charity had been placing children with adoptive parents for more than 100 years.
- The EHRC intervened in 2011 against devout Christian guesthouse owners Peter and Hazelmary Bull, who restricted double rooms in their guest house to married couples only. They were sued by civil partners Martyn Hall and Stephen Preddy who were turned down for a double room. The case was funded and supported by the EHRC. The judge ruled against the Bulls and ordered them to pay compensation. The EHRC tried to pursue a higher level of compensation from the Bulls but backed down after a public outcry. The Bulls now face financial ruin.
- The EHRC opposed the “Waddington amendment” which was debated on 9 July 2009 in the House of Lords. The Waddington Amendment protected free speech in the Public Order Act 1986. Had the amendment been removed, freedom of speech in the area of religious conscience would have been severely curtailed.