I’m concerned that there is widespread misunderstanding of the proposed new sexual orientation regulations (SOR). I welcome the SOR as an attempt to ensure that goods and services are delivered inclusively and in non-discriminatory ways.
I am concerned that some Christian organisations have misinterpreted the word “services” to mean religious ceremonies and rites, when this is clearly not the case. The SOR apply to the delivery of public services – this does not include worship activities and ceremonies that are a part of organised religion e.g. baptisms, communion etc. ‘Ministers of religion’ are also exempt from the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations.
While maintaining that faith groups have the right to distinctive faith perspectives, Faithworks, the movement which I lead and I are committed to the principles of unconditional inclusive service, and believe that public funds should only be used to public benefit.
Some representatives from faith groups are in danger of sounding homophobic because of their misinterpretation and misapplication of the Sexual Orientation Regulations.
The Faithworks movement is committed to inclusion and transformation. Thousands of our members up and down the UK are already working to build a better world by delivering services to their communities on this inclusive and non-discriminatory basis. Many have signed the Faithworks Charter, a set of principles for local Christian agencies committed to excellence in three areas: inclusive service, professional delivery and Christian distinctiveness. The charter stipulates that they will serve and respect all people, regardless of their gender, marital status, race, ethnic origin, religion, age, sexual orientation or physical and mental capability.
I believe that Christian community organisations, and those of other faiths, can maintain their distinctive faith identities while still serving the needs of their whole communities. I do not interpret the new Sexual Orientation Regulations as a threat to that.
Caricaturing the Christian perspective as antagonistic and homophobic may be easy, but it is not always accurate. Christians are moving beyond antagonism towards positive engagement. The reality is that on a daily basis millions of Christians across the UK engage holistically, inclusively and compassionately with people in their communities.