An SDLP MLA has suggested that government ministers should remove themselves from decisions based on their religious beliefs because they have a “vested interest”.
Speaking at a hustings event organised by the Christian charities Evangelical Alliance and CARE in Windsor Baptist Church on Thursday night, Fearghal McKinney recalled the controversy around Jim Wells’s comments linking gay marriage to child abuse (comments which he subsequently retracted).
The South Belfast MLA, who was standing in for candidate Alasdair McDonnell at the event, said: “I think there is an answer to this and some of what he said the other night flew in the face of the actual evidence. So he brought a view, based upon a religious view, and he took a decision to reflect that and is no longer in his post.
“I think what should happen in these cases is that we should have a mechanism which says, ‘I’m the health minister; I believe this; I’m entitled to say this, but when it comes to these types of decisions I will remove myself because I’ve a vested interest. I believe that my view should be my view ...but I shouldn’t be making decisions which impact on the lives of others, so therefore I will remove myself from the decision-making process.’”
Mr McKinney suggested that the decision could be given to another minister or to a senior civil servant to “allow some transparency and honesty”.
But the DUP’s Jonathan Bell said: “My own Christian faith would be the bedrock of what I do. I cannot, quite simply...I will not leave my Christian faith at the front door of the House of Commons and pick it up when I go back out again.
“That being said, I’m imperfect. I’ve made a huge number of mistakes...”
Mr Bell said that his views would not stop him representing those of different faiths, of no faith, of different classes, skin colours and sexual orientation.
Mr Bell also said that his party would never support euthanasia. But Alliance’s Paula Bradshaw said: “I did do a bit of research today around what the Bible says on euthanasia and it doesn’t necessarily totally come out and condemn it. I think the references that are drawn are in relation to the actual ‘thou shalt not kill’ and stuff like that.
“I don’t see euthanasia as killing in the sense of a brutal, violent act against somebody to bring about their death...”