As an evangelical Christian who shares both the frustration and disgust at the treatment of Asher’s Bakery by the Equality Commission, I can understand the knee jerk reaction of some Evangelicals in backing the doomed DUP “Conscience Clause Bill” but I believe they are naïve and being used.
Personally I oppose the bill for three clear reasons.
Firstly bad law, or poor interpretation of bad law, will not be fixed by even worse law. In my opinion our current equality legislation has been poorly written, is inconsistently applied and totally fails to respect the true diversity of NI society. It needs properly revamped, not tinkered with, not amended in parts but totally reviewed and not in a reactionary way.
Secondly it is motivated solely by electoral motives, wrapped up as a dearly held principles. There is no chance of this Bill ever seeing the light of day. A petition of concern will be introduced and as the Bill will not get the necessary cross party support, it will fall.
So why is the bill being proposed? Elections dear boy, elections!
This is the religious right within the DUP attempting to regain ground with their traditional evangelical voters. Clearly with the demise of Ian Paisley and the high profile rows between the secular and religious wings of the DUP, the religiously conservative vote is no longer guaranteed to Peter Robinson and his colleagues, so this “cake row” has literally been a “God send”.
Finally I oppose this legislation because it and the associated consultation serve only to prove that the ‘Christian Right’ is overly interested in the issues relating to sexuality, particularly homosexuality (and not for the first time in the DUP). Nothing in this bill attempts to protect Christians or others with strong religious faiths.
This Bill and the associated consultation concentrates on what Christians or others of faith can refuse to do in relation to homosexuals. But the issues of freedom to express one’s faith, or promote it, are not be addressed. Issues of protecting those of faith from discrimination in employment around Sunday working etc, will not be addressed either.
My only conclusion is that this bill is a bandwagon bill, sole purpose — electoral propaganda, proposed by a narrow group of individuals, focused on the sexuality of a small minority in our society.
I will not be supporting this bill and suggest the various churches should not be used for such blatant electioneering by the DUP. If we want real change, then political parties, in their manifestos, should set out their equality credentials, call on the electorate to endorse that view and then deliver.
Not a Zealot,