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Equality North East

Lords vote to reduce protection for religious groups' staff

Human rights campaigners, trades unions and several religious groups have reacted with dismay to a House of Lords vote on the Equality Bill. Peers narrowly voted for amendments that will allow religious organisations greater exemptions from anti-discrimination law in matters of employment.

Critics say that this will weaken protection for those already on the staff of religious groups, as well as for job applicants. It is as yet unclear how the government will respond to the vote.

Ministers insisted that the Bill as it stood would allow faith groups to make exemptions for those, such as clergy, who represent a religion as a core part of their work. It would also allow them to require other job applicants to share their general ethos.

But certain socially conservative pressure groups insisted that this did not go far enough. The Tory peer, Detta O'Cathain, yesterday (25 January) proposed amendments to give greater exemptions to faith groups, saying that “religious liberty is now at stake”.

She insisted that religious groups should be able to specify the beliefs and lifestyle of staff generally, not only those who carry out a representative role. She said that the guidelines on which roles are "representative" are not clear.

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January 26, 2010

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