January 16, 2007 Watford, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom …. [BUC News/ANN Staff]

Christian protestors made national news headlines on Tuesday, January 9 when they demonstrated outside British Parliament against new regulations to protect gay rights. Since then, concerned citizens, among them Adventists, have petitioned their parliamentary representatives to vote against the impending measures.

The legislation, already law in Northern Ireland as of the first of this year, is expected to be enforced in mainland Britain in April. It protects against discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services on the basis of sexual orientation and closely parallels similar bans on religious or racial discrimination.

Although the motion was defeated by a vote of 199 to 68, its ramifications continue to raise concerns among Christians. “By protecting one minority group,” said Victor Hulbert, communication director of the Adventist church in England, “this legislation is, in effect, discriminating [on the grounds of religion].”

Beyond that, church leaders decry its attempt to dictate conscience. “These regulations do not currently strike the correct balance between two competing rights. Christians have no desire to discriminate unjustly on the grounds of sexual orientation, but they cannot and must not be forced to actively condone and promote sexual practices, which the Bible teaches are wrong. It is a fundamental matter of freedom of conscience,” said Thomas Cordrey, barrister and public policy analyst with the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship.

The January 9 protest rally coincided with a debate in the House of Lords where lawmakers discussed a motion introduced by Lord Morrow, calling for the Northern Ireland regulations to be annulled so that they can in turn be amended to protect freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.

“The regulations make it possible for homosexual activists to sue people who disagree with a homosexual lifestyle because of their religious beliefs. They require religious organizations to choose between obedience to God and obedience to the state,” Lord Morrow said during the debate.

Don W. McFarlane, president of the Adventist church in Britain and director of its Public Affairs and Religious Liberty office wrote in the January 5 issue of the church's magazine, The Messenger, that sexual orientation legislation may meddle with the national school curriculum by requiring schools to split time between the discussion of hetero- and homosexuality as equally acceptable lifestyles.

“I and many other church leaders are concerned that discrimination laws could be used to promote homosexuality but not to object to it,” McFarlane wrote. “Churches have been given a certain amount of protection, though I am in no doubt that this will be challenged in [the] future,” McFarlane added, citing particular problems with denominational employment, which requires applicants to subscribe to said denomination's doctrinal convictions, which, in the case of Adventism, include a heterosexual lifestyle.

If unchecked, Hulbert says the legislation could also affect Christian publishing houses that choose not to publish pro-gay literature and churches that would rather not rent out their halls for homosexual civil union ceremonies.

Hulbert and McFarlane urge Adventists in Britain to lobby their members of parliament before the legislation, as it stands, can become law. To petition Prime Minister Tony Blair, see http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/NISexOrient. To write your parliamentary representative, go to http://www.christianconcernforournation.co.uk/sor/10nov6.php

Copyright (c) 2007 by Adventist News Network.

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