When he spoke to bishops from England and Wales on February 1, Pope Benedict warned that the Equality Bill, being considered in Parliament, threatened religious liberty. As he put it, the legislation would "impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs." In fact, the Holy Father continued, the proposal "actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed."
The Pope's words drew the wrath of the PC establishment in London. But they also rallied the opposition in the House of Lords, where Anglican bishops were instrumental in stopping the legislation. Now the Archbishop of Canterbury has offered his perspective on the debate:
It was over the question of how society identifies the point at which one set of freedoms and claims so undermines another that injustice results. As in fact the bishops’ speeches in the Lords made quite clear, (despite the highly-coloured versions of the debate that were manufactured by some) very few Christians were contesting the civil liberties of gay and lesbian people in general; nor should they have been. What they were contesting was a relatively small but extremely significant point of detail, which was whether government had the right to tell religious bodies which of the tasks for which they might employ people required and which did not require some level of compliance with the public teaching of the Church about behaviour.
So where the Pope saw a threat to the very foundation of legal justice and human rights, the Archbishop of Canterbury detected "a relatively small but extremely significant point of detail." The Pope spoke before, and the Anglican primate after, the debate in the House of Lords. Had the order of their speeches been reversed, the legislative outcome would surely have been reversed as well. Members of the British House of Lords do not allow themselves to become agitated about details.
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