Church Leaders in Bermuda Want to Legalize Discrimination Based on ‘Religious Freedom’ September 10, 2013

Church Leaders in Bermuda Want to Legalize Discrimination Based on ‘Religious Freedom’

This July, Bermuda passed legislation called the Human Rights Amendment Act which bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. But that’s unfathomable to some religious leaders, who are pressuring the government to legalize discrimination so long as it falls under the category of “religious expression.”

United for Change, a group comprised of about 80 pastors from 60 Bermuda churches, signed and publicized a statement explaining that the anti-discrimination law could adversely affect religious freedom. Their primary concerns? First, that preaching against LGBT people will constitute hate speech, and second, that this will ultimately lead to the legalization of marriage equality. And they can’t have that.

“Trends in other countries have demonstrated that when such legislative amendments have been made, people of faith have found themselves to be the subject of a human rights complaint that have been brought against them by homosexuals,” the group said.

“Of further concern is that in other countries when human rights legislation has been amended in this manner, further legislative change has often followed resulting in” the legalisation of same-sex marriage, a movement toward parenting rights for same-sex couples, “and eventually to muzzle clergy and faith-based media by erroneously identifying Biblical teaching on sexual immorality as hate-speech”.

The group formally asked that the government introduce “carve-outs” in the Human Rights Amendment Act to protect religious individuals who refuse to abide by the anti-discrimination policy based on their religious beliefs. Of course, this creates a perfect opportunity for these people to discriminate against any group they please, from LGBT people to secular people, and to do so freely and legally.

The icing on the cake is that they’re calling it “freedom of conscience.” From the statement, which was also published in a full-page ad in a Bermuda newspaper called the Royal Gazette:

The statement adds: “We accordingly ask that the Government of Bermuda be mindful that a vast portion of the population of the nation hold to scriptural teachings that prohibit homosexual relations and to ensure that the Human Rights Act be worded in a manner that will guarantee the freedom of conscience of all people of faith according to the Bermuda Constitution.

“This will ensure that the rights of religious freedom are protected in our nation.”

The Anglican Church, Bermuda’s largest Christian denomination, has reportedly not yet taken a stance on the issue, failing to sign the United for Change document. Their public statement, too, was lukewarm:

Yesterday, Bishop Dill said the issue was a “complex” involving “differing pastoral responses”.

He said he had promised his church that the whole issue of sexual orientation discrimination would be discussed within the next few months.

In addition, the Human Rights Commission in Bermuda has already publicly opposed United for Change’s movement, but it’s unclear whether that will have any impact. But for the record, at least some people are speaking out:

“Residents in Bermuda should not be placed at a disadvantage, or be refused the same rights as others, simply because of their sexual orientation, race, religion or any other ground covered by the Act.

“The underpinning principle of Human Rights Commission is to ensure minority groups have the same rights and opportunities as the majority, the suggested amendments encapsulated in yesterday’s advertisement would be counter to the HRC mandate.

“Currently under the Act such discrimination would be unlawful, and will remain so unless there are legislative changes.”

Unfortunately, I’m having a hard time finding any other news source covering this issue, so these reports are all from the same news site, which is also the newspaper where this disgusting statement was published as an ad. As problematic as that is, it’s even more unfortunate that none of this sounds surprising in the least.

Now more than ever, this is the kind of thing we should all be keeping tabs on, so by all means, please confirm or deny any of this as you’re made aware of more information!

(Image via Shutterstock — Thanks to Nicholas for the link!)

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