Church leaders seek freedom to discriminate against homosexuals on religious grounds
Government is being urged to make biblically motivated discrimination against homosexuals lawful.
A statement signed by 80 church leaders, and advertised in yesterday’s The Royal Gazette, expressed concern that recent amendments to the law which prohibit sexual orientation discrimination could have an adverse effect on religious freedom.
The statement was submitted by United for Change - an organisation of more than 60 Bermuda churches (www.ufcbermuda.org).
“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 called on Government to introduce “carve-outs” in the Human Rights Act “to ensure that pastors, clergy, leaders of faith, ministers, and lay-leaders will not be in violation of the Human Rights Act should they refuse to employ or take into membership those who without conviction practise same-gender sexual relations or any other practice that does not adhere to the Biblical standard; nor be in violation to the Act should we hold to and teach these Biblical principles both privately and publically.”
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.”
It is understood that the pastors signed on behalf of their individual churches and not on behalf of their respective denominations.
The statement prefaced its appeal to Government by saying it opposed hate speech, believed that marriage is a God-ordained institution between a man and a woman and that everyone is “born guilty before God”.
We sought Community Affairs Minister Wayne Scott’s reaction to the group’s statement, but he was unable to respond yesterday.
Bermuda’s churches were not a vocal lobby in the run up to the latest Human Rights Act amendments passed in July.
United for Change, a new organisation, aims in part to “bring a unified voice to the community from the churches of Bermuda”.
It has also taken a position against gaming.