The U.K. government refused to make exceptions for faith groups in proposed regulations that will bar discrimination against homosexuals. Christian churches across the spectrum lobbied Parliament to no avail. But the response of other activists exposed the ways Christians differ on how to engage an increasingly post-Christian culture.
Prime Minister Tony Blair announced on January 29 that Roman Catholic adoption agencies should not be exempted. The Roman Catholic Church warned it would halt its adoption programs before it would agree to place children with gay parents.
"There is no wish to discriminate against gay people in service provision," said Don Horrocks, the Evangelical Alliance's head of public affairs. "Rather, Christians and other religious groups don't want to find themselves coerced by law to facilitate or promote homosexual activity. It involves a basic religious libertyfreedom of conscience."
Nola Leach, the chief executive for the Christian charity CARE, pointed out a number of workable exceptions for faith groups. Sikhs do not have to wear motorbike crash helmets, and teachers do not have to participate in collective worship at schools.
Faithworks, on the other hand, welcomed the regulations. "We are free to exercise our conscience, but should government choose to ignore or disregard our advice or counsel, we must never withdraw our services in protest," said Malcolm Duncan, who leads the networking agency for Christian charities. "Unconditional service is never a threat to Christian conscience and identity, because acceptance does not mean agreement. Jesus was quite willing to challenge peoples' behavior, but this was never a prerequisite to loving and serving them."
Parliament will debate the regulations before they take effect, likely by the end of April. Blair said that Catholic agencies would have until the end of 2008 to comply.
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Links to mainstream media articles on the U.K. adoption policy can be found in the Christianity Today Weblog. Recent news includes:
Adoption opt-out decision 'right' | The limited exemptions for religious groups from gay discrimination laws should not be widened, Parliament's joint committee on human rights says (BBC)
Magistrate in gay adoption defeat | A Christian magistrate who says he was forced to quit the bench because he does not agree with adoption by gay couples has lost a discrimination case (BBC)
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