Religious Schools and Other Religious Employers

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Conference
2002 National Lesbian & Gay Conference
Date
1 August 2002
Decision

Conference notes:

1.That the Church of England controls about a third of English schools despite having the active support of only about 3% of English people.

2.That the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, which applies in England and Wales, enables governing bodies of religious schools to employ teachers who have a commitment to the particular faith or denomination concerned and there is a similar provision in the Education (Scotland) Act 1980.

3.That with the Education Bill published in 2001 the government intends to continue its attack upon the comprehensive system in England and Wales in a number of ways including the establishment of more faith-based schools.

4.That the European Union Framework Directive provides for a religious organisation to continue to be able to pursue the employment policies it fels it needs to preserve its particular religious character and the United Kingdom government believes it would be unhelpful to be unduly specific about which organisations and posts this covers.

5.6.That the same directive entitles a religious organisation to expect its staff to act in good faith and with loyalty to its ethos and that bodies such as the Christian Institute have urged employers to vary contracts of employment to take advantage of this.

7.

Conference believes that public services are best provided directly by bodies directly elected to do so. Therefore it is, generally speaking, opposed to religious bodies running public services or receiving public funds. Where they do so, Conference calls for arrangements which:

A.Separate the organisation’s public service function from its religious one;

B.Provide for service users always to be offered a secular alternative;

C.Require the organisation to show that, with respect to its public service function, it practices neither religious discrimination nor other discrimination which it seeks to justify on religious grounds.

Conference is particularly concerned that the United Kingdom intends to implement the Framework Directive in ways which may lead to:

i.religious discrimination gaining an even firmer legal standing;

ii.religious justification for other discrimination being upheld in United Kingdom courts.

Conference instructs the National lesbian and gay Committee (NGLC) to raise these issues as a matter of urgency with the National Executive Council, the National Affiliated Political Committee, appropriate Service group Executives and the Community and Voluntary Sector committee.

Conference congratulates the NLGC on the response it made to “Towards Equality and Diversity” and instructs it to continue to make representations against any proposal that there be a privileged class of employer based upon religion or that the employment rights of lesbian and gay workers be undermined by any alleged lack of loyalty to the religious ethos of their employer.

Conference also instructs the NLGC to foster links with the National Secular Society and other appropriate secularist bodies and to signpost them in Out in UNISON so individual members may do likewise.