The Church of England has expressed fear over a newly proposed law that could allow homosexuals to sue the church if they felt discriminated against by religious authorities.
Under the proposal, a gay individual could sue the church if he heard a sermon that condemned homosexuality. The law is meant to protect homosexuals from hostile or humiliating "environments" as part of a revision of discrimination legislations.
"To deny Christians (and followers of other faiths which take a similar view) such a right (to preach on the sin of homosexuality) would amount to an unjustified interference with the right to manifest religious belief," read a statement by the Church of England, according to the Telegraph.
The Church of England in its official statement to the government regarding the bill has said the proposed harassment laws are unnecessary. The Church also said that Christian schools and believers should retain the right to teach on homosexuality according to the school's religious beliefs.
The Lawyers' Christian Fellowship in England further warned that an unrepentant, practicing homosexual could sue the church if it refused him membership under the proposed law.
"We have been concerned at what has seemed in some recent debates to be a trend towards regarding religion and belief as deserving of a lesser priority in discrimination legislation than the other strands where the law seeks to bring protection," expressed the Church.
"This does not amount to, or achieve, equal respect for different religious groups and those of no religion; rather it amounts to an enforced secularism that fails to respect religious belief at all," according to the Telegraph.
An additional fear is local authorities who feel obligated to promote gay equality might cut state funding for Christian projects.
Overall, opponents of the law fear that religious freedom will be trampled as the government emphasizes other rights.
England's anti-discriminatory proposal is similar to the hate crimes debate raging in the United States.
Christian leaders and pastors in America are protesting the hate crimes bill in Congress that would add sexual orientation, gender and gender identity to the existing list of hate crimes protected under law.
Conservative Christian groups such as Focus on the Family warn that if a pastor preached against homosexuality and one of his congregants later commits violence against a homosexual, then the pastor could be charged for inducing a hate crime.
In Europe and Canada, pastors have already been charged and even threatened with imprisonment for preaching against homosexuality under these countries' hate crimes laws.
"This kind of head-on collision occurs when anti-discrimination laws include sexual orientation and behavioral issues," commented Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and one of America's pre-eminent evangelical leaders, in response to England's proposed discriminatory law.
. "This is where the inevitable collision occurs – when religious liberty is sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. This is what the Church of England sees when it speaks of 'a trend towards regarding religion and belief as deserving of a lesser priority in discrimination legislation,'" he added.
"Religious liberty is meaningless if the pulpit is not free to preach the Word of God, if churches cannot determine their own membership, and if Christians are silenced in their Christian testimony."