LONDON Top leaders from the Church of England have intervened amid a growing public row over gay adoption, warning British Prime Minister Tony Blair not to bring in legislation that may make religious people feel unable to undertake public service if it goes against their consciences.
The Equality Act, which will come into effect in England, Wales and Scotland in April, outlaws discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services on the basis of sexual orientation. The Roman Catholic Church has demanded an opt-out from the new measures so that they would not be forced to place children in the care of homosexual people something that goes against some of the core beliefs of the Church.
In a letter to the prime minister, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Archbishop of York John Sentamu noted: Many in the voluntary sector are dedicated to public service because of the dictates of their conscience.
In legislating to protect and promote the rights of particular groups, the government is faced with the delicate but important challenge of not thereby creating the conditions within which others feel their rights to have been ignored or sacrificed, or in which the dictates of personal conscience are put at risk, the Church of England leaders stated.
The rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well meaning.
Earlier this week, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-OConnor, said in a letter to Blair that he would have a serious difficulty with the Sexual Orientation Regulations if they required the Catholic Churchs adoption agencies to consider homosexual couples as potential adoptive parents.
The cardinal said it would be unreasonable, unnecessary and unjust discrimination against Catholics if the Government forced Catholic adoption agencies to place children with gay couples.
Blair and communities minister Ruth Kelly, a devout Catholic, are believed to support an opt-out for faith-based adoption agencies which would make it possible for them to refer gay couples to other adoption agencies with a pro-gay adoption policy.
Latest reports, however, have suggested that the Roman Catholic Church will not gain an exemption from the new anti-discrimination laws despite the recent public debate on the ethics of gay adoptions.
Christian Post Correspondent Daniel Blake contributed to this article in London.