Both religious and secular campaign groups are against the ‘conscience clause’ suggested by the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, which would allow businesses refuse customers based on their sexual orientation.
Despite Martin’s positive comments towards gay rights last week, the Archbishop has called for a legal ‘conscience clause’ which would allow business owners to break equality laws if it interfered with their religious views.
Speaking at an event organised by the Iona Institute last week, Martin is quoted as saying, “What is that saying? It’s saying, yes, there is a conscientious question and we respect the conscience of a priest. But what about the lay Christian in the same difficulties – does he not have the freedom of conscience?”
The Archbishop’s comments come only weeks after a printing company in Drogheda came under fire for refusing to print wedding invitations for a gay couple.
Chairman Dr Richard O’Leary of Church of Ireland group, Changing Attitudes Ireland, said, “I am concerned that conservative Christians are proposing a conscience clause which is really a discrimination clause. Conservative Christians are not invoking their Christian conscience against any other group except against the gay minority.
“There is already appropriate protection, which we support, for priests and church venues who did not wish to facilitate same sex civil marriage ceremonies. However, to extend this to commercial providers would be to licence discrimination. The effect of this ‘conscience outbreak’ could only be to increase homophobia in Irish society.
“It would be helpful if other Church members would go on public record in disassociating themselves from this proposed discrimination clause”.
The proposed clause has been called a ‘licence to discriminate’ by campaign group Yes Equality. Spokesperson Mark Kelly said, “The human right to religious freedom is hugely important, but it does not include a licence to use religion to discriminate against others by denying them goods or services. Everyone is entitled to their religious beliefs, but modern anti-discrimination laws make clear that they are not entitled to impose them on others.”
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