From Mr Michael Foster MP, Minister for Equality SIR – I was disappointed to read your article on the Equality Bill (Report, December 18) following my meeting with Simon Caldwell and other journalists from religious publications.
At no stage did I predict a “torrent of hostile legal actions against the Church” when discussing the Equality Bill. My comment on potential legal action reflected that legislation, of course, can be challenged and if the Government could find a way to avoid such challenges – outside of being an authoritarian state – we certainly would.
We believe the Bill strikes the right balance between protecting people’s right to hold and manifest religious belief and the rights of others not to be discriminated against because of sexual orientation.
I would also like to clarify a situation raised in your article regarding nonChristian workers who attempt to sue a church for harassment because they take offence to crucifixes on its walls. Let me be very clear about this: a worker should expect to see a crucifix in a church-run institution and any suggestion of this constituting harassment is incorrect. The Equality Bill would absolutely not require a church to remove a crucifix from a wall.
People feel very strongly about the Equality Bill and that is something I wouldn’t want to change. I would, however, like to see greater understanding of the Bill, which will help our society become a fairer and more equal place to live and which I genuinely believe is the place where most Christians would want to be.
Yours faithfully, MICHAEL FOSTER By email