Harriet Harman as "Equalities Minister" is incredibly powerful, in the twilight world of the Brown government there are no big policies, only aspirations for equality for women and those who identify themselves as "gay", which itself has become a significant and powerful political sub-culture.
Monsignor Andrew Summersgill, general secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference, wrote to MPs saying that Ms Harman's new Equality Bill will have a "chilling effect" on local councils, town halls and other organizations clamping down on Christmas festivities for fear of offending people of other religions.
Under existing legislation," Summersgill wrote, "we have seen the development of a risk-averse culture with outcomes as ridiculous as reports of a local authority instructing tenants to take down Christmas lights in case they might offend Muslim neighbours, or of authorities removing the word Christmas out of cultural sensitivity to everyone except Christians.Again and again Christians, Jews and Muslims are forced out of public life, it is not just doctors and nurses or teachers.
"If this bill is serious about equality, everything possible must be done to avoid it having a chilling effect on religious expression and practice."
The Christian Institute said:
At the moment, if there is any conflict between atheism and Christianity,
atheism seems to win out. Similarly, there is a tendency for gay rights to trump religious rights.
The religious exceptions do not apply to commercial organisations either. There are therefore many areas of business in which existing discrimination law provides inadequate freedom of conscience:
o a Sikh architect could be required to design a mosque
o a Muslim web designer could be forced to do work for a gay rights organisation
o a Christian conference centre run on a commercial basis could be forced to host a Satanist convention
o a Jewish printing firm could be forced to print an Islamic tract denouncing other religions, including Judaism