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Christian groups call on Parliament to tackle workplace discrimination

Three Christian groups have urged a parliamentary inquiry to investigate concerns about religious freedom in the workplace.

Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights is running an inquiry into human rights at work. The Committee is currently holding evidence sessions and is due to report later this year.

The Catholic Union, Christian Institute, and Evangelical Alliance have written to the Chair of the Committee, Labour MP Harriet Harman, calling for religious freedom to be made a “key part” of the inquiry.

While the terms of reference for the inquiry include “freedom of thought, conscience and religion”, the Catholic and Evangelical groups are concerned that this section risks being overlooked. They have called for a stand-alone evidence session on religious freedom at work to inform the final report and recommendations to the Government.

In their letter, the groups say that “too many Christians are unable to bring their whole selves to work, and in some cases face disadvantage or discrimination because of their faith, despite laws that should prevent this from happening.”

They have urged the cross-party Committee of MPs and peers to “shine a light on these concerns and put forward recommendations for improvement.”

The work of the Committee is due to resume when Parliament returns from recess on 4 September.

Catholic Union Director, Nigel Parker, comments: “Sadly we know it is becoming increasingly difficult to be a faithful Catholic in many workplaces in this country. Our survey on religion in the workplace earlier this year found that almost one in three responders had experienced disadvantage at work because of their faith, with nearly half of people saying they did not feel able to talk about their faith openly with colleagues. Our concerns are shared by people from other denominations and other faiths as well. This joint letter shows the strengthen of feeling about this matter. We strongly hope that the Committee will take these concerns seriously.”

Christian Institute Deputy Director, Simon Calvert, comments: “Religion has long been the Cinderella strand of discrimination law. Christians who take their faith seriously can feel overlooked, or even marginalised, by the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion industry. Many employers show little interest in seeking to understand the challenges faced in the workplace by devoutly Catholic or evangelical staff. I hope the Joint Committee on Human Rights will give a voice to these people.”

Evangelical Alliance Director of Advocacy, Danny Webster, comments “It is essential that Christians, and people of other faiths, are able to bring their whole selves to work. Someone’s faith is not an optional extra that can be disregarded or ignored but an integral part of their lives. We encourage the Joint Committee on Human Rights to make the role of faith in the work place a central part of their inquiry into human rights at work.”

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