Dr John Sentamu has echoed Pope Benedict XVI’s criticism of the Equality Bill this week as an "unjust" restriction on religious freedom. He said that a clause attempting to define religious workers – in order to exempt them from the anti-discrimination law – would have caused serious problems for churches had it not been removed in the House of Lords, by making it impossible for them to demand that new employees were Christian.

“That is, an attempt to remove religion from public life. And in the process, tolerance, which is supposed to be the tool to help us deal with difference and disagreement has instead, become a negative virtue – a means of diminishment and marginalisation.

Today, many people imagine we are living in an increasingly secular age. At the same time, the Church has taken something of a battering from critics. Some of these are uncomfortable about the church’s role in the public square, preferring to relegate it to the private sphere. These are the people who would prefer we didn’t talk about ‘Church’ schools and instead talked about ‘faith’ schools where all faiths could be conveniently blended together and kept in a safe place – a process of ghetto-ization at work in a ferocious and insidious way. They are not all hostile to religions in general or the Christian religion in particular. They simply don’t want it in the public square.

“Tolerance has become a restricting quality – a grudging ‘putting up - with’ rather that a positive means of building a caring, peaceful society. The problem with this is that it does not give us the means of voicing and dealing constructively with differences. We give people private space but do not encourage public discussion and debate on key areas which are seen as ‘difficult’ such as religion, immigration, the optimum funding for public services. In consequence, these areas of difference are thrust into the margins where they do not go away but instead, tend to fester.”

I have posted the full speech on the FOOTNOTES page.



  1. The more I hear this guy and meet people he has met, the more I like him.

    Strangely as well he is the church person most people of the ‘you’ll not get me in church except if I’m dead and maybe not even then’ persuasion speak well of…

  2. No, he is wrong. The bill does not prevent the church from asking that emnployees be christians. It was trying to prevent the church from refusing to employ people because of its negative prejudices. It is a qualitively different argument to state that because another wishes to prevent my active prejudice that I am being persecuted. this only estavlishes an ‘holier than thou hierarchy’. Mr. Sentamu is redusing the argument here to one of my dad’s bigger than your dad, I have more right to be offended than you. The only people who are removing religion from public life are the bishops who by their petulant and childish outbursts such as this, provide every justification for the Dawkinites. If you think the public aren’t listening anymore bishop, then you should try to stop talking shite.

  3. Graham
    there’s nothing admirable about pretending that there is one Christian view on homosexuality that every Christian shares.
    And there’s nothing admirable about insisting that churches should be free to inflict their views on people employed in a non religious capacity.

    WTF are these guys saying – that in a truly moral world no gay person would ever be employed anywhere?
    If that’s the acceptable face of the church, then the church is doomed.

  4. WTF are these guys saying – that in a truly moral world no gay person would ever be employed anywhere?

    That’s an exceedingly good point.

  5. Good Lord, my typing appears to get much worse the more angry I am.

    What the Bishop conveniently forgets is that the ‘unjust’ clause as he claims it to be, was included, only because of representations from the churches to ensure that the bill in no way could affect the privilege of the church in clergy appointments. (Although Mr.Fittal God bless him usedthe example of organist rather than youth worker in his evidence to parliament). God knows where we would be if we had women bishops or gay priests!

    Erikas point is spot on.

  6. Sorry Erica- my mistake- I did not pick up the point about homophobia-apologies….. just the way generally that this guy comes across.

    I do not believe that the church should have any special protection from the law. We tend to follow a guy who worked without that and for around 300 years in the west we managed it.

    If we want to do anything different from the law of the land, we have to take the consequences.

    Once again my apologies for appearing to condone homophobia.

  7. What is really sad about all this, Graham, is that from the time of Wilberforce, Shaftsbury and the Anglo-Catholic East End fathers, among many more, up until the reign of Margaret Thatcher, the church in England were out of step with society because they were demanding a greater justice. Now, the exact opposite is the case. What happened to Jesus? Has he buggered off somewhere? He’s certainly not in his Church of England anymore.

  8. Hear hear MP.

    I used to find the CofE a grand place to be – anybody remember the heady days of Faith in the City and angry responses that drew from the Thatcherites? Faith in action.

    Now it’s all superficial, prejudicial, exclusive and reactionary. It toadies to those convinced of their own certainty – and we all know that the enemy of faith is not doubt but certainty.

    Screw the lot of them.

  9. As I asked on Preludium about President Bishop Anis, perhaps Bishop Sentamu can exercise his “teaching” vocation and explain to the world exactly how his condemnation of “homosexual practice” is a necessary part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

    And isn’t “magnanimity” a quality that applies only to the upper classes of the nobility? So only bishops get to exercise it, while the rest us have to tolerate them?

  10. Does not his salary include a dental plan? Why he has not fixed that tooth is beyond comprehension
    Dah-veed de Mexico

    I’m in Florida but certainly you must be hearing my laughter down Montereyway…you and I were thinking the very same thing (I have to admit to fidgeting about Gap, the tooth not the store, everytime I look at a photo of good old, forgetful, no-comment please (except when I’m grandstanding for attention) Lord of York…the Cathedral Bookshops throughout the U.K. ought have bronze(like)”Boxed, Baffled and Bewildered” bookends of he and the ABC for SALE (buy them quick like a bunny, while they last)!

  11. People. You have to understand that it is only gay men and Americans who are fixated with having perfect teeth. The rest of us are nowhere near so vain.

  12. @Dahveed: I am beyond distressed that my front teeth have moved apart such that they look like George Cary’s or John Sentamu’s. Ay! The gap is not as great but I don’t like it at all.