Move to protest at pope's UK visit


MAJOR CELEBRITIES are to be brought on board a campaign to protest against Pope Benedict’s state visit to the United Kingdom, following his attacks on equality legislation due to be decided shortly by MPs.

The campaign by the National Secular Society has already attracted several thousand supporters to an online petition. Because of an overload, several thousand more were unable to be processed.

Pope Benedict urged English and Welsh bishops in Rome this week to oppose the Equality Bill on the grounds that it could block the church from refusing to employ lay gay staff, atheists, or even women priests.

Oddly, the pontiff chose to intervene in the debate, even though days beforehand the House of Lords, with the backing of Church of England lords, had rejected this very section of the legislation.

Equality minister Harriet Harman has consistently said that if the section passed, it would not change the law “but merely clarify it”, since religious organisations are already barred from discriminating against people of different religions or none when “they hire people in non-religious jobs, in the same way that it does to all other employers”.

The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, said the pope’s words would meet with a welcome from many who feel uneasy about the effects of equality legislation to date.

However, the British Humanist Association accused the pope of being uninformed and homophobic, and said he wanted to be “unfettered by the laws that everyone else in society must abide by and respect”.