One of Baroness Thatcher's closest political allies is behind a push to derail new laws designed to end discrimination against homosexuals.
Lord Mackay of Clash-fern, a former lord chancellor during the Thatcher era, is the patron of the Lawyers' Christian Felhome lowship (LCF), part of a coalition of religious groups opposed to the new rules which they say will ride roughshod over their beliefs. The new rules, which ban those offering goods and services from discriminating against gays and lesbians, will force them to act against their consciences, they say.
The rules aim to stop, for example, gay couples being turned away from hotels. But faith groups believe there should be an opt-out clause in situations where it goes against their religious beliefs. Lord Mackay said: "People of faith are having their freedom to live according to their beliefs taken away from them." His group is lining up with a network of black Christian groups, Coherent and Cohesive Voice (CCV), to urge believers to exert pressure on the Government to allow a religious get-out clause. The ideological battle has gathered pace after CCV placed a full-page advert in The Times last week urging believers to lobby for an exemption.
Regulations are being rushed through in Northern Ireland, where they will come into force next month, and almost identical rules for the rest of the UK will be published soon to become law in April.
CCV's co-founder, Ade Omooba, said: "The Government is asking us to accept something that is against our beliefs." But Ben Summerskill, the chief executive of the gay pressure group Stonewall, said the ad was a "desperate" attempt to whip up a storm.
Faith groups say they will be forced to teach that gay marriages should have the same status as heterosexual marriages and churches that refuse to hire a hall out to gay groups would be caught by the new rules. …