Gay Laws May Close Down Our Charities Warns Bishop

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CHURCH youth clubs, welfare projects and charities may close in the face of new gay rights laws, a bishop warned yesterday.

The Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali, said the Church of England's charities would be affected by the rules designed to stop businesses discriminating against homosexuals.

'It will be the poor and disadvantaged who will be the losers,' he added.

Dr Nazir-Ali spoke in the wake of the protest by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols, who criticised Government interference in the moral beliefs of Christians.

Ministers now face a united front of hostility from churches over the Sexual Orientation Regulations, due to become law next April. The laws are meant to prevent discrimination against gays.

But the Church of England has pointed out that priests could be sued for refusing to bless same-sex civil partnerships under the rules.

And Catholics have warned they will close their adoption agencies rather than be forced to allow gay couples to adopt children.

Yesterday leaders of the increasingly influential black churches added their voices to the protest, saying pastors and churchgoers would go to jail rather than accept rules that would mean they had to open their meeting halls to gay lobby groups.

Dr Nazir-Ali said: 'I welcome warmly what the Roman Catholic Bishop of Birmingham has said about the Sexual Orientation Regulations. In the proposed regulations there is no clear exemption for religious belief, even though it is widely known that several of the faiths in this country will have serious difficulty. …