Muslims Back the Christian Protests over Gay Adoption

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Byline: JAMES CHAPMAN

MUSLIM leaders joined other faiths in condemning the Government over gay adoption last night as the row took its toll on Tony Blair's waning authority.

The Muslim Council of Britain said it believed Roman Catholic adoption agencies should not be forced to place children with same-sex couples under new equality laws.

It said the Government's position was 'absurd' and inconsistent with legal precedents.

Anglican archbishops are also supporting the Catholic Church, which has said its 13 adoption agencies will have to close if the laws are introduced because the rules go against its beliefs.

'The right to practise one's faith, or the freedom to have no belief, is a cornerstone of our society as is the right of all to live free from unfair discrimination and harassmentthe Muslim Council said in a statement.

It urged the Government to review its position that there can be no exemptions from the laws.

'This argument, we believe, is absurd and inconsistent with domestic as well as international legal precedents. Each anti-discrimination legislation has exemptions,' it said. 'The regulations-need to take full account of our multi-faith, multicultural and multiethnic society and, wherever appropriate, make accommodation to accord with differing beliefs and values.' The Prime Minister has infuriated colleagues by suggesting the 'sensitivities' of the Catholic Church must be respected.

But Education Secretary Alan Johnson said Mr Blair now agreed with him there was no case for an opt-out.

Home Secretary John Reid - the Cabinet's most senior Catholic - told those who claimed their religious beliefs meant they should be exempted from the law of the land: 'Tough.' In what was seen as a rebuke to Communities Secretary and devout Catholic Ruth Kelly, who is said to have championed the cause of the Church, he told a Westminster lunch: 'On the question of gay adoption, if you bring in a law . . . which says all people will be treated equally, all people will be treated equally.

'I do not believe you have the right to overrule some of the fundamental values on which the country is based because you have conscientious objections. …