The Women and Equalities Minister Nicky Morgan has nominated former Stonewall Chair David Isaac as the preferred next Chair of the European Human Rights Commission.
In response, Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre which has run many of the most high profile Christian cases over the past decade, involving the clash of rights between Christianity and secular values, has sent the following letter to Nicky Morgan:
Dear Mrs Morgan
Your proposed appointment of David Isaac as the new Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission is an absurdity and we ask you to reconsider your choice of candidate.
As the nominated incoming Chair of the Commission, it would be his duty to act impartially to promote and protect human rights, eliminate discrimination and promote equality of opportunity across nine grounds, including religion and belief. However, in your letter to Harriet Harman MP explaining your choice of preferred candidate, you highlighted a key reason for his selection – namely, his having served as Chair of Stonewall for ten years: “Under [his] chairmanship, the charity successfully lobbied to secure major legislative change, including the abolition of Section 28, the introduction of civil partnerships and gay marriage. He was personally involved in the development of Stonewall’s strategy, lobbying parliamentarians and other opinion formers….”
Appointing a Commission Chair who previously led a pressure group with such an agenda would lead to a complete lack of confidence in the impartiality of the Commission from Government.
The Equality Act 2010 outlines the rights of protected groups but does not address the question of how competing interests are to be ‘balanced’ when conflicts arise. In this way, it has created a hierarchy of rights. Poor drafting has resulted in the rights of those who identify as homosexual being consistently privileged over the rights of Christians, particularly with regards to historic views on marriage, family and sexual ethics. The Commission has failed to protect adequately the freedoms of Christians - and others who hold similar views - to express in the public square such historic and until very recently considered mainstream views. Indeed, the Commission increasingly encouraging the privatisation of the Christian faith and Judeo-Christian values and opinions more generally.
Despite its status as an ‘independent’ statutory body, the Commission does not have a track record of objectivity and even-handedness. Far from it. It has brought a number of cases against Christians. Its High Court submission described the traditional Christian view of sexual ethics as akin to an ‘infection’ (Johns & Anor, R (on the application of) v Derby City Council & Anor  EWHC 375), yet there was no reprimand of its legal Counsel from the Commission.
Surely, the challenge for the Commission is to strike a balance between competing rights to bring its activities in line with its mandate as given by Parliament, rather than to proselytise one particular view. How will Mr Isaac’s appointment further this balance? How will it help the Commission to gain a reputation as an independent and objective body?
Andrea Minichiello Williams
Christian Concern/Christian Legal Centre