The leaders of England's Conservative party, David Cameron, a man who would be Prime Minister and leader of the opposition party, says that he believes that the Church of England should drop its objections to equal rights for gays and lesbians.
Tory leader David Cameron has launched an astonishing attack on the Church of England over its attitudes to homosexuality. In an interview with the gay magazine Attitude, Cameron tells award-winning journalist Johann Hari that 'our Lord Jesus' would back equality and gay rights if he were around today. He says he doesn't want to get into a row with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. 'But I think the Church has to do some of the things that the Conservative Party has been through - sorting this issue out and recognising that full equality is a bottom line full essential.' .. Cameron is a member of the Church of England. He worships at a liberal High Anglican church in Kensington and his daughter attends the local church school. .. Here are the full quotes.
On civil partnerships, Cameron said it was 'worth looking' at changing civil partnerships to marriage but at the moment he favoured staying where we are. He said gay people should be able to adopt. He confessed he had argued about it with him but believed he could convince even the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Scotland [he didn't say which RC AB in Scotland....] that 'there are occasions when gay adoption is a perfectly sensible and straightforward thing.' He said he believed that children do best when there are two parents to help bring them up and that 'the ideal adoption is finding a mum and dad, but there will be occasions when gay couples make very good adoptive parents. So I support gay adoption.'
Cameron was then asked: 'Do you think that the right of gay children to have a safe education trumps the right of faith schools to teach that homosexuality is a sin?'
He answered: 'Basically yes - that's the short answer to that, without getting into a long religious exegesis. I mean, I think, yes. I think..... [long pause].... I don't want to get into an enormous row with the Archbishop here. But I think the Church has to do some of the things that the Conservative Party has been through - sorting this issue out and recognising that full equality is a bottom line full essential.'
He was asked: 'The cornerstone of your education policy is to allow any school that can attract pupils to receive state funding. The National Secular Society has studied this and says that in societies where this model has been adopted, it has led to a really significant increase in religious fundamentalists setting up schools - and a rise in homophobia.'
Cameron responded: 'This is not the aim of our policy. I think you prevent it from happening by having some good ground rules about the teaching of things like sex education and some clear rules about what faith organisations are and are not allowed to do. The aim of our policy is to have excellence, competition, choice, diversity in education. And often when you actually go and see what some of these academy schools are doing, you actually find a lot of what you've read in the newspapers is a lot of tosh.'
He was asked: Some people in the Conservative Party believe religious people should be allowed to discriminate against gay people - there was the case of the evangelical Christian who refused to carry out civil partnerships for example. Where do you stand on that?
'Basically, where I stand is that we should be encouraging of faith-based organisations and charities, I think they do a good job. My argument is - what matters most of all - is to say that as long as they are not discriminating in any way in the services that they provide, you're fine. I think if you are a Catholic prison charity, as long as your services are available to everyone, no matter what their religion, their sexuality, their ethnicity, you're fine. We shouldn't force you to become a multi-faith group. You can be a single faith group. But you must not discriminate in the provision of your services. It seems to me that is the key distinction that you have to make.'
He was also asked if the Tory party still has a problem with homophobia in its ranks.
'Honestly, conservative parties do always include some people of very strong religious faith, and that is true in the Conservative party. I think it's also true in some parts of the Labour party too, actually. It's always been the case, but I think the idea now is that there is a shared consensus bedrock view that this is a party for equal rights whether you are male, female, black white urban rural straight or gay. Actually I could find you quite a lot of relatively religious conservatives who totally agree that we must never go back. My Parliamentary Private Secretary Des Swayne is a good example, someone of deep religious faith, but who argues very passionately with people like him that they have just got it wrong. That if our Lord Jesus was around today he would very much be backing a strong agenda on equality and equal rights, and not judging people on their sexuality. I'm being as honest as can, that all conservative parties will often find this journey a bit harder than others.'
He says the party has been through a real change over the issue and that whatever happens at the election, there will be 'quite an influx' of openly gay Conservatives such as Margot James.'The tide has fully tuned and nobody wants to go back to Section 28 and the rest of it.'
Hari talks more about this interview in the Independent here.