Page 2, 7th July 2000

7th July 2000
Page 2
Page 2, 7th July 2000 — Church ponders EU law threat

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Church ponders EU law threat

Continued from p1:

...In an interview with BBC Radio Four, Andrew Fielding of the EU Commission for Employment, said there might he a case exempting confessional schools from the European ruling when it came to choosing RE teachers.

But he added that if a Catholic school refused to employ a qualified Maths teacher because he or she was an atheist and a practising homosexual, "there may be a case for discrimination".

However, Mr Fielding insisted that the directive left "proper latitude" to member states to decide what fell within established principles of non-discrimination.

John Bowers QC, a leading expert on employment law, said a Catholic school would probably be allowed to stipulate that a teacher of RE be a practising Catholic, but for all other subjects the school would be acting unlawfully if it refused to employ "nonCatholics, neo-Nazis atheists, communists, Seventh Day Adventists or practising homosexuals".

In the House of Lords last Friday, Baroness Blackstone, Minister for Education, admitted there were problems with the directive but said the Government was commitment to it.

Paul Barber, legal officer for the English and Welsh bishops' conference committee for schools, said he believed the Government had "no intention" of ratifying the directive in its present form and that the Church was therefore not "overly concerned".

He said: "It is not clear what the effect of the directive will be. Either it will affect teachers in Catholic schools dramatically or not at all.

"The Government has stated that it is happy with the status quo, which allows Catholic schools to employ Catholic staff.

"In the debate, Baroness Blackstone made it clear that the draft directive as it stands is not acceptable and that it needs to be clear about the requirement that teachers in Catholic schools be active in the life of the Church and live in accordance with what it teaches."

He added that the Government "has given clear assurances that the question is how it should be amended rather than whether it should be".

"The ultimate decision lies with the EU Council for Ministers and must be unanimous. If our Government is not happy with it, it will not get through," he said.

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