Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI has criticised Britain’s equality laws which prohibit anti-gay discrimination by adoption agencies, including those run by religious organisations.

In a letter to the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, the pontiff praised the UK’s commitment to equal opportunity for all, but slammed any “limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs”.

The Pope, who is set to visit the UK in September, added that, “In some respects it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed”.

Religious groups have long argued that their adoption agencies and institutions should be excluded from the equality laws on that basis that their discrimination against gays and lesbians is based on their religious beliefs.

Some adoption agencies have reportedly closed their doors rather than abide by the legislation.

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell described the Pope’s comments as “a coded attack on the legal rights granted to women and gay people”.

“His ill-informed claim that our equality laws undermine religious freedom suggests that he supports the right of faith organisations to discriminate in accordance with their religious ethos. He seems to be defending discrimination by religious institutions and demanding that they should be above the law,” Tatchell said.

Tatchell added that the £20 million of taxpayer’s money being used to finance the Pope’s visit “would be far better spent on schools and hospitals”.

The Pope has previously stated that homosexuality and same-sex marriage are both an “attack” on the natural differences between men and women and a threat to the survival of humanity.

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