Churches have warned they may be forced to hire women, gay people and transsexuals under proposed equality laws to be debated in the House of Lords today.
Christian campaign groups, Catholic bishops and the Church of England say the Equality Bill could force them to go against their faith when employing staff.
They also warned that the law could lead to increased legal action between churches and atheists. The government insisted the Bill “clarified” the current law.
A spokesman for the Government Equalities Office said: “In the case of ministers of religion and other key jobs that promote and represent religion, the Bill recognises that a church may need to impose requirements regarding, for example, sexual orientation. The Bill does not stop religious organisations recruiting someone of the same faith where this is a requirement of the job.”
But church leaders are concerned that they would no longer be able to turn away candidates with incompatible lifestyles for other roles such as teaching.