Judging by the reaction of the press, old and new, many people were shocked and saddened by the Church of England synods decision yesterday not to allow women to be Bishops. This is an internal matter to the Church and even if we disagree with it, we may be able to see or support its right to make those choices in a democratic way.
What doesn't work in a modern democracy such as the United Kingdom's, is that seats in the House of Lords, which are given to Church of England bishops, will remain solely for men. Women cannot hold those seats, cannot participate in second chamber legislation in this country whilst representing the Church of England.
However you feel about the question of there being seats in the House of Lords for bishops at all, it is clear that there being legislative seats reserved for men only is an anathema to British equality laws and plain, good sense in this day and age. Britain champions democracy and equality. It funds and fights all over the world for the right of men and women to have political representation.
It is simply unjust and, dare I say it, shameful, for us to be stuck in a situation in 2012 where we are allocating legislative seats in our second chamber for men only. Imagine the national and international reaction if these were seats for white people only.
The majority of the Church of England and indeed the bishops themselves are in agreement that women should be able to be bishops. If they had passed the required two thirds vote threshold, we would have one day seen women taking up the House of Lords places. Now that their internal mechanism has failed to produce an outcome in line with the spirit of equality law we must address this untenable situation in another way.
Today a petition was set up asking the government to remove the automatic right for the bishops to have seats in the House of Lords. If it reaches 100,000 signatures it may be discussed in the House of Commons. Though the church has every right to conduct itself as it wishes, it should understand there will be an impact on its role in larger society if it chooses a path so far from the rest of the nation.
Please sign. http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/42117
"We call on the Govt to remove the right of the Church of England to have automatic seats in the House of Lords, in line with its commitments to equality and non-discrimination, set out in the Equality Act (2010) and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979)"
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