Bishops Should Be Banned From House Of Lords Over 'Sexist' Church Ban On Women, Say MPs

MPs and campaigners have called for bishops to be thrown out of the House of Lords after the Church of England voted to retain the ban on women being ordained.

The Anglican church has 26 places reserved for it in the Lords and the Synod's decision means these places are exclusively set aside for men.

Labour MP Chris Bryant, himself a former vicar, said parliament should consider repealing the exemption from equality legislation for churches in order to force them to consecrate female bishops.

"Would be nice to see men refuse to be consecrated bishops till women included. And pm refuse to nominate. And lords refuse bishops," he tweeted.

Former Labour schools minister Diana Johnson undermined the case for bishops having a say in making laws.

"The Church of England will now spend the next decade looking increasingly irrelevant to modern Britain. Why should bishops remain in Lords?," she said.

Johnson told The Huffington Post UK that while she did not want to see Bishops banned from the Lords, as she supported the established Church, it was "absolutely right to have women bishops".

"What happened last night entrenches the fact there is discrimination in the House of Lords," she said.

The Hull MP said parliament needed to be given a chance to express its view on the Synod vote and indicated she would attempt to force a Commons statement from a minister as well as introduce a Bill to adress the matter.

And Tory MP Claire Perry said the Synod's vote was "incomprehensible" given the Queen was the supreme governor of the Church of England.

She tweeted: "As a Christian, I find no vote on Women bishops totally incomprehensible:like saying women can be MPs but not cabinet ministers."

Perry added: "Surely vote is discriminatory and illegal? I feel so sorry for all the amazing women in the Church in Wiltshire."

The row has prompted the creation of an e-petition on the government's website calling for automatic seats in the Lords for the Church to be scrapped unless women are allowed to be ordained.

It reads:

The Church of England on 20th Nov 2012 voted not to allow women to be Bishops. Though that is within its rights to do, this should worry the Government as Church of England Bishops are awarded legislative power through seats in the House of Lords.

The Church has chosen to be a sexist organisation by refusing women the right to hold highest leadership positions and therefore should not be allowed automatic seats in the House of Lords, as this clearly does not comply with the spirit of UK Equality law.

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)"

Lee Chalmers, who created the petition, said it was "shameful" to be stuck in a situation in 2012 "where we are allocating legislative seats in our second chamber for men only".

Writing on The Huffington Post UK, he said: "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."

David Cameron told MPs during prime minister's questions that the Church should be given a "sharp prod" in order to encourage it to change its mind.

"I'm a strong supporter of women bishops. I'm very sad about the way the vote went yesterday and I'm particularly sad for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, because I know he saw this as the major campaign he wanted to achieve at the end of his excellent tenure of that office," he said.

He added: "I'm very clear the time is right for women bishops, it was right many years ago. They need to get on with it, as it were, and get with the programme.

"But you do have to respect the individual institutions and the way they work while giving them a sharp prod."

Terry Sanderson, the president of the National Secular Society, said the vote re-enforced the case for the disestablishment of the Church.

Writing on The Huffington Post UK on Wednesday he said: "This is a church 'by law established', a status that brings with it many privileges that are denied to other denominations and religions.

"There is no denying that the Anglican Church has had a profound influence on the history and development of this nation. But then, so did steam trains and we did not hesitate to get rid of them when they had outlived their usefulness."

He added: "Abortion, homosexuality, contraception, suicide, cremation - all were illegal for centuries on the orders of the Church. All have been legalised by a society that has been gradually rejecting religious dogma for over a century now."

"With this decision it shows that it speaks for only a small group of conservatives who are out of step with the direction of society."

Such is power of the established Church that even under the now dead plans to create an elected House of Lords, the Bishops would have retained some automatic unelected seats.