Trevor Phillips 'Sharia law' row: what he really said
Human rights commissioner sparks controversy with comment about Christians and equality laws
TREVOR PHILLIPS, the human rights commissioner, has prompted a row by insisting that religious rules must be left "at the door of the temple" in modern Britain and appearing to compare Christians who want to sidestep equality laws to Muslims seeking to impose Sharia law.
His comments prompted a backlash from some quarters, with The Daily Telegraph reporting them as a warning to believers that they must "choose between their religion and obeying the law".
What Phillips actually said, during a debate in London on diversity in society, was: "To me there's nothing different in principle with a Catholic adoption agency, or indeed Methodist adoption agency, saying the rules in our community are different and therefore the law shouldn't apply to us. Why not then say Sharia can be applied to different parts of the country? It doesn’t work."
He appeared to be referring to Catholic adoption agencies that have objected to equal rights legislation which requires them not to discriminate between gay and straight couples.
In the Telegraph Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, accused Phillips of espousing "a totalitarian kind of view in which a believer's conscience should not be respected".
The Daily Mail reported that Phillips had accused "Christians of trying to impose their own form of 'Sharia' law".
The debate soon moved to Twitter where the Telegraph's deputy editor Benedict Brogan described Phillips's comments as "explosive".
Tory MP Nadine Dorries was one of the first to express her outrage. In a series of tweets she insisted that Britain was a Christian country and said it should not be compared to Sharia. "Christianity has influenced every facet of our structure," she wrote. "[Phillips] has no right to say we cannot use that heritage to shape the law."
Elsewhere there was support for Phillips. The website Heresy Corner points out that the entire debate is on YouTube and said that Phillips was actually agreeing with a point made earlier by Attorney General and Tory MP Dominic Grieve.
But in a week when Tory peer Baroness Warsi warned against the influence of "militant secularists" and Richard Dawkins called for Bishops to be removed from the House of Lords, the remarks are likely to inflame passions further.