Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 July 2007
The debate in January 2007, as presented by the mass media, concerning whether an exemption should be provided for Roman Catholic Adoption Agencies from new laws prohibiting discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services, rested upon two erroneous assumptions. The first was an assumption that awarding exemptions on grounds of religion was novel; the second was that the debate concerned whether there ought to be a religious exemption at all. This article seeks to engage with the real debate concerning the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, which is not whether there ought to be a religious exemption (since one has been given) but rather the scope of the exemption. It also aims to show that religious exemptions are common in English law, including discrimination law, and to elucidate the various exemptions, paying particular attention to their beneficiaries and the basis on which discrimination is permitted. In short, this article seeks to understand the state of the law as a whole contextualising the recent moral panic.