World News and Trends: Pope helps reverse proposed British legislation

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Pope helps reverse proposed British legislation

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Pope Benedict XVI recently spoke out against proposed legislation in Britain that could have forced religious organizations to hire homosexuals and restricted their freedom to speak out against behavior they consider sinful. He urged Catholic bishops to fight such government policies with "missionary zeal."

He told the British: "Your country is well known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society. Yet...the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs" ("Pope Benedict XVI Criticises 'Unjust' Effects of Harriet Harman's Equality Bill," The Daily Telegraph, Feb. 3, 2010).

The Times of London also reported that "the Vatican condemned Britain's proposed equality law yesterday, complaining that legislation to give homosexuals equal rights 'violates natural law'" ("Britain's Human Rights Policies Violate Natural Law, Pope Says," Feb. 2, 2010).

A later edition of The Times, on Feb. 3, contained an article headlined "Churches Win Fight Over Discrimination." The first sentence says, "Harriet Harman [deputy leader of Britain's liberal Labour Party] has backed away from a confrontation with religious leaders over whom they can employ, making clear that she will not force contentious amendments to the Equality Bill through Parliament."

This development highlights growing Roman Catholic influence in Britain. Wrote Martin Beckford in another Daily Telegraph piece: "The Roman Catholic Church has provided a vocal and effective opposition to Labour [i.e., the Labour Party] in recent years" ("Catholic Opposition a Thorn in Labour's Side," Feb. 2, 2010).

The fairly substantial Catholic vote could prove crucial in Britain's soon-coming national election, perhaps even determining who Britain's next prime minister will be. The Catholic bishops in both England and Wales will soon publish their own manifesto, possibly influencing Roman Catholic voting patterns. John Paul II, the late pope from Poland, expanded the Vatican's influence throughout the world, and it's clear that Benedict XVI has picked up the baton.

When advised against conflict with the Catholic Church, Soviet leader Josef Stalin dismissively responded, "How many divisions does the pope have?" He had no military divisions as such, but he nevertheless had a huge army, and Europe may be on the verge of finding that out. To understand the vital significance of events in the religious world, read our free booklet The Church Jesus Built. (Sources: The Daily Telegraph, The Times [both London].)