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Pope attacks Equality Bill as limiting freedom of religious communities to act according to their beliefs

The pope has launched an attack on the UK Equality bill, encouraging Catholic bishops to attack it with "missionary zeal".

According to BBC reports, Pope Benedict XVI has spoken out against the proposed laws, which could eventually end the right of the Catholic Church to employ homosexual people.

The BBC reports that the pontiff told the Catholic bishops of England and Wales gathered in Rome: "Your country is well-known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society.

"Yet, as you have rightly pointed out, 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."

But Clare Murray, a partner at law firm CM Murray, said: "Protections for workers with religious views are already effectively trumped by those of female and gay workers who would be affected by their colleagues' religious views. That battle is already lost and the Catholic Church does itself no favours to suggest that the rules and laws of a religion should prevail over national laws protecting the basic equality rights of others.  It will find itself in uncomfortable extremist company if it persists with that line.

"While the Church still has some time to influence the debate on the draft Equality Bill, it has missed the boat completely on the existing equality laws protecting gay and female workers. These are now firmly established in the UK and are underpinned by European legislation."