Pope Benedict attacked gays and the UK's equality and anti-discrimination laws (in particular, a bill that is currently making its way through Parliament) in an announcement that he is coming to visit, the Times reports:
"In a speech in which he confirmed that he will be coming to Britain on a four-day visit in September, the Pope said: “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. In some respects it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed.”
The Times adds: "Church of England bishops were among those who successfully attacked the
proposed new law in the House of Lords last week, under which the
exemptions from equality law enjoyed by religious organisations would
been altered. Churches feared they could face prosecution if they
go against their beliefs and employ gays and transsexuals and Catholics
warned that they could be forced to admit women to the priesthood. The Church of England and Catholic bishops of England and Wales will now
forces to fight any intervention by the European Commission to win back
ground lost by the Government."
Groups are already planning action: "His remarks drew swift criticism from the National Secular Society, which said it would stage protests during the visit.
Terry Sanderson, the society's president, said: 'The taxpayer is going to be faced with a bill for £20m for the visit – a visit in which he has already indicated he will attack equal rights and promote discrimination.'
Sanderson said he would seek to bring together gay and feminist groups, family planning organisations, abortion rights and victim support groups, and anyone else who "felt under siege" from the Vatican's 'current militancy'."