BARONESS ONORA O’NEILL’S appointment as chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has been welcomed by the Evangelical Alliance and a number of Christian leaders.
Baroness O’Neill is a noted philosopher who was Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge, and earned her doctorate at Harvard, and gave a widely praised series of Reith Lectures for the BBC.
Trevor Phillips stepped down in September after six years as chair. Under his leadership EHRC attracted criticism for its handling of religious beliefs. Mr Phillips once commented that religious groups should ‘leave their beliefs at the door of the temple’.
Commenting on his period at EHRC, Dr Dave Landrum, director for advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance, said: “Under Trevor Phillips the EHRC was not fit for purpose, it was unsuccessful and it compounded the deficiencies of our current equality laws and human rights culture.
“It was too often driven by a combination of religious illiteracy and hostility towards mainstream religion, and Mr Phillips’ frequent ideological outbursts served to undermine the confidence many Christians had in the ability of EHRC to take freedom of religion seriously.”
He went on to say: “The appointment of Baroness O’Neill provides hope that religion will be better understood and get fairer treatment from EHRC. We want the Commission to regain the confidence and trust of religious people and hope it can become a valued and respected body that defends the rights of all in society.”