Harriet Harman has avoided confrontation with religious leadersHarriet Harman has backed down from what could have been a debate with religious leaders over proposed amendments to the Equality Bill.

The equalities minister was this week criticised by the Pope, who said in a speech at the Vatican that some UK equality laws violate "the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded".

He added that it will also impose "unjust limitations" on religious communities to act in accordance to their faith, before stating he would soon be visiting the UK.

Since the Pope’s comments, the National Secular Society has claimed it will lead a protest campaign when he visits.

According to the Times, the comments, along with opposition from the House of Lords, has "sapped the government’s enthusiasm" to fight religious leaders’ choice over who they can employ.

The amendment was set to ensure that while religious groups would be exempt from discrimination legislation when it comes to employing priests, they would not have this protection when choosing people to fill non-religious roles, such as youth workers.

Ms Harman stated the government felt such an alteration would be "helpful" in clarifying the law, but added: "That amendment was rejected, so the law remains as it was."