Getting Equal: not yet

Updated Monday

Today’s Observer has a front-page lead story by Gaby Hinsliff, political editor, entitled Cabinet split over new rights for gays.

According to the Observer:

The cabinet is in open warfare over new gay rights legislation after Tony Blair and Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary, who is a devout Catholic, blocked the plans following protests from religious organisations.

Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, was so angry with the move that he wrote a letter to Kelly three weeks ago, telling her that the new rights should not be watered down.

The battle between what is being dubbed the government’s ‘Catholic tendency’ and their more liberal colleagues centres on proposals to stop schools, companies and other agencies refusing services to people purely because of their sexuality…

This confirms what I said last June in my Church Times article:

It is hard to see how the differences might be resolved, when the [Archbishops’] Council is asking for a wholesale exemption, and the Government is seeking to limit the Church’s protection from the law.

For more background links, see also here.

What the Observer article does not make clear is that the delay applies to two separate sets of regulations. Not only has the government delayed the publication of any proposed regulations relating to sexual orientation, envisaged in Part 3 of the Equality Act 2006, but it has also delayed bringing into effect the regulations relating to discrimination on the basis of religion or belief that were contained in Part 2 of the same act, have therefore already been approved by Parliament, and which were due to come into force this month. The official CofE position was broadly that the new regulations should parallel the wording used in Part 2.

Some of the more extreme religious groups, opposed even to the concept of such regulations, have restarted their campaign against them. See here for details. And also here. This campaign has been endorsed by Anglican Mainstream.

Update
There was a recent comment article in the Daily Telegraph and this letter was published last Friday in response to it. The signatories include the Archdeacon of Hampstead and the Vice Chairman of the House of Laity of the General Synod.

Monday
Today’s Guardian carries a report by Tania Branigan that Lib Dems urge Kelly to drop equalities brief. Toby Helm has a similar report in the Telegraph.

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Cheryl CloughMartin ReynoldslaurenceMerseymikeSimon Sarmiento Recent comment authors
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Merseymike
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The thing is that there is no intention of blocking the legislation altogether. There will be protective legislation with regard to goods and services, and gay and lesbian people. If the Church really does wish to opt out of this and thinks it will improve its image in today’s society to do so, it really is even more out of touch and more willing to hide in a laager of homophobic safety than I thought. Its not as if any gay people are going to be attracted to anything labelled Christian in any case – thats why so many have… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest

Mike keeps his best point to last. We are lobbying the government vigorously to ensure that those who choose to avail themselves of any opt out with regards to provision of services etc to lesbian and gay people should also be opted out of receiving public money of any sort, including grants and lottery funding. Of course there are already rules with regard to lottery funding, and some organisations are willing to claim provision of open access when it is not in fact offered. We are presently looking at a few high profile cases where buildings have received massive lottery… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
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J. C. Fisher

One continues to hear (outside of Nigeria, anyway) that a distinction is to be made, between *the State* (which must be about “equal treatment for all, under the law”), and *the Church* (which reserves the right to give less rites to “unrepentant sinners”). …but when you scratch the surface (you don’t even have to do that much w/ Anglican Mainstream—they’re proud to tell you they’re in favor of legal discrimination!), you see there’s very little difference at all. In this view, LGBTs are nothing other than a criminal class, from which ALL OF SOCIETY must “protect itself”. And yet, for… Read more »

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest

The Telegraph is a sewer of bigotry and the churchmen who wrote in in support should simply be ashamed of themselves.

David Rowett (=mynsterpreost)
Guest
David Rowett (=mynsterpreost)

Looking at those who signed the letter, I cannot say I’m that surprised at their attitude. A pillar of ‘Reform’ is hardly likely to be progressive on social affairs (it’s always struck me that ‘Reform’ was either named ironically or is positively Orwellian). NB the lack of female signatories btw.

Rob Hall
Guest
Rob Hall

There does seem to be a rather disturbing similarity between the views of Archbisop Akinola and some backers of the proposed UK Regulations: both seem keen to use the power of the state to enforce their views on those who disagree with them. Is agreeing with Akinola really such a good idea for advocates of LBGT rights? Similarly, is Martin Reynolds really saying that bodies that don’t agree with LGCM on sexuality should not receive public money, even for such unrelated matters as the maintenance of historic buildings? One key issue is the distinction between human rights based arguments (broadly… Read more »

Anglicanus
Guest
Anglicanus

Do the signatories of the letter intend to exclude from employment any and every individual who is in a sexual relationship outside marriage, as their understanding of the their faith would require? If this is the case then it is not discriminatory towards homosexual men and women. But I doubt very much if they would even consider asking the candidate for school caretaker whether s/he is living with their partner outside Holy Matrimony or in a ‘biblically unacceptable’ relationship of marriage to a divorced person. Let us have this clearly stated by Philip Giddings and then we might listen to… Read more »

Kurt
Guest
Kurt

“New Labor’s” Tony Blair is a real piece of work. He’s a sycophant to those more powerful than him (eg, President Bush), and a creep to those who are weaker (gays and lesbians). He should be an embarrassment to any progressive Anglicans.

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

This is just the sort of trouble you get into when you make a piece of flat earth theory, read a certain way in a few scripture passages – six or seven so-called clobber passages if I recall – into a major article of conformed/institutional faith with no leeway. Nor am I a fan of government legislated micromanagement systems, usually enforced by penal strictures. If the conserved and conformed faith communities wish to make it as deadly and punitive as possible for any LGBTQ children who have the luck to born into their families – and make no mistake, those… Read more »

Jon
Guest

Would you suggest, Merseymike, that the drive out its conservative members in hopes of convincing more liberal people to come back? Somehow I suspect that would have the effect of simply making the CoE totally empty, rather than revitalizing it.

Jon

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Merseymike, As long as you see the Church as merely a conservative social institution needing to be brought into the modern age, you aren’t going to get it at all. “Get with the times” is a non-argument. Our times are no better than any other times. We think we’re enlightened and ignore our societal faults just like every culture that has gone before. Evolution, biological or societal, is merely moving from one state to another, with no connotation of improvement at all. Frankly, I don’t want to be with the times. If the Church is to be open to gay… Read more »

laurence roberts
Guest
laurence roberts

Onward and Upward ‘We’re only a couple of weeks away now from the historic investiture of +Katharine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and I’m sensing a “new day dawning” as energy and optimism creep back into the battle-weary, schism-threatened faithful of this great old church of my birth and baptism. The demand for tickets for the Big Event was so great that a recent ENS story reported only 25% of the requests could be filled and parishes all over the country are organizing “webcast” opportunities for folks to gather at-a-distance and share this new-day-dawning for the… Read more »

drdanfee
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drdanfee

Yes the newest news is not really from the secular or religious right, at least for all the rest of us, unchurched people included. The newest news is that the rest of us are making various plans to just keep on following Jesus – or in the case of many unchurched citizens in many nations, to join/support whatever signs of good change or progress are both our solid foundations for correcting past errors as well as our newest discoveries of good things, mainly unknown in even the best of so many legacy riches. And that new news is topped off… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

One of the best phrases in this thread came from Rob Hall “It is surely far better to defend for others the rights one wants for oneself…” Laurence’s news about the popularity of Schori’s investure and demand to be involved is positive and exciting. I liked both the following articles because they show souls awakening to find Christians and others more interested in reverance and hope over power mongering and repression. http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061015/LIFESTYLE04/610150316/1041 and http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/city/story.html?id=eec9ac51-1f0e-4a05-9b33-0f270d9c13d0&k=47675 There was an excellent New Scientist article several years ago that demonstrated that the Blair’s government should be resigned to a certain amount of scandals, and… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest

Perhaps I share some of the views Rob Hall offers, the coercive nature of law when dealing with discrimination is uncomfortable as I recently discovered when advertising for a new support worker for our son. If I had advertised as I wished – now illegal – the applicant appointed would not have come forward and we would have missed the best person for the job. There is also a delicate path to tread where “criminal activity” can be linked to certain views. I would not like to see the anti abortion campaign made illegal because there are proven links to… Read more »

laurence roberts
Guest
laurence roberts

JC F ‘s point is telling. It has made me think. I’d appreciate others feedback or thoughts on a thought I’ve had. I think many of these religious groups (will) go as far as they can. They will go as far as they can get away with, either legally, or — more to the point, in terms of the bar of public opinion; & their own credibility & say, funding etc. So, they only make the current private- public distinction because they must– in say the Uk, (and USA tosome extent ?). They have to here, because they would not… Read more »

laurence roberts
Guest
laurence roberts

and most recently our protections from discrimination in the fields of good and services. / … Part 2 follows on from previous comment :— I preferred to spell out the anti list above because I find the word ‘homophobia’ too weak, too easily passed over. Hardly anyone admits to being ‘homophobic these days -it’s like racism– a mantra, to cover anti-gay etc…(you got it!) behaviours. “I’m not racist –but….”. “The anglican church is not homophobic-and will not tolerate it it –but –here’s the ‘windsor report’!” –Thank you Archbishop Eames mmm…… “We won’t marry you or bless you. We won’t ordain… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

How is ‘extreme’ being defined here, Simon? Have you any percentage figures regarding how many people would be opposed in principle, and how many in favour? Even then, head count is perilous as a principle. By head count alone, a principle which is mainstream can become extreme or even unheard of a few years later, and vice-versa. All of which demonstrates that you cannot be talking of *intrinsic* extremity, just extremity in one particular society at one particular point of time, under one particular set of circumstances and with one particular set of fashion-setters at work. But if you are… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“I love when these anti-gay groups start to use the language of being a minority, needing a voice, not wanting to have to hide their true identities!” But being persecuted is an important part of the Fundamentalist/Evangelical mythology. It is attractive to anybody to be standing against oppression, it is also a strong motivator for the Left. In this, the Right has bought into the Spirit of the Age, a sin they accuse the left of. You see it in those who claim persecution if there is no Christian prayer in schools. (So why don’t they pray at home?) You… Read more »

laurence roberts
Guest
laurence roberts

Yes, indeed m, Ford ! And they have to be careful, or else they end up putting such a convincing case for their own right to freedom of belief, of association, and to be free to lead their chosen lifestyle in peace. So convincing that they beautifully make the case for all minorities! The logic of their arguments embraces gay people, women, racial and linguistic minorities, too — & yes, theological minorities like Jack Spong, Don Cupitt etc. Then we start hear of ‘theological minorites’ and ‘two integrities’. I thought lgbt people were the theological minority on any reckoning! But… Read more »

laurence roberts
Guest
laurence roberts

I find fear, anxiety, anger and various human feelings come from time to time, and for myself, I find I get on better, if don’t hide from my feelings.

Cheryl Clough
Guest

Laurence I concur with your concerns that these reforms would be overturned in an instant, if and when the opportunity arises. There are people who like to compartmentalize and then do some mind-boggling postings that belong in a Camus novel – is this really a table that I am sitting at? Is it appropriate to label it a table? It might not be called a table in another time or culture… When you have no reasonable basis for disagreement, then start convoluted passages worthy of any seer or oracle and capable of being interpreted in any number of ways. Then… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
Guest
J. C. Fisher

I am gobsmacked by the distinction I keep reading, in some of these pieces, between the “pure bigotry” of racism, and the denial of equal rights to LGBTs. Why shouldn’t someone be allowed to have a belief-system, that dark(er) skin, or “slanted” eyes, are but the external sign of some internal depravity (a sign Our God has conveniently provided for casting out the cursed to Teeth-Gnashing Land?) But… …IF NOT, why should the *external sign of same-sex orientation* (and relationships congruent w/ said orientation), be grounds for thinking *it* a sign of depravity, and discriminating accordingly? [And please: spare me… Read more »

Rob Hall
Guest
Rob Hall

The basic problem with Martin Reynolds’ view is that – as he admits – he does want, like Peter Akinola, to use the state to coerce people who disagree with him. That is a very substantial point, despite the very large differences between Martin Reynolds and Peter Akinola about what penalty the state should impose on those who do not fall into line. That way lies tyranny. Consider the situation if the state reverted to the views of past decades and coerced LGCM instead. Consider also whether state coercion will persuade, instead of playing into the hands of extremists. Surely… Read more »

David Rowett (=mynsterpreost)
Guest
David Rowett (=mynsterpreost)

Strikes me that we have a sort of re-run of the Salman Rushdie affair, where two axioms of liberal western democracies are irreconcilable. In the Satanic Verses controversy we had free speech vs respect for another’s belief system (particularly when that belief system belonged to a minority). Now we have the right of a significant and legally regarded minority not to suffer discrimination (axiom 1) coming up against the right of a member of a belief system not to be coerced into acting against their conscience (axiom 2). Unlike (I think) the race issue, there will be some Christians out… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

JCF- Seeing everything on an emotional level is what proper debate tries to get away from. You are assuming that people have opinions fixed in stone. That is your first mistake. Honest people read, listen, and develop/modify their views all the time. The things that are fixed in stone (in principle, at least) do not qualify for the name opinion. They are wishes and ideologies, and hence have no place in a debate. Your proposal is ‘agree to differ’. So: no more refining of knowledge and research. No more debate. No more listening. There is a danger that the only… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

JC, while I agree that it isn’t relevant to the secular state, I can’t dispense with what’s in Scripture so easily. I know the linguistic arguments, and they are powerful. I also know that God is active in my life, and was active in the long period when I abandoned Him. I also know what He has done for me, so I am at something of an impasse. If God so wants me to be celibate, why has He done what He has for me? I can’t answer that, but He did, so who am I to argue? Saying “I… Read more »

laurence
Guest
laurence

Anglicanism has always been based on agreeing to differ. There are sacramentalists,and Catholics, Protestant sacramentalists and non-sacramentalists. Evangelcals -some more sacramental (if I can put so) than others.And broadchurch people, some sacramental and some less so. Then there liberals both Catholic and Evangelical, and Broadchurch. And liberal Liberals, and radicals. So these three broad religions, or presentations / paradigms of faith catholic, evangelcial and broadchurch. Some ‘accepting Christ as saviour’,or being Confirmed; some with a more ‘gradual’ spirituality-often sacramental, not necessarily-like Lydia ‘whose heart the Lord opened’ (Acts). Some with a spiritualit rooted in Mattins and / Evensong and ‘the… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Rob ; there is a difference between being allowed to think differently, and beine allowed to legitimately discriminate against someone in secular society as a result of that thought.

I believe people can think as they wish. I do not believe people should have the right to discriminate in society as a result against those who their thoughts disapprove of.

J. C. Fisher
Guest
J. C. Fisher

Ford, I’m finding it impossible to follow what you’re saying. Try again? ;-/

[Christopher, “Seeing everything on an emotional level” is *your* projection. I may express my convictions *with emotion* (seeing that they are about injustice done to me and my people, it would be rather insane if I weren’t angry), but it’s not from “seeing everything” that way. God help me, I “see” through Scripture, Tradition and Reason, illuminated by the Holy Spirit! :-)]

Cheryl Clough
Guest

Ford. If you are capable of being celibate, well and good, but if not take a mate for life 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 God loves and blesses you either way. The comment “Seeing everything on an emotional level is what proper debate tries to get away from.” made me laugh (reference the joke “No emotions please, we are Anglican”). Souls who can say this with a straight face can easily accept a paradigm that lifetime celibacy is the answer to sexual conundrums. Because their sexual and emotional drives are held in check by reason. God bless and love them. The broader… Read more »

Alan Harrison
Guest
Alan Harrison

Mynsterpreost wrote: “Having said all that, would ANYONE want to stay in a Christian Guest House? I remember there was one near where we used to stay on holiday, and the sad procession of soggy holidaymakers to the nearest pub, having had nothing stronger than weak tea with their dinner was a sight straight out of Dante….” Well, yes, I do have a certain amount of sympathy, being partial to a pint or four! But “Christian” guesthouses and conventual/monastic lodgings do exist. Italy is awash with the latter. I note the perception that only homosexuals are discriminated against, but such… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Sorry. I’ve been told I can be obtuse. To explain it is more personal than I want to be. It’s just that my experience of God in my life makes me believe that He doesn’t have a problem with my sexuality. All the same, I don’t like the theological hoops we jump through to explain away 7 or 8 passages of Scripture. I’m aware of the linguistic arguments, but these passages have always, as far as I know, been interpreted as being about homosexuality. I just can’t reconcile this interpretation with the reality of God in my life. I also… Read more »

Rob Hall
Guest
Rob Hall

Merseymike, if thinking is not permitted to be shared and acted on – just as happens here at Thinking Anglicans! – where’s the freedom? Thinking, speaking, teaching and actions which can be legally proved to lead to violence or other forms of criminality should of course be barred. But what Martin Reynolds and LGCM (and Peter Akinola) are proposing is state coercion of those who disagree with them. In the UK context, that is vastly more than is necessary to deal with violence and criminality against LGBT people. It also – on LGCM’s part – reveals a loss of confidence… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Wow, that is the first time I have heard it said that 1 Cor 7 endorses taking a homosexual mate for life. Coming as it does only one chapter after 1 Cor 6, this is quite an interpretation. Paul’s views underwent a 180 degree shift (which he omits to mention) within less than one chapter. What is said of Merseymike’s views is quite right. I think he subscribes to Frank Spencerism: ‘Every day in every way society is getting better and better.’ (uttered while the world is collapsing around him). Ignoring the empirical evidence that there is no ‘progress’: merely… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
Guest
J. C. Fisher

“Likewise in employment, there are well documented cases of people being denied employment or even sacked from existing jobs in church schools because of perceived heterosexual peccadilloes. (I seem to recall a fairly recent case of an up-the-duff unmarried teacher in a Roman Catholic school.)” Oh come now, Alan. The question isn’t about “heterosexual peccadilloes”. It’s the DOUBLE-STANDARD, that ***ALL*** homosexual relationships are *defined* as peccadilloes (or worse!). Don’t DENY marriage to same-sex couples, and then consign us all to the sinful “unmarried”, no different than your up-the-duff teacher! >:-/) Ford: “I’m aware of the linguistic arguments, but these passages… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

I don’t see what the confusion with 1 Corinthians 6 comes from. Unless you are taking the catholic stance that sex is only appropriate where there is the possibility of conceiving a child in wedlock. That means post-menopausal women, men with vasectomies, women with hysterectomies or testosterone females are immoral if they partake of sexual activities. If sex is more than reproduction (which I would suggest is the case as God gave women clitorises), then God has presented us with conundrums beyond homosexual sex. If the conundrums exist, then the challenge is to develop an ethics that can be fairly… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Well, JC, I am unaware of any religious writing before this century that speaks positively about homosexuality. I’d love to read some. Why the yelling? I know God loves me, so what Paul wrote about my sexuality doesn’t bother me too much. And I am for the most part on your side. It’s just that I can’t reconcile what is in Scripture with what I know to be God’s work in my life. I’ll go with the evidence of His blessings rather than with the way we have interpreted “malakoi” and “arsenikitos”, but I’d still like to read some premodern… Read more »

The Anglican Scotist
Guest
The Anglican Scotist

Ford,
Heck, you want pre-modern blessings? Easy: read Plato’s Symposium and Phaedrus.

Martin Reynolds
Guest

Would you then reject all coersive law on this basis. Rob?

Cheryl Clough
Guest

Ford

The ultrapuritans do not agree that the phrases in the bible referring to either eunuchs or the afflicted could apply to homosexuality. As the term homosexuality is only a modern concept, it is not a surprise that it is not written of per se in the bible. But the precedent of how God treats eunuchs is useful. Do not deliberately mutilate, coerce or create them; but if they are there treat them with respect. Two inspiring passages are Isaiah 56:3-8 and 2 Kings 20:18-19

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Rob ; I think that coercion to prevent discrimination is absolutely right.

I’m not terribly interested in the so-called ‘will of God’ which is something I don’t believe in as a non-realist. I am interested in civil and legal equality.

If that happens to upset religionists, then thats their problem – they have the right to their religious beliefs but not to discriminate as a result of them.

Personally, I think conservative Christianity should be treated rather like racism or homophobia – something which regretfully exists amongst the mentally challenged.

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

Though we may have a difficult time seeing it so, the problem of reading scripture in connection with homosexuality is not smaller or greater than the problem of reading scripture to reveal a Ptolemaic cosmology complete with flat earth and concentric layers of heaven above and around. The flat earth cosmology was so taken for granted, so wed to how the texts were read that few average believers (and quite a few non-average ones) could conceive of how one could not just read the whole scripture out then, just as it was given and traditionally read/understood. Now we face similar… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Hate speach is emphatically not “the power of ideas, free discussion and seeking the will of God to change minds and actions”.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

hi Cheryl-
Your answer was much more subtle than my original point, which was very simple, even simple-minded. So simple that it can’t have been difficult to address; but as far as I see you didn’t address it.

Namely: why suggest that 1 Corinthians 7 approves lifelong same-sex unions? A: there is not a hint of this in the text; B: this directly contradicts the previous chapter. Bring back honesty, I say. :o)

Rob Hall
Guest
Rob Hall

I couldn’t agree more with Göran – not least as hate speech at the very least implies the threat of physical coercion, in its encouragement of violent criminality and even murder. This should certainly be prosecuted by the state, whoever it comes from – football fans, religious groups, whoever. But hate speech is not what either LGCM or Peter Akinola want to use state coercion against. Merseymike has every right to challenge conservative Christianity, describe it as “something which regretfully exists amongst the mentally challenged,” persuade others to share his lack of interest in “the will of God,” in and… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

But, Rob, no-one is suggesting any coercion in terms of joining groups or expressing views (outside the normal boundaries of blatant incitement to hatred, obviously)

What we are talking about is the ability to discriminate against others in terms of the right to receive goods and services which are not directly ‘religious’, in other words, not to be treated as equal citizens.

I think it is absolutely right that such discrimination be outlawed. Alternately, these groups should simply withdraw from providing services within secular society

Martin Reynolds
Guest

Whatever Rob may say I have a deep respect for those who take his philosophical approach to these issues. It is plain that in his mind LGCM and Peter Akinola are on a par and I am sorry for it. In my view the State has two possible ways of dealing with us, they are punishment and reward. I am not advocating any punishment for any group. The discretionary grant system is already used by the government (who spend our money this way) to ensure that people who receive our money comply fully with existing legislation. The applications is in… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

Rob. I agree with your posting of 21 October. CS, in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul acknowledges that souls have sexual drives and that such souls are better to be married and “come together” (7:5) so that Satan does not tempt them. Paul acknowledges that not all souls are able to be celibate like himself, and that such souls are better to be married and thus have a suitable outlet for their sexual drives. Paul might not have approved of homosexuality, but then he didn’t exactly shine in his attitude to women either. God uses flawed vessels, and Paul was annointed… Read more »

Shawn
Guest
Shawn

Merseymike said: “Personally, I think conservative Christianity should be treated rather like racism or homophobia – something which regretfully exists amongst the mentally challenged.” So much for liberal tolerance. As a “conservative” Christian I find this comment amusing. Some of the greatest intellects of the twentieth century were and are “conservative”, or more accurately, faithful Christians. C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer, just to name two. What the comment does confirm for me is something I have been increasingly aware of for a few years now. That many “liberal/inclusive” Christians, for all their talk about tolerance and respect for all people,… Read more »