Thinking Anglicans

Getting Equal: Northern Ireland goes ahead

Articles from 10 June and from 30 June and 20 August reported on the Getting Equal consultation conducted by the Department of Trade and Industry.

More recently, I reported on 15 October, that action had been delayed until next April.

My earlier Church Times article is unfortunately not available at present from the CT archive, so is reproduced below the fold.

This week, the government has taken action earlier than that, but in Northern Ireland. See this report in the Telegraph Gay rights law ‘being forced through’.

Today, there is a further report in the Daily Mail Vicars could be sued for refusing to bless gay weddings, fears Church which claim may well be unjustified.

Anglican Mainstream and The Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship have become even more hysterical than usual about this, and the latter’s public policy website, Christian Concern for our Nation contains yet another plea for its supporters to deluge politicians to stop all this action.

The proposed regulations for Northern Ireland, which have been published by the Northern Ireland Office, can be read here: The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006. The document is described as follows:

Made 8th November 2006
To be laid before Parliament under paragraph 7(3) of the Schedule to the Northern Ireland Act 2000
Coming into operation 1st January 2007

The wording of these regulations contains some material that is specific to Northern Ireland, but is presumably broadly consistent with the government’s intentions for the whole UK. Watch out for further analysis of this soon.

Equally, a matter of orientation
Originally published in the 23 June 2006 edition of the Church Times

THE Archbishops’ Council recently responded to Getting Equal, the latest DTI consultation on outlawing discrimination. The Church does not agree with the Government over the extent to which it should be allowed to discriminate against people on grounds of sexual orientation.

A White Paper in May 2004 eventually led to Parliament approving the Equality Act 2006 in February. Media coverage focused on the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights, which will replace three existing agencies from October 2007. It will be responsible for preventing discrimination in six areas of concern: race, gender, disability, age, sexual orientation, and religion or belief. But the Act covers much more.

Discrimination in the provision of “goods, facilities and services” is already illegal in respect of gender, race, and disability. Part two of the Act contains detailed provisions to outlaw such discrimination on grounds of religion or belief. They take effect in October.

They state that it is immaterial whether or not a charge is made for goods, facilities or services. There are, however, exemptions allowing a religious organisation (unless its main purpose is commercial) to limit its membership, participation in its activities, provision of goods, facilities, and services in the course of such activities, and use of its premises. Any religious body may thus lawfully discriminate in all these areas against members of another religion, or of another Christian denomination.

Part three of the Act enables the Government to make corresponding regulations in relation to sexual orientation, hence the consultation, which opened in March and closed on 5 June. The Government will respond within 12 weeks, and then lay regulations before Parliament for approval, to take effect in October.

THE main issue is that the Government clearly wishes the sexual orientation exemptions for religious bodies to be significantly more restrictive than those for religion or belief. The DTI said in its consultation document:

“We are interested to hear views on the impact that the regulations may have in these areas [“the doctrines of some faiths concerning sexual orientation”], particularly where the regulations may impede religious observance or practices that arise from the basic doctrines of a faith. Any exceptions . . . for religious organisations would need to be clearly defined and our starting point is that these should be limited to activities closely linked to religious observance or practices that arise from the basic doctrines of a faith.

“Religious organisations also have a role in providing wider services to the community with a social or welfare aspect . . . We do not see a case for exempting such services.”

The Archbishops’ Council argues that this approach would require the courts to determine doctrinal matters, which they have consistently declined to do; that Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights protects much wider religious rights than this implies; and that the Government also fails to take account of Section 13 (1) of the Human Rights Act 1998.

The Council was also concerned that including church schools in the proposed regulations might extend beyond such matters as admissions and discipline (to which it had no objection) to the curriculum, and even worship. These areas, it says, are already adequately covered under the Education Act 1996.

The Council seeks all the same exemptions as are in the religion or belief provisions. These would give churches, mosques, and others carte blanche to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

The Council also repeats the claim that behaviour, not orientation, is the sole locus of concern (though this might not convince many who observed the “Reading affair”).

Specific exemptions for church schools relating to curriculum and worship are also sought, along with another for the use of school premises. This last was justified on the perhaps odd grounds that “Faith schools might be required to make their premises equally available to groups [that] . . . could give considerable offence to the conscientiously held beliefs of staff and parents.”

THE DIFFICULTY is that English law does not recognise the distinction between orientation and behaviour.
As Mr Justice Richards said in 2004, concerning the religious exemptions that were being argued over in the 2003 Employment Equality regulations (his italics):

“One of the matters that will need to be considered in examining the challenge to that provision, is a distinction drawn between sexual orientation and sexual behaviour. As regards the protection conferred by the [European] Convention [on Human Rights], however, I do not consider there to be any material difference between them. Sexual orientation and its manifestation in sexual behaviour are both inextricably connected with a person’s private life and identity.”

Nevertheless, the Church persists in arguing that “It is crucial to ensure that churches and other faith communities and their members are able to manifest their own doctrines and convictions in this area without fear of legal sanction.”

So it might be hard to convince the DTI that such sweeping exemptions are a proportionate response to the Church’s views on sexuality. Its case is surely weakened when the Council admits that “a range of views is held on that moral issue within the Church.”

Yet the Council chose not to deploy the argument used by Anglican Mainstream: that religion and orientation are both entirely a matter of personal choice. It is hard to see how the differences might be resolved, when the Council is asking for a wholesale exemption, and the Government is seeking to limit the Church’s protection from the law.

Simon Sarmiento is a former personnel director of a large software company.

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dave williams
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dave williams

Usual bias without justification.

“Getting hysterical”

Can I suggest that you either publish the links without snide remarks or spend some time in some constructive comment on why you find a response inappropropriate.

Make up your mind what type of site this is meant to be!

But the level of insults without justification don’t suggest that much thinking is going on.

Maybe you might want to consider why a group of legally qualified christians are not happy with specific legislation!

Pluralist
Guest

http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/000065.html

Says that news is reported from a liberal Christian perspective. As I understand it, this explains what sort of site this is meant to be.

We all have agendas, but the question is whether there is any substance behind any of these flag waving fears. The Daily Mail report is a near joke, and the others likely to be without any substance.

But, perhaps they should have substance, of a sort, and have substance where a religion is participating in public space and where prejudice is not allowed.

laurence
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laurence

Lovely posting again Dave Williams –many thanks for it.

laurence
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laurence

The Christian Lawyers website, too, obviously know their stuff. The way they combine the Law and Christianity is awesome. Also they combine all that with making vast sums of money–a clear sign of the Lord’s approval. And then Anglican Mainstream are so well– Anglican and Mainstream it takes my breath away. What with all these wonderful individuals, groups, organisations & websites leading the way, if there are not in depth discussions throughout society, leading to the Right moral outcome, it will not be their fault. In fact we will all know of those dreadful Men who were once criminals (… Read more »

laurence
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laurence

The other sad thing is that these groups make christianity seem more and more irrelevant, mad and bad.

Having spent so much of my life in gospel work, it is constatly underminded by the institutional Churchesand their attendant organisations and pressure groups.

Dave Williams
Guest
Dave Williams

LCF represents a heck of a lot of lawyers -some of them making money maybe. Some of them earning a normal living. Some of them involved in social action etc and not making much money at all. Some of them not practising law. They are very helpful and for example when I needed to get emergency advice for a non christian friend who was about to be made homeless they were brilliant

dave williams
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dave williams

having a liberal anglican perspective doesn’t mean you should simply call names! I also hope there is a clue in the word “Thinking” in the title.

People are presumably hoping for a thoughtful critique from that perspective.

Cheryl Clough
Guest

Thanks Simon for these links and thanks TA for continuing to post evidence that some would like to pretend doesn’t exist and make next to impossible to find. TA plays an important role in allowing the Truth to be documented in an non-editable archival way. Love it. Good on the Irish. I laughed at the Anglican Mainstream article. One of the things I must give some is their ability to quickly imitate their enemies. That combined with their dishonesty of selective amnesia in admitting the model came from an enemy never ceases to amuse me. I remember when I was… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
Guest
J. C. Fisher

The argument that the church needs to distinguish between “orientation” and “behavior” is a Straw Man. In point of fact, the church, as well as the state, already does: if a heterosexual engages in polygamy (in the UK!), they will be “discriminated” against, irregardless of their sexual orientation. No, the point is that the church (some of them) is seeking to discriminate against the “behavior” of those of a same-sex orientation, ON A DIFFERENT STANDARD than the one it uses to evaluate heterosexuals (civil marriage of the latter: A-OK! civil union of the former: you’re fired!). In regards to the… Read more »

laurence
Guest
laurence

‘….. Ulster will be right.”

Martin Reynolds
Guest

“Maybe you might want to consider why a group of legally qualified christians are not happy with specific legislation!” Well of course we are interested in this “heck of a load of lawyers” and their political campaign. As a matter of interest we recently wrote to them of their renewed campaign asking for some information an extract follows: “I see that in your advice on strategy you say: “”5. Christians need to emphasise specifically that it is crucial that we are free to follow the Bible’s teaching in our jobs. THIS POINT IS KEY.”” I wonder if you have already… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

State and Church again, it seems.

dave williams
Guest
dave williams

Martin, I’m not sure what you are trying to gain from that? Are you planning a campaign against Christians who disagree with you on a specific moral issue? Who is the “We” I would never publish a membership list of my clients, employees or congregation members on demand if asked in such a way. Secondly. Lawyers frequently have to make decisions about cases. They have to represent people that they may not particularly like or approve of. That’s part of their business. Thirdly, the issue as you know full well is not about Christians being allowed to be homophobic and… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

Hysteria is the word – but then, no surprise there.

The only real issue is whether any broader exemption that the directly religious activity is to be allowed. There IS going to be anti-discrimination legislation relating to the right for gay men and lesbians to receive goods and services – and it is to receive support from all the parties, too.

Evangelicals will just have to get used to it, or perhaps emigrate to somewhere more to their liking?

ChrisM
Guest
ChrisM

Good on the Irish???!!! This has nothing to do with the Irish. If you care to read the links you will see that because Northern Ireland is currently under ‘Direct Rule’ from Westminster, the UK Government is using us as a test bed for this new legislation – so all the credit should really go to that nice Mr Blair. (when you consider what he did to Iraq, I suppose we’re getting off lightly) As to what ‘the Irish’ might think of it all – a local political party once had an election poster which read “Save Ulster from Sodomy”… Read more »

DaveW
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DaveW

Well I dont think there are enough prison places. I am gay, I have a joyful disposition, the joy of the Lord is my strength. Sex sex sex thats all some people think about. Have I got the right to follow Jesus Christ and His teachings as a gay person who sees that the Bible teaches that same-sex sex is wrong? 2 Peter 2:6 “..if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man,… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

You have every right to think as you wish. But you will not have the right to discriminate in the provision of goods and services. In other words, your prejudice will not be justified by the State, and neither should it.

DaveW
Guest
DaveW

Dear Merseymike,
I would have liked to have kept this to discussing the issue rather than personal observations. But in reply to your post, you also have every right to think as you wish, but no right to discriminate against the views of the Christian faith and indeed other faiths with your prejudice. I am not sure I would want to discriminate against people because of what they believe, just against what they believe.

God bless you my friend

DaveW
Guest
DaveW

You see Muslims arent forced to hire the mosque out to Christians or Hindus and I cant see them being penalised for breaking the goods and services act with respect to homosexuals.
As to a church not hiring out to a gay and lesbian event if the church doesnt want that they dont have to. Who owns the church? What about the celibate homosexual Christians who dont want it?
Why have those obsessed with sex force their sexual celebrations on the rest of society?

Cheryl Clough
Guest

Martin has raised an interesting point. We would like people to be able to stay true to their religious principles (even if that is homophobia)? But then there could be situations where one’s religious principles mean that one has a conflict in acting as the advocate for a plaintiff. Is there a requirement for the plaintiff to be aware that there is a potential conflict of interest? Then how is that handled? I would rather an honest system where someone admits they do not want to advocate on behalf of a plaintiff, than a situation where a plaintiff finds themself… Read more »

DaveW
Guest
DaveW

I would like to propose that Jesus more often than not spoke primarily to His disciples. As was the case in the OT, Gods wants His people to be a blessing to others and set apart as a witness to Him. Jesus says to the people love God and love ones neighbour but to His dispciples He gives a new command on top of that, to love each other as He has loved so that all may know who His disciples are. The governments therefore may pass laws which may be against God’s purposes but as Christians and God’s people… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest

I am sorry Dave Williams, but you appear to have missed the point raised by the CLF in their own strategy document. As they see it the KEY POINT for lawyers and others is to follow (what they understand to be) the Bible’s teaching in their jobs. It seems that they believe that to properly exercise their conscience they require a much broader exemption from the regulations than the government is to lawfully allow. There are many legal family matters from Civil Partners buying a house to adoption of children that might offend this principle for a particular legal practitioner… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest

In their letter of 21st November to members of the Houses of Parliament the CLF offers this example of conflict between the regulation and the rights of religion to promulgate its beliefs: “A homosexual man goes to a Christian bookshop in his home town in Northern Ireland. The bookshop contains many books, some of which refer to homosexual practice as a sin. There are posters on the walls of the shop promoting marriage as the only right sexual relationship and the only right context for bringing up children. Even if the homosexual man had no interest in receiving goods or… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Dave William (one of them) wrote: “Lawyers frequently have to make decisions about cases. They have to represent people that they may not particularly like or approve of. That’s part of their business.”

However, this bunch of lawyers have made an un-public, but still public stand against part of their prospective clientele.

N o t part of any normal business, in my opinion.

and: “… the issue as you know full well is not about Christians being allowed to be homophobic and treat homosexuals unfavourably based on their orientation…”

Isn’t it?

DaveW
Guest
DaveW

Goran, some Christians who you call ‘homophobic’ are those with homosexual desires, so I believ you have been somewhat contradictory?

Keith Kimber
Guest

There’s enough evidence of clients, justly or unjustly condemned, who’ve felt poorly served by lawyers, and those who’ve dismissed their counsel and conducted their own defence after losing confidence in their advocate. A client who cannot know for certain where their lawyer stands or how they are regarded is on unsafe ground when it comes to legal process. There’s a difference between the high ideals of the legal profession and human reality. Lawyers are indeed confronted with clients they fear or dislike. They may well have a moral struggle to put feelings aside to ensure justice is done. If I… Read more »

Colin Coward
Guest

There are a number of things the LCF seem to be unaware of in their anxiety about their notional “aggrieved” gay student. All lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people belong to a family. We are all born into a family. Family relationships are as important for us, and sometimes as dysfunctional for us, as they are for any other human being. LGBT Christians have a strong Bible-based ethical and moral code. Changing Attitude also believes in the importance of marriage and the value of faithful, committed, life-long, monogamous relationships. Gay students in the understanding of LCF are apparently belligerent. The… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Its quite possible for someone to be homophobic and gay by orientation – its called the product of internalised homophobia.

Martin Reynolds
Guest

The most prolific “gay bashers” and some of the most public homophobes I know are homosexuals – but in this case Goran was quoting the other Dave’s comment above.

J. C. Fisher
Guest
J. C. Fisher

“Why have those obsessed with sex force their sexual celebrations on the rest of society?”

DaveW, do you include *heterosexual marriages* among such “sexual celebrations” *forced* by those “obsessed with sex”?

IF NOT, then quit w/ your freakin’ DOUBLE STANDARDS already!

[And when it comes to being “obsessed w/ sex”, my cognitively-dissonant friend, I suggest you’ll see morely clearly through a *window*, than you currently do with a *mirror*? ;-/]

DaveW
Guest
DaveW

Dear Colin Coward, You make some bold statements which I think are 100% wrong. Allow me to make some bold statements in reply. You speak of gay people in a sexual way only. People can be gay as in having a joyful disposition. It seems LBGT is rather sexually orientated. I don’t believe we should label people by their sexual desires as then I would be an adulterer and people just get labelled by their sin when in fact God wants us to have life to the full and realise our potential. You wrote “LGBT Christians have a strong Bible-based… Read more »

DaveW
Guest
DaveW

Dear Merseymike,
You wrote “Its quite possible for someone to be homophobic and gay by orientation – its called the product of internalised homophobia”
No I think if someone were homophobic and gay by sexual desire they would be unhappy with their sexual desires and lifestyle and the gospel of Jesus Christ would be what they need.
Phobia is a fear, I think gambling is wrong but I don’t fear it, I may be fearful that it causes addiction but I am not fearful of gambling itself. It is quite possible to be against something without being fearful of it.

DaveW
Guest
DaveW

Dear Martin Reynolds and J C Fisher, If this is ‘Thinking Anglicans’ then maybe we should recognise that the Anglican Communion, certainly the majority believes what is stated in Lambeth 1.10. I do hope this isnt going to be one of those debating forums that refuses to discuss and listen to others points of view but degenerates into discussions about ‘hate’ and ‘prejudice’ afterall we know that in Christ there is no condemnation. One cannot be a ‘gay basher’ if one merely disagrees with same-sex sex. A person could have same-sex desires and be gay as in having a joyful… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

Dave W wrote “…some Christians who you call ‘homophobic’ are those with homosexual desires, so I believe you have been somewhat contradictory?” The difficulty is that sometimes those who are of a group but attack that group are more vicious than those who are not of that group. When a person makes an effort to repeating bring up the problems of homosexuality and its sinfulness a few of my straight friends (with gay in-laws) comment that they are probably gay but in denial. Similarly, we often find in ethnic cleansing and apartheid that those of part-blood but have managed to… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Gay people are not ‘labelled’ by their sexual desires but choose to identify as someone who loves others of the same sex and enters into sexual relationships with them. As we are in a minority, discrimination and prejudice has occurred which led to the mobilisation of people to seek social change and to eradicate discrimination. That is what has been happening, and generally, the last 9 years have been very fruitful for those who want to see equal citizenship. Ensuring equality in the provision of goods and services is an important part of that aim. Traditional Christian approaches to this… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Please restrict further comments on this thread to the subject matter, namely the wording of the government regulations. And what those who don’t like them can do about it.

dave williams
Guest
dave williams

Martin,

You must understand that whilst there are such groups as Stonewall who believe in direct action in favour of gay rights that producing a target list or inviting pressure groups to go and view bookshops just isn’t on. Come on you know the context.

I’m still not sure who the “We” are.

dave williams
Guest
dave williams

Mike “Traditional” Christian approaches to this subject have no place in a State which treats people equally. Sounds like intolerance to me! Is there equality for those who want to continue to pursue a different way? The issue here isn’t equality it is morality. The contemporary view is that Homosexuality is morally ok if not good Holding traditional Christian views are immoral Enforcing traditional Christian ethics even on private property are definitely immoral and therefore to be outlawed. Again despite arguments to the contrary on other threads we see dogmatic certainty at work here. I like that I know where… Read more »

DaveW
Guest
DaveW

It is perfectly obvious in the previous cases in the last few months where Christians have made Biblical Christian statements about same-sex sex and the police have investigated or arrested or spoken to the people, that no prosecution has taken place or has been possible. Therefore protection must be built in to new laws to protect Christians from the obvious attempts by gay and lesbian rights activists to suppress aspects of the Christian faith and free speech and religious freedom. To back up my point I cite the following http://www.christian.org.uk/rel_liberties/index.htm As to the question “And what those who don’t like… Read more »

Craig Nelson
Guest
Craig Nelson

This is just to say that many people have not bothered to read the draft NI regulations. They allow (reg 16) for wide religious exemptions including the practice of religion and the use of property, so a lot of the comments are simply ill informed, demonstrating that some Christians care more about sectarian propoganda than truth. If that’s their moral code, so be it. In effect the religious homophobes are being allowed to freely practice their own bigotry in their religious groupings. If they are willing to fight to the last for the hatred of gays as their core religious… Read more »

ChrisM
Guest
ChrisM

…by the way, did anyone actually get the (Sodom and) Gomorrah joke?

dave williams
Guest
dave williams

“These regulations have been long in the coming, several years ago their possibility was signalled and there has been a great investment of time and resources since to ensure that these bookshops and other such places no longer fall in the bracket “whose sole or main purpose is commercial”, but rather now fulfill the legal requirement of existing: “ b) to advance a religion or belief; or (c) to teach the practice or principles of a religion or belief;” If such a bookshop has failed to avail itself of the several ways of avoiding being “caught” by this legislation and… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest

As you say Dave most of the Christian bookshops in this country are owned or run by charitable trusts/churches. All those that I know of that began on the initiative of a couple of people are now operating as non-profit trusts and have made explicit in their articles the guiding principles of their status. As I say, there are many organisations – some whose information you refer to – that can freely advise any who have missed the boat – but I would be very surprised if there are more than a couple in the country. If there is any… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Dave ; there is no equality for those who wish to discriminate against gay and lesbian people, and if that is what you wish to do, then there are good reasons to prevent you from doing so.

Simply because something has a religious label does not make it acceptable.You will be given exemption within the boundaries of your direct religious practice – fine by me as I wouldn’t go near any anti-gay church in any case,but in the public sphere, you will have to treat people equally.

dave williams
Guest
dave williams

Mike,

I’m not sure what post you are responding to or quite what your point is I have noe wish to discriminate against gay and lesbian people

Indeed it is that misunderstanding of Evangelical Christian intentions that make the regulations so ill equipped to deal with the real issues

dave williams
Guest
dave williams

Martin, Thanks for your response. My personal understanding of the regulations is as follows 1. It is restriction of the provision of goods and services and the restriction of membership that the exemptions apply to 2. The exemptions are related to “Sexual Orientation” not to sexual practise 3. The exemptions do not deal with harrassment or victimisation a. No Evangelical Christian SHOULD want to discriminate on the grounds identified in the regulations. Acting in that way should be subject to Church discipline regardless of the law b. However the burden of proof as is increasingly the case lies against the… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Rend à César…

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Dave Williams (one of them) wrote:

“a. No Evangelical Christian SHOULD want to discriminate on the grounds identified in the regulations. Acting in that way should be subject to Church discipline regardless of the law”

O dear, Candide in Neverland ;=)

“c. The regulations do not provide for what might be regarded as a free exchange of ideas.”

When did discriminating against customers become an “exchange of ideas”?

dave williams
Guest

“Rend à César…”

Goran -your point is what exactly?

Craig Nelson
Guest
Craig Nelson

Just to say two things. First, I don’t think the bookstore thing is much of an issue. I doubt very much that posters of married people would ever reasonably be construed as harassment. I don’t think the regs oblige you to stock (or order) items that you don’t agree with. What they do do is oblige the seller to not discriminate or harass on the grounds of sexual orientation. Eg No I’m not selling you this Bible because I think you might be gay. Or “Get out of here you ~!#+”@!! I don’t like your sort of people”. I think… Read more »