Saturday, 25 November 2006

Getting Equal: more from Northern Ireland

The government consultation on this legislation in Northern Ireland was based on this document (PDF - warning very large document, 2.6 Mb), and this questionnaire. It generated 373 responses, some of which can be found here, and this analysis of the responses (PDF - very small). The analysis is well worth reading.

The Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland, issued this press release on 23 November:

Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland (EANI) today responded to new equality legislation designed to outlaw discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation in the provision of goods, services and facilities.

Responding to the new regulations Stephen Cave, General Secretary, said, ‘During this ‘Anti-homophobia Week’ Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland recognises that unfortunately homophobia can and does occur within faith based communities. We renounce any homophobia which manifests itself in terms of victimisation and abusive, demeaning or other violent attitudes and behaviour.’

Commenting on the details of the legislation he went on to say, ‘There are serious questions which must be addressed about the rushed nature of the consultation process and quick implementation of the regulations. However EANI acknowledges the work done by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in listening to the concerns of religious organisations and subsequently providing exemptions to ensure that core doctrinal beliefs are not undermined.

We also note the introduction to the legislation of a harassment clause offering those of different sexual orientation protection against violation of dignity or the creation of an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. In keeping with the spirit of laws against discrimination we would caution against any potential use of this legislation which would curb freedom of speech or curtail religious liberty in Northern Ireland. We would also hope that it will not be long until the same protection against harassment is afforded to people of faith across the community.’

The harassment clause mentioned, which as the analysis explains was requested by many who responded, reads as follows:

(3) A person (“A”) subjects another person (“B”) to harassment in any circumstances relevant for the purposes of any provision referred to in these Regulations where, on the ground of sexual orientation, A engages in unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of —

(a) violating B’s dignity; or

(b) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B

This needs to be read in conjunction with:

(4) Conduct shall be regarded as having the effect specified in sub-paragraphs (a) and (b) or paragraph (1) only if, having regard to all the circumstances, including, in particular, the perception of B, it should reasonably be considered as having that effect.

Religious Exemption: for a comparison between the wording of these NI regulations and the text of the Equality Act part 2 relating to Religion and Belief, see this page.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 25 November 2006 at 12:27pm GMT | TrackBack
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Comments

The response to the consultation makes interesting reading and it will be interesting to see what courts do with it in terms of its legal status. It looks a bit like the typical Blairite nod and a wink to all concerned doesn't it. Whilst there has been some movement towards interpretation of laws in terms of legislators intent I'm not sure if that goes as far as judges using consultation documents yet. Anyone aware of a precedent for this?

Posted by: dave williams on Saturday, 25 November 2006 at 2:09pm GMT

I would like to see something quite striking in the admission of homophobia from the EA.

It is some years since the gifted Mark Greene (LICC) took a challenging stance on how most churches reacted badly even to lesbian and gay Christian celibates, and there has been much soul searching in many places.

It is interesting that as some are ratcheting up the language and inventing ever more deep divisions others are seeing the inevitable consequences of this for our faith. The Holy Father still seems to be lost in the “battle” however and it is sad to see the allies forming around the Vatican – what a dreadful lot!

To that end the visit of Dr Williams to see Dr Ratzinger seemed to me to have more in common with an Ad Limina than with the meeting of two Church leaders ……

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Sunday, 26 November 2006 at 12:24am GMT

Dear Martin,
You wrote "I would like to see something quite striking in the admission of homophobia from the EA."
But as homophobia is dictionary defined as lifestyle, sexual desires and acts, the Christian church is going to be homophobic on this issue of homosexual acts, whether its evangelical, Roman, charismatic, pentecostal or Anglican.

Posted by: DvaeW on Tuesday, 28 November 2006 at 10:03am GMT

Well, DaveW, it seems a bit much to imply that if a group is supportive of, for instance, monogamous homosexual couples, they are no longer part of the Church. And the Webster's definition of homophobia is:

"irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals "

So disapproval of homosexual acts based on Biblical principals isn't necessarily homophobic. It is, though, if the Bible is being used to support pre-existing prejudices. It's pretty easy to see just that situation in a good many cases.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 28 November 2006 at 1:50pm GMT

Dave, I think you are having a conversation with yourself.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 28 November 2006 at 4:28pm GMT

DaveW's last sentence needs to be modified.

The Christian Church should read "some elements of the Christian Church".

Some elements refuse to countenance any alternative to homophobia. But they are not "the church" or even the "whole body of Christ". They preen themselves when they purport to be so, however indirectly.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Tuesday, 28 November 2006 at 6:30pm GMT

If I have to choose between perversion or homophobia I choose homophobia, not least because God's word is clear that same-sex sex is wrong but even the modern definition of homophobia at this point in time and culture seem to be vary.

Posted by: Dave W on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 12:13pm GMT

First of all, DaveW, I just searched through 10 online dictionaries, all of which gave pretty much the definition of homophobia I quoted above, so the definition doesn't seem to be all that variable. And when you say "perversion" I assume that's in reference to people like me, though maybe you mean "perversion of the Gospel". If the former, then that's uncalled for. I have managed not to say nasty things about you, for the most part; I'd ask for the same respect from you. If the latter, well, it's a bit much to call something perversion of the Gospel just because it doesn't agree with your particular literalist interpretation.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 4:20pm GMT

Dear Ford Elms,
So the definition isnt all that variabel but it is variable as I said. Do the defintions also give gay as cheerful joyous etc?
As to perversion that is from the NIV, deception if you like will also suffice. And no the reference is to the same-sex act not to people like you or people at all, otherwise i would call myself a pervert as well as I have adulterous thoughts.
You ask "though maybe you mean "perversion of the Gospel""
Well I have no idea as you havent addressed any scripture yet.
As to my 'particular literalist interpretation', I am merely quoting what the NIV and KJV says, I literally havent interpreted it yet except that I acknowledge literally says what it says.

Posted by: DaveW on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 11:32pm GMT

Why is it that straight peopls always pull out the adultery thing, as though being faithful to one's spouse is some difficult or odious task? I've never found monogamy to be difficult, I guess I'm lucky not to be assailed by that particular temptation. As to "pervert", if you can't see what your use of the word shows about you, so much the better, others will have less difficulty seeing your true colours.

And you say I haven't addressed any Scripture yet. Well, Dave, the Scripture is not as a list of individual "Scriptures". The Gospel is a thing, it is the story of God''s love for redemption of us, and all of His beloved Creation, from the forces of darkness to which we were enslaved. I find it odd when people say things like "I read a Scripture that deals with such and such an issue." No, you read a verse or a chapter of THE Scripture. This idea that Scripture is a list of sound bites is a bit too much like the consumer culture's attitude towards news for my taste. It leads to proof texting. The way in which you reference Scripture reveals a rather literal understanding of what it says. While I believe this is a flawed understanding, Christians have traditionally not had such an approach to Scripture, I recognize that many Protestants, perhaps most, view Scripture in just that light, so if that's how you understand it, fine. I'm merely making the point that not everyone does.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 1:10pm GMT
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