Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Getting Equal: RC reaction

Update
There is an Anglican angle too: Daily Mail Steve Doughty Anglican bishop threatens to close youth clubs in protest at gay rights. And sidebar Seven out of 10 say beliefs should not be abandoned over gay rights
The bishop is Michael Nazir-Ali of Rochester.

There are several reports of what RC archbishop Vincent Nichols has been saying about what he perceives as the government’s intentions in bringing in the proposed new regulations discussed here previously.

Daily Mail Steve Doughty Don’t impose your morality: Catholic Archbishop attacks gay rights bill and editorial comment Blair and the moral backlash
Telegraph Jonathan Petre Archbishop warns of gay rights backlash
Universe Church Fires Broadside Over Government’s Moral Neutrality
Catholic Herald Gay rights law threatens Catholic adoption agencies

It’s rather difficult to see what justification exists for most of these concerns. The Northern Ireland regulations are clear in providing religious bodies with an exemption from almost all the requirements placed on everybody else. The effect is that discimination by a religious organisation, in respect of sexual orientation. is permitted:

(a) if it is necessary to comply with the doctrine of the organisation; or

(b) so as to avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religions followers.

which should be easy for the Roman Catholic church to meet. Charitable bodies, whether or not religious, are also exempted, provided their actions are taken by reason of or in pursuance of their charitable instrument.

The two principles from which there is no exemption provided in Northern Ireland are:

  • The requirement to refrain from harassment (see here for what this means)
  • The requirement that nobody providing education or social services at public expense will be allowed to discriminate in the provision of those services.

Postscript: there was a full page advertisement in The Times today placed by a group called Coherent and Cohesive Voice, self-described as “a network of hundreds of Christian leaders in the UK representing hundreds of thousands of voters”. Follow this link to read the text of the advertisement. Several claims made in the advertisement are quite false.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 28 November 2006 at 9:44pm GMT | TrackBack
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Comments

Funny that - and I thought it was Nichols and his arch-bigots who wanted to impose his morality - if that's what you can call it - on us by encouraging discrimination against gay people. He is simply not entitled to force his bigoted opinions upon us.

Quite sickening - and the hypocrisy of it all knows no bounds. I know of a gay man with a partner who has just started training to be an RC priest!

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 28 November 2006 at 11:23pm GMT

So far as these inflammatory and false alarms go, they are quite consistent with the strategy of dis-information pursued by the rightwing religious and political figures in USA for the past several decades. None of the mandatory things listed in the alarming advertisement are in fact required by the proposed new regulations; which nevertheless nudge legacy believers in all the received negativisms to think their particular negative beliefs through quite a bit more, and walk a more careful line besides simply presuming that their legacy negativisms are the common cultural coin.

This will be painful, and possibly salutary, and possibly fodder for much spin-doctoring, the likes of which Karl Rove in USA is a major represenative figure/example.

Of course, none of these alarmed believers admits to knowing anybody who is LGBTQ in their own work teams, extended families, or neighborhoods - so what exactly is all the fuss? The queer folks of their salacious imaginations actually do not quite exist anymore, to the great and dirty and dangerous extent which their alarm simply presumes as bedrock.

Someday they will do volunteer work down at the queer youth shelter, and maybe lose a bit of their unquestioned sense of innate straight superiority and legacy privileges. Until then, we can anticipate more alarm, more public stroking of all the legacy dirt connations, and a lot of dire images of some grave danger that ordinary citizens pose, just by existing as non-straight people.

It's too funny. Too fake. Too traditionally prejudiced, especially in its self-satisfied content with almost every single one of the presupposed straight superiorities. And too little, too late to win much traction among the younger generations who already have LGBTQ friends, relatives, coworkers, and the like.

Alas. Lord have mercy.

Posted by: drdanfee on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 2:05am GMT

Well there is the challenge. love and care or same-sex sex. Take your pick.
I see the comments from Vincent Nichols and Michael Nazir-Ali. We have already had Christians loose jobs and get penalised over same-sex sex promotion. The RC church alone finds homes for about 1 in 20 children adopted from care. We have had the alpha courses objected to etc.
"The orgasm has replaced the cross"

Posted by: DaveW on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 8:35am GMT

Is directly calling people bigots, malicious? I think so.

Anyway better a bigot in love and care than a bigot in same-sex sex.

Posted by: DaveW on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 8:37am GMT

I don't have a problem with people refusing to service gays, never had. My problem has always been with them denying GLBTs servicing by anyone. Accord human rights to GLBTs and allow those who would be "pure" to keep themselves quaratined. No problem, just let us know who you are so we can stay away from you. Oh, and don't gate crash our the "unworthies" support services - including spiritual succour.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 9:14am GMT

Drdanfee,

On the record I have worked with colleagues and have friends that are LGB.

Plenty of Evangelical Christians do the same to the extent where as a practical, not a theoretical issue a number of us have discussed what would happen if we were invited in the near future to a Civil Partnership Ceremony.

I know of specific examples where Evangelical Christians have had to make the type of decisions that come under the framework of the regulations.

Posted by: dave williams on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 9:31am GMT

The deception, downright lies, exaggerations etc are all expected.

As drdanfee comments this is all par for the course.

I recently contacted our local “Catholic” adoption agency and enquired if an unmarried couple who were atheists could adopt a child through them; the social worker told me that while in the past that was a problem it wasn’t any longer.

So they want to be able to refuse a child to a gay Christian couple in a Civil Partnership, while accepting those who are unmarried and atheists – I wonder what this is about.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 11:52am GMT

I confess to being confused. Partly because there are many people who, in all good faith, are saying the SoR are a Bad Thing. And partly because when they get up to say so, they sound suspiciously like a bunch of 13 year olds hacking their parents' internet account, viz "OMG gayz giv me teh FEAR!!!!"

On the third hand, other commentators are saying there are more than sufficient provisions allowed to religious groups to opt out of SoR. So which is it? Realistic concern or ludicrous hyperbole?

(Anyone found out who 'Coherent and Cohesive Voice' are?)

Posted by: Simon Morden on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 11:59am GMT

Do Bishop Michael et co not see that they are exploiting the very people they claim they will "have to" (read "choose") to cease serving, by using them as blackmail, as the stick to beat up on those they don't want to serve, when the good bishop and those like him threaten to close down the youth clubs and other work that serves those in need? What are they thinking? Good God.
Lois Keen

Posted by: Lois Keen on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 12:57pm GMT

Simon Morden asks a good question.

Unlike many of the journalists who have written the scare stories he might like to read the provisions of the regulations as published for Northern Ireland. Simon has them linked on an item below.

Having read these regulations I would be interested to know what HE thinks.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 2:05pm GMT

Quotes from the advertisement

"Make it illegal for a heterosexual policeman, fireman or member of the Armed Forces to refuse to join a Gay Pride event promoting the homosexual way of life."

That sounds patently ridiculous.

"Force a family-run B&B to let out a double room to a transexual couple even if the family think it is in the best interests of their children to refuse to allow such a situation in their own home."

That sounds like fear-mongering. Besides that point, if I ran a B&B, was asked by a Black couple to rent a room, and decided that I didn't want my kids exposed to Black people, should I be allowed to do so?

"Force all schools to actively promote homosexual Civil Partnerships ( from primary school age) to the same degree that they teach the importance of marriage."

It does sound plausible that public schools would be required to inform children of the existence of Civil Partnerships as one form of marriage. However, the use of the term "actively promote" is playing on people's fears that those (gasp!!) homosexuals are trying to (gasp!!) recruit our children. Someone should remind these people that you can only get "recruited" if you're actually gay.

Posted by: Weiwen on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 2:29pm GMT

I am glad to hear that not every single believer is socially distanced from positive, good queer folks and/or their efforts to live as productively as possible while certain organized groups (0ften religious, but not always) continue to say how filthy and dangerous they are.

How do new or old conservative believers reconcile all this competent, ordinary, and sometimes gifted living with the range of legacy negatives? Too small a space to explain here, but somebody somewhere should bother trying. The clobber passages, even as severely interpreted, simply do not explain even though they condemn. The only vague theories I hear floated are ones about a kind of straight innate wholeness and superiority - due to sexual orientation - which is actually contradicted by all the amazingly untoward things which straight people do, despite their wholesome and superior sexual orientations.

So far as getting invited to a couple's civil union, well it should be a slam dunk according to most of the conservative views posted on this forum: tell those people how filthy and dangerous they are, and how their civil union ceremony will endanger your own standing or potential Christian marriage, along with diminishing your children via their example of positive but not straight living. Then offer to lead them to Jesus.

Posted by: drdanfee on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 3:12pm GMT

I think that a lot of the reason for this current outcry from the 'usual suspects' is that they recognise they have not in fact, won the concessions they had hoped for

THis is shown by the Northern Ireland proposals.

The exemptions will not cover all church activities and this is what they object to - only directly religious activities

THey will simply have to realise that their right to discriminate is less important than our right to be treated equally

Posted by: Merseymike on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 4:12pm GMT

Dear Cheryl Clough and drdanfee,

Happily I love my friends who have homosexual desires and we socialise and help each other, you seem to want to stay well clear of anyone who doesn’t support same-sex sex.

Posted by: DaveW on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 4:43pm GMT

Dear Simon Morden,
You pose a key point here I think..
"On the third hand, other commentators are saying there are more than sufficient provisions allowed to religious groups to opt out of SoR. So which is it? Realistic concern or ludicrous hyperbole? "
Realistic concern, without doubt. http://www.christian.org.uk/rel_liberties/index.htm

Posted by: DaveW on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 4:43pm GMT

"It does sound plausible that public schools would be required to inform children of the existence of Civil Partnerships as one form of marriage. However, the use of the term "actively promote" is playing on people's fears that those (gasp!!) homosexuals are trying to (gasp!!) recruit our children. Someone should remind these people that you can only get "recruited" if you're actually gay."

On this side of the pond, 'promote' and 'recruit' are familiar buzz words. Any factual reference to the existence of glbt people is seen as 'promoting' the 'gay agenda.' I've seen 'recruit' less often in recent days, but it still occurs.

The people who use these terms to promote their own political agendas aften know better, but know also that the loaded terms will rouse the ignorant rabble, of whom there are many in these parts.

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 5:59pm GMT

Wiewen and Cynthia: There is absolutely NOTHING in these regulations that relates to the content of what is to be taught in schools. The content of the school curriculum is regulated by a quite separate set of laws.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 6:33pm GMT

DaveW
A third possibility is that those making untrue statements about these regulations, know perfectly well what they are doing. If that is the case, then the word for them is Liars.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 6:41pm GMT

I don't know if any of this is very coherent, but it would have been great in Faulty Towers.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 7:00pm GMT

Dear Simon Sarmiento,
Well I dont judge people my friend. Alas the law has already been proved unable to protect the Swedish pastor in the examples given by the Christian Institute and the concerns are shared by the Christian lawyers, so the concerns are well founded.

Posted by: DAveW on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 7:19pm GMT

Simon,

I understand you were at some time a HR director. Presumably you received some legal training towards that? It may even be that you had formal legal training to degree level? You will definately have been involved in seeing plenty of regulations crossing your desk.

I can certainly say from first hand experience having studied Law to degree level, having as a Manager had to deal with Employment Regulations, Company policies, Environmental regulations that there is a factor that you are missing! It's called intepretation. My view having read these regulations several times is that the position represented by the people concerned is a reasonable interpretation of how some people might expect the regulations to work. In some cases they may be on the extreme end of the interpretation but just because that is where they are doesn't mean to say that they wont get applied that way

Posted by: dave williams on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 7:36pm GMT

If all of these services will need to close down if they are not exempted what steps are the government going to make for the gay community which is being excluded from them, given they are so important.

Also why are churches running services that cannot be run unless they are either discriminating or harassing?

A final point. The exemptions in reg 16 are broad and wide and along with the exemption covering charities mean that in most areas churches can carrying on discriminating and harassing but this will not apply to evangelical bookshops who will sadly have to sell Bibles to gays.

If anyone wants a view of the kind of attitude that the law is seeking to protect people from please see this reference on the website of the Office of First and Deputy First Minister in NI from the Mid Ulster Christian " Helpline" ....

http://www.ofmdfmni.gov.uk/mid_ulster_christian_helpline.pdf

(I think you can catch the flavour better if you read it out loud in the manner of Ian Paisley saying "Ulster says Neverrrrrrrrr")

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 7:42pm GMT

Some of the Dave Williams's wrote: " Alas the law has already been proved unable to protect the Swedish pastor in the examples given by the Christian Institute and the concerns are shared by the Christian lawyers, so the concerns are well founded."

The law was not unable to "protect" the Swedish Pentecostap Pastor Åke Green. He was aquitted by the Swedish Supreme Court.

If that doesn't satisfy the Dave Williams's of the world, nothing will.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 9:24pm GMT

Dave Williams does have a point about people not being sure about the application of the regs and having their worst nightmare come true (eg having to sell a Bible to a homosexual) and how we respond to people's genuine concerns.

However this would be better if a)the people concerned weren't so prone to going off on the deep end (and I would argue that its their theology which is swarping their judgment); b) the leadership of the groups concerned had a greater concern for truth and veracity, instead of playing to the gallery of people's worst fears (and jumping on any passing Daily Mail bandwagon).

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 10:16pm GMT

Craig,

My reading is that the exemptions are not that broad. Firstly because I read the exemptions they are for specificly named items relating to the regulations, secondly because they are relating in to a religious organisations doctrine -it will be interesting to see the courts determing that -maybe they can get a panel of TA experts to adjudicate :o) Thirdly because of the stated intent of the government to see such exemptions as limited (see previous comment.

As for the harrassment side of things which is not exempted, the regulations are subjective on that -this is something that is creeping in more and more -I think it's the same people drafting laws now that used to draft Student Union rules in the 90s! That's why a number of the reactions are quite realistic

Posted by: dave williams on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 10:39pm GMT

Goran,

The concern is not just about whether someone gets acquitted at the end but the affect of going through a lengthy legal process on someone. Maybe the Swedish legal process is a nicer one than the British and you sit around eating cream cakes and having a good old yarn? :o)

Craig, I agree the language in some cases is perhaps a bit intemperate -but it has been on here as well! Maybe they should employ a nice happy liberal from here to read their press releases for them and explain to them how that's going to be read by others. There again maybe they wouldn't have got an audience that way. I do agree with those posters who have talked about the affect of spin and the way we all seem to be shouting louder to get heard.

Posted by: dave williams on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 10:48pm GMT

Martin - right then! I have now read the NI version of the SOR. The following comments have to be read with the understanding that I am not a lawyer - I might consult m'learned friend at a later date.

My impression is that the regulations are, in fact, generous to faith groups. Any church, parachurch organisation, church-run charity or faith-based group can claim exemption from the regulations under section 16. The exceptions to this revolve around the education sector, and organisations whose sole or main function is trading.

To answer Coherent and Cohesive Voice, I would say:

"Force all schools to actively promote homosexual Civil Partnerships": No. This is dealt with by the National Curriculum, not SOR. It does mean, however, you can't expel a pupil for being gay.

"Force a printing shop run by a Christian to print fliers promoting gay sex". Barring an intervention by the vice squad, the print shop would transgress section 5(1).

"Force a family-run B&B to let out a double room to a transexual couple". Grey area. If the B&B advertised itself as a Christian retreat centre, they'd be in the clear. If they were a purely commercial concern, then not.

"Make it illegal for a heterosexual policeman, fireman or member of the Armed Forces to refuse to join a Gay Pride event". Illegal to refuse to attend the event in the normal course of their duties, or for the police and fire brigade to refuse to cover the event, yes. But to "join the event"? Insert Village People joke here.

I suppose the wider question is *why* would a Christian B&B owner want to discriminate against a transexual couple, or a Christian printer not print fliers for a gay group? I presume because they believe they would encourage sin - but is this particular sin any more wicked than any other form of extra-marital sex, or to be sure, any other form of sin? Would our putative printer only take jobs from other Christians? Would the B&B take only single singles and married heterosexual couples?

Did, in fact, Paul make certain he only sold tents to the sexually pure? Or Lydia dye cloth only intended for the backs those who eschewed Bacchanalian orgies? Scripture is curiously silent on this matter.

I'm banging up against the 400 word limit. As far as I can tell, the SOR will have little or no effect on the vast majority of self-identifying Christian churches and organisations. Those that it does affect really ought to get a clue.

Posted by: Simon Morden on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 11:17pm GMT

Dear Craig Nelson,

The point you are missing three key points. The first is, I am gay. I have a joyful disposition and you are hogging the meaning of the word for those who have same-sex desires. Secondly, there are plenty of Christians who have homosexual desires and attempt to be celibate because they know same-sex sex is wrong, and there are those with heterosexual desires who are unable to find partners who are also celibate. Thirdly, the Christian faith like other religions and in particular in this case the Anglican Communion, believes same-sex sex is incompatible with God’s purpose but that those with a homosexual orientation are fully loved by God and accepted in the church, as they always have been. You write as if somehow your view is the only one that can possibly be considered right. So yes as it stands if some see objections to same-sex sex as harassment and discrimination then that’s what it is.

Now as to churches running services that are discriminating, someone who needs some food or shelter isn’t going to be turned away because they might have same-sex desires, but you seem to be suggesting the church change its attitude on same-sex sex and run the services. Some churches which support same-sex sex run some services, and I think its admirable.

Now it was me DaveW and not Dave Williams who wrote " Alas the law...."
Your reply "The law was not unable to "protect" the Swedish Pentecostap Pastor Åke Green. He was aquitted by the Swedish Supreme Court. " He was sentenced and the appeal was upheld because of the fear the European Court would not uphold the Swedish court wanted to increase the sentence. He shouldnt have been sentenced in the first place.
Harry Hammond was beaten up and arrested.
You write " (and I would argue that its their theology which is swarping their judgment)"
Then please do so, please cite some scripture and then deal with the Anglican Communion theology already coming from the scripture I have cited.

Posted by: DaveW on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 11:18pm GMT

Craig Nelson and others:
Please be fair when we talk about this issue. Very few Christians who believe practising homosexuality is wrong, wouldn't want to sell Bibles to gays. Those who don’t need to read up on God’s love, for them and others. Any Christian who loves the Bible will want as many people to have it as possible, Christians and non Christians, Gay and straight, men and women etc ad infinitum.

I haven't seen much about the laws, so I can't comment on the interpretation, but please discuss the attitudes to the laws, not these ridiculous hyped up notions.

I don't fear homosexuals, or know anyone who does. I have acquaintances that are homosexual, and I would love to meet up and study the Bible with them. The gospel is for all people of all nations, and anyone can accept it by believing and trusting in Jesus' death on the cross in their place, and submitting to him as Lord. This is key, and includes their sexuality, morality and all aspects of their life. this isn’t to say they must be perfect, but they are to accept God’s rule over their life and to strive to follow his moral will.

What I wouldn't like is when I am doing say a grill a Christian in our hall bar, and give what I believe is clearly the Bible's response to homosexuality (read 'What God has made pure' by John Richardson, a brilliant £3 booklet available from the Good Book Company - to see a solid Biblical explanation), and to then get questioned, charged etc buy the police for homophobia.

This might well not happen, but it appears the interpretation is up for debate, and so this is what people are worried about.

I know that in the student world, CUs are getting kicked out because they wont let non-Christians lead, and yet the SUs accept that it would be wrong to force the Young Conservatives to have a Labour leader.

It seems in the age of tolerance (a word that surely implies putting up with people you’d rather not have to) tolerance of Christianity comes last. If Richard Dawkins wrote the Gay Delusion, and lambasted gays as idiots, then I wonder what the reaction would have been. Please say if you think this is unfair and I am constructing this ‘invisible enemy’ you talk of.

Grace and Peace,

Alex

Posted by: Alex Freeman on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 11:56pm GMT

There is this twist and that twist of the argument. No one is talking about same sex sex, or its support, or any such thing. It is about a couple identifying itself as gay and getting access to provisions and services regardless of what they do.

In the Anglican world this obsession with same sex sex used to be handled by a don't ask don't tell approach. That duplicity and dishonesty used to work especially when society was assumed to be discriminatory and indeed there was Clause 28 brought in operation. Whilst in the secular world Clause 28 was overturned and the society went right across to civil partnerships, in the Anglican world the move went the other way - for clergy - to same sex partner and no sex (do ask, do tell, come up with the right answer - or more duplicity please) and then don't even bother to answer because there are plenty of fundies who want to wreck even the previous compromises or they'll pull the money. This sets the tone for everyone. Plus a new emphasis on this thing called Anglican Communion internationally, and a daft position where those who are doing something to set a more honest tone in North America are being labelled as the outcasts.

So given that some religious institutions are not exactly on board, or are becoming a little obsessed with the secual act, the State is allowing them to peddle discrimination with their religious interpretations and rituals in their own space (so they continue banging away about Leviticus and mixing nylon and cotton - must be some mistake here, or first century orgies caused by idolatry) - but what they cannot do anymore is allow this expression in their narrow field of operation to spill over into actual discrimination among real people in the social world. Maybe, just maybe, it will be the start of getting rid of it within religious interpretations and expressions for all but the few who keep their same sex sex obsession.

Posted by: Pluralist on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 1:13am GMT

If we had more space for unlimited discussions it probably would be informative to hear more about how conservative believers participate in the goods of their LGBTQ friends/family while maintaining one or more of the legacy clobbers.

So far most of the USA evangelical/conservative believers I know have leaned more or less into several contrasting clusters or pathways: (1) I can support the non-sexual (and presumably straight meant) good parts of you, though I will always have my deep doubts and fears about all the embodied non-straight sexual parts of you; (2) don't ask, don't tell - unless you are repenting of not being straight, then some circumspect lamenting of your non-straight status is certainly allowed; (3)you can be yourself as long as you are properly hang-dog and apologetic about not being straight; (4) please be yourself, but moderate or restrain any tendencies you might spontaneously have to celebrate the good things too much - you are, after all, tainted and the Bible tells me so.

There may be other active, lived evangelical or conservative religious paths, especially outside the USA where I am presently confined by work and family.

My Kingdom Feast ideal still is: All are welcome. as per the parables where the pillars of the community decine, regretfully, and the dregs of the highways and byways get invited. Citizenship ideal? Those who provide public accommodations, particular involving public funds, must serve all without inequality of access or opportunity.

Posted by: drdanfee on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 2:09am GMT

If DaveW can keep *pounding away* at "same-sex sex" (I count 4 times on this thread thus far! :-0), then I think we here at TA enduring him, have a right to know exactly how much of a happy he's getting while doing so?

Al Franken (US progressive commentator) had a phrase for the ilk who published this ad: "Lies, and the Lying Liars who tell them". >:-(

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 3:43am GMT

drdanfee - read the parables - all are not welcome if you actually listen to JC's words

Posted by: NP on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 9:12am GMT

DaveW

Your attempts to put words in other peoples' mouths so you can claim the moral victory constantly amuse me.

I don't want "to stay well clear of anyone who doesn’t support same-sex sex."

I do want to stay clear of hate and violence mongerers, many of whom oppose same-sex sex. Mind you, I am also boycotting Elton John at the moment too, for trying to do "tit for tat".

The mistake that bullies make is thinking that if they are winning then other bullies are. Actually, there are souls out there who aren't interested in bullying, I think Jesus was rather a nice precedent. Don't you?

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 9:22am GMT

I think Simon Morden’s informed opinion on the Northern Ireland SORs is clear and concise.

It is interesting to see how nearly all those who commented on the regs in the consultation believed they needed to exist, one would hardly think that the case from what we have read in the newspapers so far!

The problem here is that to make a law that grants a licence to some to disobey its precepts is not good law.

Our earliest legal briefing from back when the first of these regs was vaunted was about how such licence was difficult to define and police. There was a clear problem of interpretation and particularly as the law attempts to deal with competing rights.

It mattered little where the exemptions started or ceased, there was always going to be a grey area and arguments over too much or too little protection from one side or the other.

This change in the law is right to place a fairly narrow (not narrow enough from some on my side!) set of circumstances under which people can act in a particular context that would be unlawful elsewhere. To have broadened the exemptions would, in our view, have made the law unworkable.

All law has to be tested in the courts and it is highly likely that the majority of cases that will come forward will not be from aggrieved gay people but from religious groups testing the boundaries. We must depend on the wisdom of the courts to narrow or widen how these regs will work out in practice.

In the case of Northern Ireland it is possible that once local government has been re-established these regs will not survive as they stand. We will watch such developments closely.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 10:52am GMT

Alex: "I don't fear homosexuals, or know anyone who does. I have acquaintances that are homosexual, and I would love to meet up and study the Bible with them."

This is not a test of whether you fear homosexuals. You are meeting them on your ground, with your rules, with your choice of activity.

Alternatively, you could go out for a drink with them. To a gay-friendly bar perhaps. Possibly get mistaken for a gay. Or a non gay-friendly bar if that's too much for you, and then stand shoulder to shoulder with your friend when the barman says "We don't serve your sort here."

You seem to see gays as God-fodder. I think you'll find they're people made in God's image. The Jesus I see in the Bible hung around with the whores, the drunks, the thieves, the terrorists. I suppose you know best, though.

Posted by: Simon Morden on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 12:05pm GMT

"It’s rather difficult to see what justification exists for most of these concerns. The Northern Ireland regulations are clear in providing religious bodies with an exemption from almost all the requirements placed on everybody else."

I think this misses the point that protections given to religious bodies are not given to individuals. The claim of 'harassment' could be brought against any individual (teacher etc) who expressed a view that upset someone. (Think Lynette Burrows who believes that a child deserves two opposite-sex parents where possible.)

Posted by: D O'Callaghan on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 12:07pm GMT

Well, I admit I was being facetious in my reference to selling Bibles. No doubt Bible sellers would be over the moon to sell Bibles and theology books to gays. Or then again maybe not.

Two questions however arise:

1. If the service providers in question are happy selling their wares without discrimination - where is the problem and why are they screaming blue murder?

2. After so much effort has been extended in keeping gays out of these premises how likely are they to want to frequent them?

These are things perhaps that should be more pondered on than responded to.

A final question might be, why these particular groups are so obsessed about being able to discriminate and harass - or put another way, what is it about these forms of religion, that over 2,000 years has invariably been tied up with such persecution and degradation.

Finally, I suspect we are seeing an attempt to resurrect section 28 - a law that didn't do anything but was a means of a certain section of the population (the same ones we are dealing with here as it happens) to spell out the inferiority of another section of the population, which has had nothing but persecution and defamation from that quater over the years.

It is because these attempts are really about resisting equal citizenship that we have to oppose them.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 12:56pm GMT

Simon,

Thanks for taking time to read the regulations -it perhaps allows for a more sensible discussion about interpretations!

Here is an interesting one for comment.

A Church excludes someone from membership because that person is homosexual -regardless of whether they are celibate or not

Question 1. Is that okay or not under the regulations?
Question 2. Is that what Evangelical Churches want to to?

My interpretation is that the regulations allow this -but as an Evangelical involved in teaching and preaching in church that's not what I would understand to be what churches want to do.

Question 3 An Evangelical Church, not wanting to exclude a homosexual from membership, nevertheless has strong views on sexual activity outside of the context of marriage. So the pastor goes and has a meeting with the relevant person to talk the issues through. The person then says "I feel harrassed" and makes a complaint. This is church pastoral care/discipline not exclusion at work. Is that exempted?

I wouldn't be too sure about the latter. Especially if it comes to the onus being on the church to prove that it is not victimising here. It would presumably then be helpful for the church, legally, to have very detailed policies/procedures on all the possible things that might come up within pastoral care. Would evidence need to be supplied that the pastor has spoken in the same way to all heterosexuals in the congregation? How would this affect pastoral confidentiality?

Posted by: dave williams on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 2:06pm GMT

" drdanfee - read the parables - all are not welcome if you actually listen to JC's words"

Posted by: NP on Thursday

Why not give the Wheat & the Tares a go Dave ?
I love swapping parables !

Posted by: laurence on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 2:11pm GMT

' I don't fear homosexuals, or know anyone who does.'

Quite so.

I do fear heterosexuals with very good reason, and know plenty of others who do.

When grilling it might be better to stick to the food, and not lgbt people.

As for the fear of arrest --many of us lived our lives with this fear -- and people still do in the 40 odd countries that still criminalise gay love, and the 12 or so which still execute us.

As for John Richardson's pamphlet .....

Posted by: laurence on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 2:20pm GMT

It is pure snobbery, this treatment of (largely) black pentecostals as 'a group calling itself CCV' (sniff, sniff).
We all know as well as I do that black pentecostals represent the biggest contingency of active Christians in London, so their figures may be accurate.
The fact that you or I have not heard of them does not make them unimportant: it is merely the result of moving in the limited circles that you (and no doubt also they) do move in, encompassing no more than one or two of the many Christian denominations.

The fact that we have or have not heard of them says more about us than it does about them.

I have often thought that there is a danger that the different denominations can be aligned to different 'classes' in our society. Pray God snobbery never enters the church.

As to their 'facts', they have at least accurately identified the direction in which things are going. That is: Ruth Kelly was looking like making decent concessions; now (as a very welcome Catholic hostage of the Labour party) she is making far fewer. So the Labour party can say: 'Look, even the Catholics now agree with us. This is now normal even for Catholics.' A bit like getting women to promote pornography: sending out a message that women in general approve of it.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 3:14pm GMT

The church has an exemption in terms of its central core religious activities. It is those activities which are either commercial or not directly religious where there will be no automatic exemption.

I think it extremely unlikely that gay people will want anything to do with evangelical churches in any case.

For once, wouldn't it be nice if churches could actually welcome legislation which assists gay people? Maybe then I might believe them in their claims not to be institutionally homophobic!

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 3:39pm GMT

Simon,

Fair point, but that is taking my point out of context. I was saying that not only would I want to sell them a Bible, I would love to invest time with them as a person and read it with them.
I do go to the hall bar with them, and chat to them as any other normal person. They are no more in need of forgiveness than anyone else. I don’t see the point of going to a gay bar if you aren’t gay, but I would of course stand up for them if they were getting abused for their sexuality.

Your last point is just plain crazy, I never said anywhere I wouldn’t hang out with them. Also why did Jesus come, Mark 2:17, He came for the sick, they are the ones who need a doctor. He came not to call the righteous but sinners. We are all sinners and so he came to call all of us, if we believe we are alright without Jesus then we are self righteous and have no want for a saviour.
Jesus hung out with those marginalised in society to show them love, but his primary aim in all his ministry on earth was to preach, so that people would repent and believe, Mark 1:38, 15.
At the end of this he died on a cross to take the punishment for our sins, and rose to defeat death and Satan. We can now have our sins forgiven through him, and will be raised with him to eternal life.

I don’t see people as God fodder, but I do recognise that people’s greatest need is a relationship with the living God that lasts for eternity, for all things in this life will perish. We have to meet people’s practical needs too, and this is important, but what is most important is our heavenly destiny. This is made clear in Mark 10:42-50, when Jesus talks about being prepared to cut off limbs, as better is being without them than not going to heaven.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t talk and care about those who are uninterested in Christianity, but that I recognise that it is all people’s greatest need. Regardless of their response I try to love and serve them, but this doesn't mean I have to condone any part of their lifestyles.

Posted by: Alex Freeman on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 4:18pm GMT

Merseymike,

I hope that we will show a bit more respect rather than just welcome legislation in order to appear less homophobic.

I must admit, I generally flinch at the idea of welcoming legislation -especially when you look at the way it seems to be drafted these days.

Let's me honest the pink pound is big business these days. Something tells me that it's the lawyers who are really going to look at this legislation and think "Payday" You probably don't want advise from an Evangelical but personally I would say the people you want to watch out for are the legal firms who suddenly develop an interest in gay rights!

Posted by: dave williams on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 4:32pm GMT

Laurence,

You leave your comment on John Richardson's pamphlet unfinished. Is it Biblically inaccurate, or what? Please say what you approve or disprove of.

The Grill a Christian, clearly refers to us getting the grilling, not the audience. It is just a chance to ask questions about what Christians believe. The question of sexuality very often arises, and it has been great to see people lovingly discussing it afterwards, even though they both disagree.

It is terrible that you have to live in fear of people, and the threat of prison or death. This shouldn't be allowed. There should be freedoms for individuals to live according to how they choose, without endangering other people, or unduly offending them. Homosexuals in the world today are clearly often in terrible situations. This should be changed to be more reasonable (i.e.: more like here in the UK). I do believe though that the attitude in this country, if not the laws, do often relegate my rights to hold to my beliefs, below yours to life out your sexuality. We should be free to disagree with each other, without any disagreement constituting abuse.

Hopefully soon their will be no need to fear persecution from anyone, and you will be free to not fear those who can only kill the body, but fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell, as said in Matthew 10:28.

Grace and Peace

Alex

Posted by: Alex Freeman on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 4:34pm GMT

Drdanfee,

Even those who turned up to the feast had to change their clothes -all of them. I think the problem hear is that we are dividing the world into "Straight and Gay" and that's the wrong division. Better to say that there are

1. People who are very aware of their sin but also learning about God's grace and his ability to transform them
2. People who see everyone elses sin but their own
3. People who are concerned about sin but don't realise/believe/agree that a specific thing is a sin -but are prepared to find out whether it is or isn't and respond to that
4. People who don't realise something is a sin and would be happier not knowing whether it is or isn't
5. People who agree that something is a sin in terms of what the Bible teaches but are going to do it anyway and so will decide their faith views in relation to that.

And I'm not sure that the boundaries are all that clear cut or fixed. We probably move in and out of them on different issues. For all my wanting to think I'm in box 1 I probably end up in box 2 more often than not!

You can probably add more boxes but if you do then try to follow the same principle -that these boxes apply both to homosexual and heterosexual people.

Posted by: dave williams on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 4:44pm GMT

In response to the three questions about the regs from Dave Williams.

Q1 and Q2 are, I think quite easily disposed of.

Q3 is a little more complex. However in my view there isn't much of a chance that a person will be able to successfully win a case.

Firstly because the harassment clause says you have to take into account the perception of the allged victim of harassment, BUT that this has to be seen as being reasonable in all the circumstances.

Now the law has already admitted that some institutions have a problem around the gay issue because of the exemptions in these and the 2003 regs which specifically mention doctrinal reasons - it must therefore be legal to explain the doctrine to people who ask for such an explanation (eg by seeing their pastor to talk about spiritual matters ie a discussion about the doctrines of that particular church).

This is the complete opposite of, for example, being harassed by your employer - in the case of religion you have chosen to go to a church with certain teachings and presumably an interest in finding out about them (if only so you can work out that you made a mistake and chose the wrong religion!!).

So broadly speaking, churches will be able to operate as they currently do.

One other factor is that interpreting these regs the Courts will give precedence to the Human Rights Act, with particular regard to the freedom of religion, association and expression and will either interpret them in line with the HRA or if necessary strike them down (as they can do with secondary legislation). Never forget the effect of the HRA. By the way the more ludicrous claims of evangelicals would in any case be protected against by the HRA and it would only take one case to establish a precedent.

Whether all churchly anti-gay acts are covered is however another matter. I remember being told in an open church sermon "they're not gay they're queer and we hate them" (they then went on to pray for the death of City Council members who were perceived as being too pro-gay - but that's another story).

Now this may well still constitute harassment under the legislation - especially if, as most churches do, they have a sign at the door saying "All are welcome".

Ultimately I would welcome - and so should the church - some legal restraint on the worst excesses of such churches.

But on the whole, and as most churches operate, they will find no difficulty.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 5:03pm GMT

Dave Williams:

"A Church excludes someone from membership because that person is homosexual -regardless of whether they are celibate or not

Question 1. Is that okay or not under the regulations?"

As far as I can tell, churches' membership is a matter for the church, and is therefore exempt.

"Question 2. Is that what Evangelical Churches want to to?"

I'd have to ask each and every self-identifying evangelical church to answer this question fully. But in my limited experience, sadly yes.

"Question 3 An Evangelical Church, not wanting to exclude a homosexual from membership, nevertheless has strong views on sexual activity outside of the context of marriage. So the pastor goes and has a meeting with the relevant person to talk the issues through. The person then says "I feel harrassed" and makes a complaint. This is church pastoral care/discipline not exclusion at work. Is that exempted?"

Yes, up to the point that the pastor's pastoral care turns into hectoring and threatening - which I trust it never would. When we invite people - even people who have our spiritual care - into our homes, we expect to be treated civilly and respectfully. We can disagree, we can get cross, but we don't consent to be harrassed, whatever the matter involved.

Alex:

Apologies if I read more into your post than was there. Nuances in the written word are often in the eye of the beholder. I agree with the main sentiments behind your post, but no one is asking you to condone any particular lifestyle - Christians (we Christians all) too often confuse what God will judge with what we want to judge.

Posted by: Simon Morden on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 5:32pm GMT

Dave ; I want legal equality and protection against discrimination. Who is opposing this. Evangelicals!

To be frank, I have no interest in being evangelical, as I think its an utterly wrong-headed and essentially unpleasant philosophy. I see no reason why those of that religion should have any right to impose their discriminatory beliefs upon me. Its not as if I am trying to do anything other than ensure that you cannot discriminate.

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 5:37pm GMT

Alex ; you are free to hold your beliefs, but you should not be free to discriminate in terms of the offering of goods and services to gay and lesbian people. We are not proposing to do the same to you, as much as I think a nation entirely free of evangelical religion would be infinitely preferable.

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 5:40pm GMT

Coming from a tribe of proud (often very arrogant and pernickety if loveable) legislative draftsman - this was something very like their mantra
“legislation -especially when you look at the way it seems to be drafted these days.”.

These regs are not bad, not bad at all.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 5:53pm GMT

Martin,

Reading them as someone who read Law and has worked in industry with regulations I have to say they are awful!

Simon,

Thanks for your response.

The crunch for question 3 is who decides when that pastor crosses the line? The reality is that anyone who has someone tell them that something is a sin is going to feel victimised. So I would say it is highly probably that this would seem to fall outside of the exemptions.

The reality is that if we are honest, we are very good at finding every excuse not to hear our conscience or the discipline of others. Someone can be spoken to about a completely seperate issue and decide that the real issue is something specific to themselves that makes them a victim.

Therefore I would say that there is a reasonable probability that someone is going to use these regulations to claim victimisation with all the consequences I mentioned in my previous post.

Posted by: dave williams on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 7:00pm GMT

And here is the irony. When it comes to my second question in my list, we are agreed that churches will be able to exclude from membership celibate people who are homosexually orientated. And I look at that option as a conservative evangelical and say "But that goes against everything that the Bible teaches" I look at the regulations and find out that I can refuse to sell a Bible to a man because of his sexual orientation, which I wouldn't want to do, but I might also be brought to court because I have a book on display on homosexuality. So the law fails to protect homosexuals and allows people to do all the things that actually very conservative Christians think shouldn't be done. At the same time it does appear to put restrictions on the issues that generally relate to beliefs. That's why I say these regulations are badly drafted.

Posted by: dave williams on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 7:06pm GMT

Dave Williams

Jesus' comment about the person not dressed in wedding clothes makes a presumption that the soul had the wherewithall to get hold of wedding clothes. If had been under a rabbi at the time, he would have been rebuked for lack of hospitality.

http://www.wdcmedia.com/newsArticle.php?ID=2338
This article takes the dynamic of endorsing a lack of hospitality to its logical conclusion.

My personal comment on its recommnendations was that the model of puritanical marriages only would be fine, if men played their part. But men are abrogating their responsibilities and then telling women and others that they can not do the right thing, because they don’t have a fair playing male partner. Who are the men to throw stones when they don’t work to keep their own house in order? This ideology leads to the absurd conclusion that the men would refuse women the right to be good Samaritans???? Or GLBTs for that matter too?

So it is better to have homeless children than allow them hospitality with "unsuitables". Why don't you just make the "unsuitables" homeless and second class citizens too - to prove they can't be good samiritans and provide safe shelter for either themselves and others?

Oh, sorry. I forgot, that's been going on for centuries...

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 7:31pm GMT

"It is pure snobbery, this treatment of (largely) black pentecostals as 'a group calling itself CCV' (sniff, sniff). "

Umm. doesn't this overlook the cultural presuppositions of many Afro-Caribbeans (is that term still OK, round here the culturally alien tend to be them from across the river Humber)?

An argument could be made that to quote people from backgrounds where homosexuality is culturally abhorrent and use them as indicators of reasoned argument is a little akin to trying to get a reflective assessment of the Civil Rights movement in 1960's Northern Ireland from a member of the Orange Lodge.

I do not charge the signatories with bigotry, but raise the possibility that they are speaking culturally, rather than religiously (if that is an acceptable distinction). Consequently, I think we are right to treat such lists with some caution.

Posted by: mynsterpreost on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 7:35pm GMT

Craig,

Thanks for your generous intepretation of the regulations. But do you see that. It is just that a generous intepretation -that doesn't amount to a protection in law. It amounts to you and me sitting at a table and saying "Hello look at how we can read these in the most favourable or the most pessemistic light."

The example you gave of a person saying "We hate gays" and then praying for their death might be seen as breaking existing laws if it was inciting violence.

On the other hand -there's plenty of people around happy to say they hate Evangelical Christians -that's something to take on the chin!

Posted by: dave williams on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 8:47pm GMT

There are a substantial number of conservative evangelical churches that do not accept homosexual people at all. You will find that a large number of those who paid for the Times advert figure amongst these.

We are constantly dealing with the traumas caused by churches that call homosexual people to repentance and amendment of life, meaning be transformed by God’s healing power into heterosexuals. They use brainwashing, “reparative” therapy, daily prayer sessions and laying on of hands, and frequently exorcism - to expel the evil spirit of homosexuality. They, any more that we, do not create this false separation between being a homosexual and having a loving sexual partnership.

Indeed if you read the responses from a large part of the Global South after the consecration of Gene, they have no idea of there being a separation.

We see the results of this in the disasters it brings to peoples lives and occasionally find ourselves forcibly exorcised into the bargain.

The Catholic Church calls the homosexual person “intrinsically disordered” – it seems pretty clear that none of these people would agree with Dave Williams’ view, and they are probably the majority of Anglicans and Christians in the world.

It was the protection of the HRA that allows religions to go on being homophobic to its own members – the regs could do nothing about it. It is one of the problems that will have to be addressed in the future, but it was not within the competence of this legislation to set these people free.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 9:30pm GMT

Dave Williams: "The crunch for question 3 is who decides when that pastor crosses the line? The reality is that anyone who has someone tell them that something is a sin is going to feel victimised. So I would say it is highly probably that this would seem to fall outside of the exemptions."

As far as I know, it has never been right for a pastor to harrass one of their congregation - in this respect, the law will not change.

We also need to remember that the SOR is civil code, not criminal. The police cannot be called, they have no power of arrest, there is no prospect of an interview under caution.

Cheryl: your link made for very uncomfortable reading. The outcomes for children in the care system are very poor, yet this man is content that the Christian thing to do is to leave them there until a perfect nuclear family comes along and rescues them. Jesus had harsh words for those who cause harm to kids.

Regarding the treatment of CCV. It's certainly not 'coz they is black. Equal opprobrium can be heaped at the LCF's door. The CCV have argued their case poorly, used examples which could not be true, used hyperbolic language, and used God's name to further their own cause. Since this is the first time most of us have heard of the CCV, the advert is all we have to go on. Pray tell, what are we supposed to think?

Posted by: Simon Morden on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 10:15pm GMT

Well, Dave - there's a simple answer.No exceptions at all. That would make the regulations a lot more straightforward. After all, gay and lesbian people clearly need protection from discrimination, so if it causes problems to have exemptions, lets not bother.

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 10:43pm GMT

Martin,

I'm not sure if we are talking at cross purposes here because the majority of churches and church networks I know would accept someone who was homosexually orientated. They would however beleive that the person should change aspects of their behaviour. There would be a cross section in terms of those who believe that a homosexually orientated person can be "re-orientated" and those who do not. There would also be a variety of views on nature, nurture and free choice and their impact.

Within that there will be plenty of bad examples of people who have faced questionable exorcisms from certain types of churches -incidently those churches would not be "discriminating" against homosexuals they would have a general approach to evil spirits and exorcisms that would affect across the board. No doubt there's someone waiting round the corner to cast the demon of exclusitivity out of me and of the internet out of all of us.

I still don't think you've told me who "We" are. It remains a mystery and one I'm not comfortable with. I'd prefer to be talking individual to individual here as that's kind of what I was expecting

Posted by: dave williams on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 11:54pm GMT

Merseymike,

Or we could have no regulations at all! Leave it down to two things

1. Use the criminal law to protect people against any threatening or violent behaviour
2. Allow people to get on with life in their private domain with their own private prejudices! You don't want to visit Evangelical churches, someone else doesn't want to sell cricket balls to Austrailians. There'll always be someone to provide the service you need!
3. Churches to work on rooting out prejudices
4. Others to accept that Christians who beleive that certain things are right and wrong are not prejudiced/phobic because of it

Posted by: dave williams on Friday, 1 December 2006 at 12:00am GMT

One of the DW's wrote: "On the other hand -there's plenty of people around happy to say they hate Evangelical Christians - that's something to take on the chin!"

So w h y is it that you do not embrace this new legislation?

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Friday, 1 December 2006 at 7:41am GMT

We are not at cross purposes here Dave.

You are talking out of your limited experience of a group of churches in England (?), I am talking about the wider Christian Church in the UK and the world.

As to the group you mention, let me refer you to the “insider” Mark Greene, who heads the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity. He has challenged most of those churches with the model you describe for promising a welcome and safe space for “celibate gays” – but not actually providing one!

These regs can do nothing to help these beleaguered Christians, WE however can and do on a daily basis, it is a deeply moving experience to deal with those who call.

To know more about WE just click on my name and it will help you, that is the protocol here. Interestingly when I click on your name it takes me precisely nowhere ……. enough said.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 1 December 2006 at 7:54am GMT

But dear DWs, this is the present state of affairs: the principle of Ordre public, made law by the Treaty of Westphalia. the 20th century proved it inadequate – that is, industrial scale persecutions and killings proved it inadequate.

My answers to your points:
1. It doesn’t.
2.a. This legislation does precisely that.
b. Only a 20th century style dictatorship (Theonomy) would force me.
c. Illegal only if they act upon it,
d. This is neo-liberalism. A quick road to Anarchy. Immoral.
3. Ha! ha! – give that one to +Akinola.
4. A certain kind of “Christians” to accept that being prejudiced/phobic is not “believing that certain things are right and wrong”.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Friday, 1 December 2006 at 7:57am GMT

No, Dave, we need regulations because people are being discriminated against in the public sphere, and that is unacceptable. We are not talking about private domains, but public goods and services.

Posted by: Merseymike on Friday, 1 December 2006 at 10:57am GMT

Martin,

Thanks for pointing out the error in the link to my blog via my name which is hopefully corrected now. And thanks also for the gracious way in which you did this.

I don't just tend to click on links on pages unless I know what they are about! It is reasonable protocol when talking about "we" to say who "We" are. Not to right by name and then use "We" unless you are a royal family.

It is also reasonable protocol not to make assumptions about the width or narrowness of someone's knowledge of churches especially someone who has been sat at breakfast with an African Church leader this morning!!!

You have also failed to acknowledge that I am not sat here saying that Evangelicals get everything right. We (as in conservative evangelical churches) ARE constantly challenging ourselves on the inside as per the Mark Greene example that you mention. Mark is not a lone voice in that respect. It seems in that respect, you completely ignored my middle paragraph!

Posted by: dave williams on Friday, 1 December 2006 at 12:36pm GMT

I'd love to have freedom of religion, myself. But when have lgbt people ever had t h a t ?

This legislation is very good as far as it goes--but it will not bring freedom of religion of gay people. They haven't even begun to consider our religious & spiritual needs.

( As gay people we are free to take care the religious , spirtual, pastoral, temporal needs of heterosexual society -- and by God we do !)

For the majority to say, "What about you ?" has been a long time coming (like the Slavery apology) ---- and still there are those in The Times and elsewhere who seek our harm-- to do us HARM, and not good. Ans till we don't take to the streets, attack,burn, kill --why are we (gays) SO longsuffering ?


Posted by: laurence on Friday, 1 December 2006 at 5:01pm GMT

To whom it may concern,

I am ver concerned at the victimisation of people with the first name "Dave" and a surname beginning with "W". There are many other people with similar names. For example there are people with the name "Simon" However some people feel that it is alright to persistantly take the mickey out of the name "Dave" by pretending to find it confusing that two people can have the same name. They even refuse to treat us as individuals insisting on labelling us with the same surname. I would like to be protected in law against this discrimination.

Yours Faithfully

Dave Williams :o)

Posted by: dave williams on Friday, 1 December 2006 at 5:35pm GMT

DaveW and Dave Williams

My heart goes out to both of you as people often reply and use the wrong name. I now make a point of scrolling up to make sure I am using the correct name. Made even harder when the two of you do not necessarily agree so being told that you had said what would have been the opposite of what you would have said must be particularly annoying.

I would ask the regular posters to be aware of this risk and to undertake similar efforts to consider both of your feelings.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Friday, 1 December 2006 at 8:50pm GMT

Simon

Thanks for reading the article. It was frightening to see that people can take their theology to that conclusion. It is so like Sodom and Gommorah, it is okay to withhold justice and mercy in order to maintain our elevated status.

My brain has been cogitating for a day or so. That article along with the threats that have been made that precipitated this thread are damning.

It appears there are people who are quite prepared to with hold the essentials of life and mercy to particular groups. That is their choice. But there are some who would then deny others the rights to show compassion and mercy. Further, they will go so far as to with hold compassion and mercy to all souls if they get wind that anyone else is going to help the souls that they have refused to help.

"We aren't going to help them, and damn you if you would do it instead!"

How hateful.

There is also the fractal pattern that selective treatment has not been confined to church activity. We have nations that regularly apply sanctions or selectively give AID (irregardless of the impact of the populations of the nations to which sanctions are applied). All in order to preserve their elevated status. There has been a theology/philosophy that this is okay, it is the "right" of the imperialist to decree who can and can not live with dignity...

Sweetened with the platitude that God will look after them in heaven (or they are going to burn in hell because God obviously doesn't love them). This is a form of self-idolatry - by nations, churches and/or individuals.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Friday, 1 December 2006 at 9:00pm GMT

Merseymike,

Then the best way to work the regulations would be to deal specifically with the public sphere. If there are examples of homosexual people being turned down for housing benefit, not being able to get essential services to their homes, being denied access to education, refused healthcare, then that is absolutely dreadful. I would certainly want to write personally to the relevant service providers myself and register my protest

Posted by: dave williams on Friday, 1 December 2006 at 9:38pm GMT

Cheryl,

Thanks -it can get confusing sometimes. You're halfway into defending yourself and then you realise that isn't actually your position -it's the other persons!

Posted by: dave williams on Friday, 1 December 2006 at 11:17pm GMT

But - to add an early seasonal note to this light chat - no letter of complaint to the B&B that tells me, my partner, confused mother and our children there is "No room in the Inn" for you! - on a cold and frosty night:
"We are Christians!"

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 1 December 2006 at 11:25pm GMT

So, Dave, if religious groups choose to enter into the public sphere, they too will be affected. Their directly private/church activities are not covered - they are exempt - but anything they provide which classes as 'goods or services' is not.

You can't have it both ways.If you wish to contribute to civil society, then you cannot discriminate against members of that society in the services you provide.

Posted by: Merseymike on Saturday, 2 December 2006 at 1:12am GMT

Thanks Martin !

Yes, my partner and his bedridden 100 year old grandmother, & I were once threatened with eviction form our home --a tied house, as part of throwing me out of my church post. The campaign agaisnt us failed, but the trauma and emotional cost was incalculable.

In the end she died and we left.

Isn't Churchianity wonderful ?!

Posted by: laurence on Saturday, 2 December 2006 at 1:43am GMT

'Catholic Herald : Gay rights law threatens Catholic adoption agencies

It’s rather difficult to see what justification exists for most of these concerns'

The BBC World Service News is full of yet another american RC diocese having to pay $ millions to compenate, for the child abuse of their priests, down the decades.

This is an aspect of the reality of real church life and sexual life,behind the effronted tones of sanctimonious headline in the RC papers, and those of Vincent Nicholls of Birmingham. Greater realism, self knowledge and humility is necessary from the RC denomination ---like all the others need to.

But no--- Tomorrow they'll be telling us how to run our lives again,and manipulating the Governement, oblivious of their own whopping planks

Posted by: laurence on Saturday, 2 December 2006 at 1:53am GMT

Exactly.I should think it only a benefit if the Catholic Church removes itself from anything to do with children, given their record!

Posted by: Merseymike on Saturday, 2 December 2006 at 3:46pm GMT

Mersymike

I think that is going too far. If we were to ban any group that had ever had any member do anything wrong by children, then no one would be qualified to look after children. Even mothers and fathers can do the wrong thing by their own child.

Better to set the standard of how we want children (and adults) to be treated and then hold each other to account for meeting that standard.

Those who sin are those who should be punished. Guilt by association is a doomed paradigm. It is the premise used to justify mistreatment against GLBTs, women, particular institutions or offices, ethnic groups, other races. It inevitably leads to some form of xenophobic thinking and self-righteous complacency.

Better to know that we are all at risk of sinning, take steps to recognise how things can go wrong and what can be done to identify, mitigate and avoid problems.

I was reading a Jewish article the other day and they commented that it is rare for the Torah to refer to the God of ___ while ___ is still alive. Because while the soul still lives there is the risk of sinning to the point of mitigating all the worthy works up until that point (the converse also holds true). The beauty of this tradition, is that it acknowledges the vulnerability of making mistakes that is within all of us, and makes us more compassionate to others as we realise that "there but for the grace of God could go I". It also stops us mistepping into a delusional belief that membership to a particular cliche or coterie with back-slapping by our colleagates means we are above judgment.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Saturday, 2 December 2006 at 8:29pm GMT
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