Friday, 8 December 2006
Getting Equal: progress report
According to the Independent this morning, in Kelly rejects call to extend Ulster gay rights to the rest of Britain:
A row has broken out in the Cabinet over how far the Government should go in outlawing discrimination against gays, lesbians and bisexuals.
Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland Secretary, has pushed through regulations in the province that will be tougher than the Government plans for England, Wales and Scotland. He has defied a call by Ruth Kelly, the Cabinet minister responsible for equality, to hold fire until a common approach has been agreed…
Meanwhile, the Tablet has a news report (only available to subscribers) about what the RC bishops in Northern Ireland said, and a leader column which you can read in full here: When tone matters.
According to Anglican Mainstream government telephones are besieged with phone calls from people concerning these proposals.
The Lawyers Christian Fellowship has published a press release concerning a survey of public opinion which it commissioned, and another press release summarising their view of progress: Opinion Poll Results Show Widespread Opposition To Sors; Annulment Of Sors Sought In Commons And Lords
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on
Friday, 8 December 2006 at 4:08pm GMT
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Just one thing is necessary here - scroll down to the bottom of the page and see the actual questions used - I think I would have answered yes to them myself, put like that.
The Lawyers Christian Fellowship's poll asked:
"Any law requiring people to promote homosexual practice should be applied selectively so as to ensure that people with strong religious beliefs are not forced to act against their conscience".
If you ask a skewed question, you will get a skewed response.
The Sexual Orientation Regulations in N.I. describe themselves as an "Equality Act", and I do not see them "promoting homosexual practice", merely giving equal rights.
If I follow the LCF's logic - if a customer of my business happens to be a Christian, that means I am "promoting the practice of Christianity". I don't think so.
I'm sorry, but I have little respect for the Lawyers Christian Fellowship if they are prepared to twist the facts so badly to suit their case. Hopefully those making the decisions in government will see through this thinly veiled charade of a poll.
Would any of the following that Jimbo ignored be considered as skewed questions?
Question: "The law should not discriminate against religious groups in order to promote gay rights".
Results: Agree 66% ___________________________ Disagree 28%
Question: "The Government should do more to protect traditional family and marriage values and less to promote gay and lesbian lifestyle".
Results: Agree 57% ___________________________ Disagree 38%
Question: "The Government should not legislate to promote one moral view over another".
Results: Agree 56% ___________________________ Disagree 38%
try reversing one of the questions and see what answers you get.
"The law should not discriminate against gay people in order to promote religious groups"
I suspect that the vast majority of people polled would also have said "yes" to this question. So the poll proves very little indeed.
"The Government should not legislate to promote one moral view over another"
But what about "The Government SHOULD legislate to ensure that no one moral view is promoted over another"?
Again - I'd suspect that there would be strong support for such a view.
"The Government should do more to protect traditional family and marriage values and less to promote gay and lesbian lifestyle"
This is just a nonsense question, playing to public prejudices and ignorance. It hints that "traditional family and marriage values" are being disadvantaged in favour of "gay and lesbian lifestyles". But the whole purpose of the legislation is not to favour one over the other, but to create equality.
If the people behind these questions are lawyers, heaven help our legal system!
The problem is, David, that you have NOT reversed the questions.
Nobody is asking the government to promote any religious group, or to legislate to enshrine discrimination against anyone else.
The objection is to a set of regulations which will criminalise a number of religious groups, on the basis of their beliefs and teaching on personal morality.
These regulations are being introduced by a government too craven to defend them in parliamentary debate, in an underhand manner which prevents amendment or even discussion in the House of Commons.
The SORs are being introduced by Peter Hain in Northern Ireland in an unseemly rush, so as to get them on the statute book before the NI Assembly has a chance to debate them in April. What a democrat he is!
In order to make sure that the SORs are complied with, the government has appointed as Equality Commissioners, with powers to investigate and prosecute, a series of campaigners with no obvious qualifications for a quasi-judicial task other than their commitment to the New Labour agenda.
The government talks a great deal about democracy and the rule of law, but the SORs illustrate amply the confusion and corruption at the heart of New Labour, and the charlatan who leads them into war.
The whole principle of the European Convention on Human Rights is that no one group should be able to impose its morals on others: but this is exactly what the government, in a conniving and underhand way, is doing in introducing its SORs. It is doing so with the full force of the criminal law at its disposal in the police state which it is creating.
This government has created more statutory criminal offences per annum than any previous administration in English history. It is now turning its attention to controlling religion, in the intrusive, hectoring, sectarian spirit in which it approaches everything else.
If the people behind these questions are lawyers, heaven help our legal system!
I believe that in the middle mediaeval period theology ceased from being the apogee of the academic world and was replaced by the study of law. Presumably it was found to be more profitable....
As an old barrister mate of mine said, "Of course he was guilty. But I still got him off."
Trouble is Alan Marsh, that he did reverse the questions, but that you don't accept that he did.
What the ones see as (a good start at) levelling the field, the others see as a disadvantage to their mission.
However, it is the State and the European Convention on Human Rights that decides over this.
Rend à César!
The government have not suggested that any group should be discriminated against.
The law aims to prevent gay and lesbian people being discriminated against in the receipt of goods and services.
I am afraid that if you wish to have the right to impose your morals on others in the pubic sphere, then that is tantamount to saying your morals are superior to mine. I don't agree. I don't consider your position to be in the least moral.
You will have discretion within your churches, but not in every circumstance and that is likely to be the case even under Kelly's rules (as she has had to concede). You are entitled to hold your prejudiced and bigoted views, just as are racists, but not impose them on others outside your own environments. It is you - not me - who wishes to discriminate on the grounds of receiving goods and services.
Not a "disadvantage" to any church's mission, Goran, but a very real threat of criminal prosecution to Christians for living and working according to Christian teaching.
Just like the Swedish state's regulations.
Well, marturein means witnessing, question being what one is bearing witness to...
Alan Marsh : "a very real threat of criminal prosecution to Christians for living and working according to Christian teaching"
1. The regs in question are civil not criminal
2. We're talking about action over discrimination not over being a Christian (unless the two are consubstantial).
3. The Swedish case was entirely different and concerned a law about the incitement to hatred (as I understand it), which was a criminal law:
From BBC website - 'In the sermon, Mr Green told a congregation on the small south-eastern island of Oland that homosexuals were "a deep cancer tumour on all of society" and that gays were more likely than other people to rape children and animals.'
But that's a different debate, because we do need to have an incitement law in Britain as well. In my view the Swedish Supreme Court may have erred in its interpretation of human rights law, given the comments that Mr Green made.
I'm intrigued to realise that living and working according to some christians means discriminating against gay men and lesbians.
But of course, they are not homophobic...
It is extremely unclear what the Church of Sweden witnesses to these days which is any different from the liberal ideology of the Swedish state. There is not much evidence of martyrdom among its clergy.
Hmmmmmmmm. If I were to be fined or imprisoned for refusing to obey the SORs I think I would view it as criminal.
The proposed more equal playing field provisionally envisioned in the new regulations does help expose the underlying exclusively straight privileges in question - legacy privleges to negatively define non-straight folks, along with legacy privileges to put non-straight folks at some one or more disadvantages that are obviously not so mandated for straight folks.
Funny that you should be exclusively straight, or have to pretend you are anguished and overtly sorry for not being exclusively straight - in order to get food from a conservative church run soup kitchen, sleep overnight in a shelter, or get help with other services when you might be down and out. What's next on this slippery slope of special believer public business privileges to deny help to neighbors in God's name till the neighbor wilts under disenfanchisement and caves in (or pretends to cave in?) to get his/her hands on a cup of cold water?
The challenge continues: Shall any conservative believer actually be able to explain a legacy negative that is not partly or wholly dependent on received, false prejudices about non-straight citizens? How is it that believers start with a clobber passage from scripture, and inevitably end up with a special, conscientiously privileged boot in a non-straight citizen's face - as their innate privilege of special ethical and religious conscience?
Well, Alan, if your desire is to discriminate against people who have done nothing to deserve such treatment in what is a society where we are all supposed to be equal citizens, then you only have yourself to blame for any consequences.
No Blacks,No Irish, the notices used to say...you and your mob clearly think that is a sound enough principle as long as you can choose the victims.
How about 'NO Christians'? Like the sound of that?
Again (once more with feeling)
The regs do not (as for the most part discriminatiuon law in the UK does not) allow for criminal proceedings, so nobody will be imprisoned in connection with the sexual orientation regulations.
There's this big obsession with Sweden - if someone got imprisoned on account of a breach of the criminal law (but since been released on account of a judgment of the Supreme Court) then we're all headed to jail. A little exaggerated?
Just a reminder - the UK is a separate jurisdiction (well several jurisdictions if you count Northern Ireland and Scotland as separate); we are not an administrative province of Sweden. Well, not yet anyway, though I must say it's a wonderful thought.
"Funny that you should be exclusively straight, or have to pretend you are anguished and overtly sorry for not being exclusively straight - in order to get food from a conservative church run soup kitchen, sleep overnight in a shelter, or get help with other services when you might be down and out."
- Pure invention which has nothing to do with the SORs or the Churches in the UK.
- Pure invention which has nothing to do with the SORs or the Churches in the UK.
Which potential incidents would worry you in that case? And what was the Bishop of Rochester talking about when he said that the law may force 'Christian' charities to shut down?
Craid, do you really imagine that someone fined either £5,000 or even 50p for an alleged breach of these regulations is going to pay the fine? Or conform to what they consider an immoral law? Those who refuse to pay fines or obey injunctions go to prison.
Then don't break them, Alan. Or do you think discriminating against people is a moral thing to do?
I guess that what the Bishop of Rochester meant was that some Christian charities, e.g. those dealing with adoption, will no longer have discretion to act according to Christian conscience but be forced to choose between the government's diktat, or close down rather than face prosecution, fines, etc.
The SORs will also impact massively on Church schools, both state and public, where demands will be made for the school to conform its teaching to the government regulations, or face fines imposed on teachers and governors.
Just two "for instances". Many more will emerge once the activists running the Equality Commission get their government funding.
"Those who refuse to pay fines or obey injunctions go to prison. "
Fine Good Splendid!
Then the stand up for what they belive. Commendable.
Turn it round, then, Goran. If the SORs prohibited any public expression of or approval of homosexuality, would it be Fine Good and Splendid as more and more members of this minority were fined and imprisoned?
Why should one community have power like this over another?
Dear Alan March,
"Being" and "objecting" to being are not symmetrical, not the same thing but 2 different.
You are mixing them.
But the SOR's do not say anything about Christianity, nor your right to believe or say anything, Alan.
Simply that you cannot discriminate in the public sphere with regard to the provision of goods and services
Is that so hard to understand - or put into practice? You simply have to treat people fairly if you provide a public service. You can be as nasty and bigoted in your own church as ever!
Not at all: the SORs will require Christians and Christian communities to act against deeply held beliefs and conscience. What we believe is what we are.
'Turn it round, then, Goran. If the SORs prohibited any public expression of or approval of homosexuality, would it be Fine Good and Splendid as more and more members of this minority were fined and imprisoned?
Why should one community have power like this over another?'
(Posted by: Alan Marsh on Monday, 11 December )
Gay men have been fined and imprisoned up, until quite recently, in Britain.
I have myself, and most lgbt poeple have wondered long and hard,'Why should one community have power like this over another?'
"... the SORs will require Christians and Christian communities to act against deeply held beliefs and conscience"
Correction:it will require some Christians, etc. Some of us welcome this legislation and abhor the way in which the Christian faith is being muckraked into a controversy which seems to have a lot to say about men's willies and absolutely s*d all about the morality of replacing the UK's 'nuclear deterrent'.
No, Alan. You are saying, then, that you should have the right to discriminate against gay men and lesbians in arenas which have nothing to do with the church?
The BNP would certainly share that view, and would wish to discriminate against minority ethnic groups on the grounds of their deeply held beliefs and conscience.
Just because beliefs are deeply held doesn't make them right. Many racists have deeply held views. Your religion, in my view, is ethically no better than them. Both of you wish to discriminate against others.
If that is your considered view, merseymike, there can be no discussion of anything at a rational level.
Its perfectly rational, Alan. Its your point of view which is irrational. You think that just because you stick a religious label on your beliefs, they should be treated automatically with respect.
I don;t think wishing to systematically discriminate against others in the public sphere is to be respected, Alan. Your religion oozes bigotry: it should be tolerated in the private sphere and you should be allowed to practice it, but essentially, its tenets are socially unacceptable.
As I was saying, the matter is beyond rational debate when it descends to cries of "bigot".
Is this how you conduct academic discussions, MM?
Alan March wrote: "What we believe is what we are."
So, well. Then I hope for the future to be spared this "love the sinner, hate the Sin" nonsense.
(or is it "love the Sin, hate the sinner" ;=)
Alan states that Christians would refuse to pay a fine.
This is not the model of citizenship proposed in the New Testament. In the NT the spirit of rebellion against the divinely ordained powers is identified with a different source.
Yes indeed, and Romans has other things to say about what kind of state the Roman empire had become.
Then, Alan, alter your perspective, which is clearly discriminatory and does not treat gay people as equal citizens.
This isn't an academic discussion. It is about practical policy in the secular society, and your wish to discriminate against me.
Could you give me one concrete example of an action which:
a. you believe the proposed regulations will prohibit AND
b. which you believe that as a Christian you are REQUIRED to perform
I think an example would help a lot of us here who are trying to understand what exactly it is that is causing you so much anguish.
SS inserts: the following contribution exceeds by far the 400 word limit; but I am making an exception.
Simon, thank you for your invitation.
The consensus among most Christians is that what they do must reflect what they believe, and if they are to be required by government decree in any way to cooperate with those promoting an unbiblical lifestyle (in older terminology a way of life which is intrinsically sinful) then there is a conflict and a crisis of conscience.
The NI version of the SORs is published and gives a foretaste of what might be expected in the rest of the UK:
5. —(1) It is unlawful for any person concerned with the provision (for payment or not) of goods, facilities or services to the public or a section of the public to discriminate against a person who seeks to obtain or use those goods, facilities or services -
(3) The following are examples of the facilities and services mentioned in paragraph (1) —
(a) access to and use of any place which members of the public are permitted to enter;
(b) accommodation in a hotel, boarding house, or similar establishment;
(c) facilities by way of banking or insurance or for grants, loans, credit or finance;
(d) facilities for education;
(e) facilities for entertainment, recreation, or refreshment;
(f) facilities for transport or travel;
(g) the services of any profession or trader, or any local or other public authority.
You will note that this is equally applicable whether the organisation is commercial or voluntary; and makes no distinction between a routine transaction without any bearing on religion, and those which do.
For example, many churches would not, on religious grounds, allow the use of their facilities by a group promoting abortion on demand, but now they will be forced to allow the use of their premises by any group which labels itself "gay".
Christian education in church life which is open to the public will not be permitted to "discriminate" against "gay" members of the public by asserting that homosexual intercourse is sinful, or even to assert that the only place for sexual intercourse is between husband and wife in Christian matrimony. This will include sermons, Sunday schools, Alpha courses and even Confirmation classes. The teacher or minister will be open to charges of "harassment" by failing to approve equally the "gay lifestyle" as an alternative to Christian marriage.
The NI SORs specifically include church schools in their ambit. Sex education and citizenship classes, even in a privately run school, will not be permitted to exclude gay sex and gay lifestyles as equal alternatives to heterosexual conduct.
Although the Book of Common Prayer requires the Minister to turn away from Communion those whose lives self-evidently set them apart from the Christian community, if he or she were to decline to administer Communion to two men arriving at the Table hand in hand, having announced the day before that they had "married" in a Civil Partnership ceremony, then again charges of harassment would almost certainly be brought.
As the NI SORs are written, a refusal by the Minister to "marry" the couple might well prove to be grounds for a complaint of discrimination and harassment, putting the clergy in the absurd situation that Civil Partnerships are explicitly restricted to register offices, but that the law makes no provision for them to refuse a wedding.
Every one of the churches I know would refuse to appoint as a youth leader or as a minister someone in a Civil Partnership. Such people are held up as role models within the Church, and a CP is the very opposite of an appropriate role model for Christians in such circles.
These are just a few "for instances" and others have suggested many more. If the SORs for the rest of the UK do not contain exemptions protecting the "inner" life and doctrinal privacy of churches (and other faiths) then there will undoubtedly be a series of test cases launched to see how far the regulations can be pushed, and the new Equality Commission will have powers in its own right to investigate and to fund cases.
I hope that others here will not use this as an opportunity either to anticipate eagerly the SORs or to denounce the rest of us in various categories of unpleasantness: these comments are offered as a straightforward description of the expected effects of these regulations upon a very large section of the religious population of the UK, Evangelical, Catholic, and yes, Muslim, in response to your invitation, Simon.
But then, a law which does not apply equally to all, is not a law.
Goran, would you really assert that all laws are equally just or appropriate?
Now, Alan, rather than listening to the extreme and inaccurate predictions of the anti-gay campaign groups, can we have a reality check? Personally, I think that a non-prejudiced person who treats gay people equally should have no problem with any of those things.
But, looking at your list, there are some obvious inaccuracies. What is said in church will be exempted and that has been made clear enough. Unless it actually does incite hatred, and I don't think there are many who go to those lengths. Similarly, communion would not be covered by the regulations as that is central to religious activity.
In fact, the only example you have given which isn't of that type is church schools, and certainly whilst they receive public money to run their schools, they should not be exempt. I think it would be best if the church removed itself from education in any case. If it accepts public money, it should not be allowed to discriminate. Similarly, if the church wishes to use public money for any other appointment which is para-church, then it should not be exempted.
Personally, I think the exemptions are a compromise and that we would be better off without them, ass we would be better off without all homophobic institutions. But I am willing to accept them in the mane of religious freedom, in the hope that in time, their sheer illogicality and the continuing decline of the church will make them redundant.
Alan Marsh does not seem to have understood the SOR's for Northern Ireland.
None of the above are accurate.
A church can continue to refuse hiring its church hall to gay organisations.
A church can continue teaching what it wants on sexual ethics.
A church can continue to turn away people from communion, can refuse membership and can refuse burial for a gay person or even refuse to allow our children to go on the church outing.
What church schools are allowed to teach is not covered by this legislation.
No law allowing same-sex marriage exists in the UK. (!?)
Employment regulations are covered by different legislation and a Youth
Minister is (I believe) covered by the exemptions there.
It is bizarre to think that the law on harassment could be applied to undermine the exemptions the law allows.
Thank you for that: I fear that you have seriously misread the text of the NI regulations. I believe that in every single case you have cited, you are wrong in your assertions.
Regulation 16 (3) enables “religious organisations” (a term which is defined in 16(1) in quite wide terms) to disregard most of these regulations and expressly permits them to do all the following things:
(a) to restrict membership of the organisation;
(b) to restrict participation in activities undertaken by the organisation or on its behalf or under its auspices;
(c) to restrict the provision of goods, facilities and services in the course of activities undertaken by the organisation or on its behalf or under its auspices; or
(d) to restrict the use or disposal of premises owned or controlled by the organisation,
Furthermore, doing these things is expressly permitted “if imposed... so to avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religions followers” which clearly is the case in connection with the Christian religion in most places.
And this exemption is not limited to the clergy at all, for the regulations also define the term “minister” extremely widely in 16(6):
In paragraph (4) the reference to a minister is a reference to a minister of religion, or other person, who —
(a) performs functions in connection with a religion or belief to which an organisation, to which this regulation applies, relates; and
(b) holds an office or appointment in, or is accredited, approved or recognised for purposes of, an organisation to which this regulation applies.
Employment matters are of course dealt with under a quite separate set of regulations, which in turn provide a generous exemption for religious bodies who are free to impose any “requirement related to sexual orientation” that they choose, though they need to do so clearly in any advertisement etc.
Turning to education, these regulations do not relate at all to the curriculum content, but only to the processes of admission and the administration of schools, so for example a pupil cannot be excluded from participation in a school activity by reason of their supposed sexual orientation. I assume that you would not favour that kind of discriminatory action.
You also raise the issue of harrassment, but I am running up against my self-imposed 400 word limit. So I will come back to that later.
Simon, thank you for your further references, at which I have glanced briefly. I will take a more detailed look and come back to you, but I see that I stand at least partly corrected.
Simon, I now see that s.16 does make some provisions of the kind which I would have hoped to see. I looked at the Regulations in too much of a hurry, allowed myself to be distracted by the Guest House exemptions in earlier sections, and altogether missed s.16. I do apologise!
S.16 does go some way to address the issues raised, in reiterating some of the principles contained in the earlier employment regulations and applying these explicitly to religious groups and bodies. For this I am grateful. It will make it harder than I first thought for anyone to challenge teaching and appointments within the church context, than if no such provision existed.
I still have serious concerns however, about the explicit application of the SORs directly to church schools, without these provisions; and about the concept of harassment, which can still be claimed even where an organisation has the right to some exemptions under s.16.
Any circumstances where anyone is critical of homosexuality (which includes even debate, as far as I can see) and any area in which homosexuality is not presented as positively as Christian teaching on holy matrimony, may well lead to claims of harassment, and even of incitement. It can be used to the same effect as explicitly written rules by closing down all discussion.
To my mind, as a retired teacher and school governor (in one state school and one Christian school) the provisions relating to education are the most worrying. Can you set my mind at rest on these?
Alan March wrote: “Göran, would you really assert that all laws are equally just or appropriate?”
Certainly not. What I wrote was this: “… a law which does not apply equally to all, is not a law.” Not the same thing.
Goran, as we have seen here there are laws which vary in their application, but are still laws. Nor is it any guarantee that because a law has been passed, that it is equitable or balanced in its application.
This particular set of regulations has not even been passed by our Parliament, but effectively imposed by decree by the Minister concerned, who has found a way to bypass parliamentary debate, amendment or approval.
You cannot force all things equal when they cannot be equal! That is a form of Communism and it will fail. You cannot make same sex relationships equal to a married man and woman! You cannot make co-habiting couples equal to married men and women. The married couple has no equal when it comes to relationships, stats today and History for centuries has proved this, as will the future. Alternatives are poor replicas and will never be equal in what they deliver to society as a whole. Marriage is far more secure for the couple in giving a confidence of their relationship. Its better for children as it lasts longer and is financialy less dependant on the state and less damaging as it has fewer break ups. Less STD's than alternative sexual lifestyles. Less abortion rates.
You can try to make it equal with these alternatives, but the reality is it never will be!
The stigma of abortion, pregnancy outside marriage, sex before marriage, gay sex, adultery and promiscuity has gone from society over the last 50 years! A success? I think not because you still have the problems that all these lifestyle choices bring and now a lot more of them!