Tuesday, 9 January 2007

news coverage of SORs debate

Updated Tuesday afternoon

The BBC and the Telegraph have extensive coverage this morning.

Telegraph Jonathan Petre Religions united in opposition to gay rights law
and James Mackay Should religious beliefs bow to gay rights?

BBC Faith rally over gay rights bill. Also the Today radio programme interviewed Lord Morrow, and Lord Mackay with Angela Eagle.

Press Association Protest over gay discrimination law

More significant politically perhaps than any of the above, the Trades Union Congress has published a press release and a detailed briefing paper.

Update In the Guardian, opinion columnist Polly Toynbee has Homophobia, not injustice, is what really fires the faiths.

The Evangelical Alliance has issued this curiously softly worded press release.

Update Tuesday afternoon

The Board of Deputies of British Jews has issued this statement:

On 4 January, the Daily Mail carried a story under the headline of “Muslims and Jews to join gay-laws protest”. The article referred to a statement by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the inference, given the headline, was that the Board of Deputies had been working in concert with groups opposed to the proposed regulations.

The headline – together with the article – unfortunately misrepresented what was a very clear and balanced statement. The Board of Deputies would like to confirm that we have not campaigned with any other groups in relation to this matter and the statement that was given to the Daily Mail (reproduced below) was made solely in response to their request for a comment.

The Sexual Orientation Regulations will provide a further platform to combat discrimination in this country. It must be possible for people to live their lives in the manner in which they choose as long as it does not impinge upon the rights of others. We hope that to this effect the regulations will be framed in such a way that allows for both the effective combating of discrimination in the provision of goods and services whilst respecting freedom of conscience and conviction. These regulations are currently being debated and will be afforded due scrutiny before passing into law.

The Board of Deputies opposes discrimination on any grounds and recognises that the rights of those within our community and in wider society should not be infringed on the grounds of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion conviction or for any other similar reason.

Another report now on the Telegraph website: Gay rights law protesters branded ‘hypocrites’.
And on The Times website: Gay rights laws draw religious protest.
At the Guardian the Press Association report is Church groups to march against sexuality law.
The latest Reuters report is Faith groups protest against gay rights bill.
The BBC has added Discrimination law controversy and Head-to-head: Gay rights law.
Ruth Gledhill has posted on her blog, Christians ‘torch’ SORs.
Ekklesia has published Faith groups are misrepresenting sexual equality rules, say critics. Also Evangelical leader attacks ‘aggressive’ opposition to SORs, and Northern Irish church heads unite in call to end bigotry.

The BBC story linked at the start of the day has been rewritten and headlined Gay rights laws challenge fails:

New rules outlawing businesses from discriminating against homosexuals have been upheld in the House of Lords.

A challenge led by Lord Morrow of the Democratic Unionist Party failed by a majority of three to one.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 3:50pm GMT | TrackBack
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Comments

This really does give the lie to the nonsense that conservative religionists are not wishing to promote discrimination in the civil sphere against gays and lesbians.

That is exactly what they wish to do.

Quite simply, if they cannot treat all people equally, then they should not be providing public services.

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 10:24am GMT

Bigots of the world, unite!

Posted by: Kurt on Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 2:43pm GMT

Every time I am ashamed of my country, someone in England comes up with something to make me feel better.

I am not sure this is terribly encouraging.

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 3:40pm GMT

Ah, yes, Lord MacKay. Isn't he the one who went to the funeral of a RC colleague and was promptly excommunicated by his own ultra-protestant denomination for consorting with such servants of Satan? And did he not accept their punishment?

Not exactly the sort of person I'd have chosen as a spokesperson for the Christian faith....

For some reason I'm reminded of the UK 1980's tussles between Thatcher and Scargill, two extremists locked in combat (for whom read Toynbee, Dawkins etc on the one hand and the sundry 'Mainstream' hardliners on the other). The battle was won by the one with the bigger firepower (Thatcher) who managed to get public opinion on her side. There's not much doubt thqat public opinion in the UK is swinging behind the secularists, simply because they see some religious folkbehaving so abominably. And, just as in the 1980's the eventual victims of the conflict were neither Scargill nor Thatcher but the por s*ds caught in the middle, the ordinary British working people, so the losers in this battle will be the moderate voices of religious belief.

UK Christianity plc, RIP.

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 3:43pm GMT

Three cheers for The Board of Deputies of British Jews !!

I this is pretty good coming from the 'Union' synagogues. The Reform Synagogues of GB; and the Liberals Synagogues are even more positive --especially the latter, who now have a liturgy for Civil Partnerships.

Posted by: laurence on Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 4:15pm GMT

Diagnostically, the SOR's provide a keen instrument for teasing out fear, ignorance, and presuppositional inferiority - all based on what is claimed by believers to be core religious allegiances. To get a taste of how this sort of thing goes, just go back a bit in history and read what the Lords were saying once upon a time about the abolition of slavery. The tone is eerily familiar. Return of the repressed? Return of the depressed?

That is conscience for you, apparently, in its ConsEvs forms - except that of course, many believers find the whole rightwing business disconcerting even while they are related to it. As citizens we are all related to it.

If this does not give away the real game going on in that sort of thought, only more huff and puff will surely do.

Do be sure to paint vivid pictures of your very own children being exposed to filth and danger. Which filth and danger the queer folk presuppositionally are: The Bible tells me so. Along with God's voice, speaking via white supremacist skinheads in some dodgy sectors.

All of this is more or less, large majority heterosexual religious business as usual. The real surprise is that God is busy, saving people all round the planet, from just this sort of business as usual. Talk about principalities and powers. You go, God.

We've seen this already in USA, where RC believers in Boston (the archbishop, actually, backed by the Vatican) closed down their adoptions agency - thus spitefully depriving even the good children of their much vaunted services, while the RC believers (who do lots of adoptions, too) in San Francisco realized that to implement their city/county public funded contract, all they needed to do was stop overtly discriminating and refer the adopting couples officially defined as filth by current church doctrine, out to a less ideologically burdened adoption agency.

Similar win-wins are possible all around the planet, and thanks to the RC folks of San Francisco for helping to point the way.

Posted by: drdanfee on Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 4:30pm GMT

Mr Burt added that it seems clear Christians will not have a universal view about the regulations, but he hopes they will understand the need for
Also 3 cheers for the TUC ! They are so rarely consulted these days. Since their breaking.

Also some cheers for Joel Edwards and the Evnagelical Alliance. Also for their Council member, the MP Alastair Burt who wisely called for tolerence. Well I'd ahve said 'tolerance'is pretty much the name of the game. A good place tostart atleast. :-


He called for 'balance and tolerance in the debate.'

“I, for one, would not be able to support the regulations as drawn, but do not believe that my colleagues’ faith, or that of the Minister, is in question if they do,” he said.

Posted by: laurence on Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 4:44pm GMT

What does homosexuality have to do with practising one's faith or religious expression unless we are talking about having the right to openly engage in bigotry and homophobia. Christians who engage in such behavior need to go back and re-read the Gospels - Jesus apparently didn't find homosexuality to be such a sin that he found need to openly comment on or condemn it.

Posted by: Richard III on Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 5:03pm GMT

Dan Fee claims that gay "couples [are] officially defined as filth by current [Roman Catholic] church doctrine"? I wouldn't mind a reference for that.

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 5:21pm GMT

Mynsterpreost wrote:
"For some reason I'm reminded of the UK 1980's tussles between Thatcher and Scargill, two extremists locked in combat "

I'm not sure this helps illustrate the point you're trying to make, Mynsterpreost.

I see absolutely nothing "extreme" about a trade union official trying to ensure that an employer behaves in accordance with an agreement - in this case the "Plan for Coal" setting out the procedures to be followed in closing a colliery. The miners' strike - and its aftermath for about a decade - was marked by many occasions on which predictions by Mr Scargill were routinely condemned as extreme prophecies of doom, but subsequently either vindicated or shown to be understatements of the damage which actually ensued.

Posted by: Alan Harrison on Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 5:35pm GMT

I am often critical of Ruth here.
This time she is spot on.
Well done Ruth!!!

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 6:50pm GMT

The Telegraph article made me think of something. What would happen, do you think, if a gay run business decided not to offer service to Christians? One could argue conscience in the matter. Would Consevos be willing to be turned away from some businesses because the owners have deep seated disagreements with the morality of their religious lifestyle choice? After all, being gay does not require any kind of lifestyle, contrary to the propaganda of the Right, while religion certainly does, and being gay is not a choice, while we certainly choose our faith. I've never heard anyone discuss the troubles they had coming to terms with their innate Anglicanness.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 6:59pm GMT

predictions by Mr Scargill were routinely condemned... subsequently either vindicated or shown to be understatements... AH

Yes, but he was no tactician, and went to extreme methods that played into Thatcher's hands. It was not public opinion that mattered (so much, the miners carried much sympathy) to Thatcher though, it was stocks of coal and police deployment.

The foolish tacticians of the moment are the Christian right, liable to lose battle after battle in the public arena, and one reason why they keep trying to eat other, disagreeing with them, Christians

Posted by: Pluralist on Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 7:32pm GMT

Things are getting a bit hysterical. I am glad to see some people going "Er, excuse me, could we just clarify how and what and why we said what we did?" Yet another example of power mongerers trying to pass one's yoke onto other people and presuming that they won't speak out that they have been unknowingly co-opted.

The religious people are worried about their right to discriminate against GLBTs? Put a clause in the legislation that registered organisations are precluded from requirements to service certain groups, provided they submit a declaration of who they are going to be excluding and on what basis. The government can then set up a public database of organisations that have exclusivity in their service provisions. That can be made available on the internet. The people in need of services and are moving or visiting a new town can look up on the internet whether they would be serviced at a particular venue. If they role up to be serviced, no argument because the information was public that they weren't going to be serviced. Plus we won't have people foolishly going to institutions in the naive hope that they would be helped only to find themselves cast out on the street or abused. Maybe there should be a requirement to post a notice at the entrance to such premises that they are a registered discriminatory agency, with the government agency form including who they are discriminating against.

This would also help the government with funding. When people make their bids of social support funding, government agencies can take into account demographics to make sure that service provision will be available for all British citizens. There might be a small prorata adjustment in some areas as a "gap" needs to be filled by an alternative.

This is all quite do-able and sits nicely with British pragmatism :-)

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 7:49pm GMT

Here are some of Benny's recent words on the topic, as Italy is apparently contemplating similar legislation. While not doctrine, it does express the Pope's concerns...The article is from a biased source, but still...

http://www.gcn.ie/content/templates/newsupdate.aspx?articleid=1711&zoneid=9 Pope's Renewed Anti-Gay Message

Posted by: Eileen on Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 8:41pm GMT

Alan, I can't believe that part of Arthur Scargill's intention was not to embarrass seriously the then Tory government (and I supported the miners in their grievances). But the tactical errors he made (like starting the strike when coal stocks were at an all time high), quite possibly because his zeal for his position outweighed his tactical sense, led to much more suffering in the communities, presented Mrs T with an easy victory and subsequently was a useful card in her anti-union activities.

I lived in the North East at the time....

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 10:00pm GMT

JCF Lord Lester of Herne Hill is a leading liberal barrister, who has been described as "the founding father of human rights law" in Britain. He is also a Liberal Democrat peer, and I have no doubt he asked these questions earlier in order to get the Government on the record ahead of this debate. It is common practice in the British Parliament to put either oral or written questions down for the government to answer, in order to get those answers in the record. Indeed the government often, no very often, has its own backbenchers ask questions for this very purpose.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 11:05pm GMT

Good to see that the attempt to annul the regulations has failed.

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 11:18pm GMT

So far, so good. A hefty majority in the Lords for the SoR, the Board of Deputies coming out in favour of them, Faithworks' rather special communication, even a less than full-on comment from the EA.

I'd like to believe this was an outbreak of common sense, if not actual repentance. I still can't quite get my head around the idea that some Christians are standing up *for* the sin of Sodom, whilst the supposed sodomites are pointing out how wrong we are. There's a certain bitter irony involved.

The Christian Institute are up in front of the beak in March regarding the NI SoR - not challenging their rightness, but seemingly basing their objections on procedural irregularities. And I'll still be kneeling at the same communion rail as them all the while.

Posted by: Simon Morden on Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 11:18pm GMT

Ford, in the mainland UK, the situation you describe is dealt with under Part 2 of the same Equality Act 2006, which prohibits discrimination in the supply of goods and services on the grounds of Religion or Belief. That part of the law is already on the statute book, but does not come into effect until the SO portion also does, planned for April 2007.
You will not be surprised to learn that the Part 2 regulations also have exemptions which allow religious bodies to discriminate on the basis of Religion, even though the general public cannot do so. So the Church of England can refuse to let Roman Catholics, Pagans, or Methodists borrow its churches or meet in its parish halls, if it so chooses. Even though it lets the Baptists, Unitarians, and Greek Orthodox do exactly those things. Just because it wants to.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 11:36pm GMT

Not really on topic, perhaps, but I would to some extent agree with the critique of "Scargill's" tactics. Reason for scare quotes: it was customary at the time for the right-wing press to attribute to Mr Scargill decisions of the executive, at which he normally presided but did not have a vote, even in the case of decisions taken in his absence! At the same time, it's difficult to see what else the NUM exec could have done. When an employer breaks an agreement, expecially by sacking people, a trade union can ultimately only fight or surrender.

That said, I would agree that the tactics of the conservative evangelical lobby about the proposed regulations have been abysmal.

Posted by: Alan Harrison on Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 11:41pm GMT

I can only record my thanks to Simon and Thinking Anglicans for excellent and informative coverage of this area.

An excellent result for common sense and a sense of fairness to all groups in society.

Also a warning of the darker forces in society that are read to go in for extremism and scapegoating that inhabit many of the religious.

There is a real cause for concern as to what religion is becoming within our society today.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 11:50pm GMT

I think that it is fair to say that the SORegs are designed to *exclude* people from providing services (even at their own expense), or education, or accommodation etc - unless they are prepared to do it in a way that appears to treat homosexuality as equal to heterosexuality. (NOT just homosexual individuals as equal to heterosexual individuals).

Given that it is known that most religions disapprove of homosexuality, the Regulations could have been less hard-edged! For instance in the SORs NI the only exceptions for private individuals are for things that are more-or-less totally within the private home, whereas in some european countries the exceptions are much broader - One example is that people letting accommodation are not legally bound re discrimination on grounds of religion and sexuality unless they let a lot of properties (and even then they can apply for an exemption if it might otherwise cause problems with existing residents).

Not that many people would actually want to discriminate (we're a more objectively tolerant lot over here) - but at least broader exceptions avoids *illiberal enforcement of liberalism*!

ps The main cases where I can think that I would want to treat homosexuals different from heterosexuals would be in providing services, education etc that might be used for facilitating or promoting same-sex sex.

Posted by: Dave on Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 12:14am GMT

Ah, how nice it is to come from liberal Northern Ireland where the SORs, supported by our regional Assembly, came into force last week and the bigots (and yes, 'Lord' Maurice Morrow is a bigot in all sorts of ways) had to run over the water to look for succour from the House of Lords. And lose. 3-1!

I was interested to read reports of the Bishop of Down & Connor's New Year's sermon (i.e. Catholic Bishop of Belfast) in the Irish News last Tuesday where he, of course, said that he was opposed to discrimination and in favour of human rights, but opposed to the SORs and attendant consultation process. I always love what Gary Younge once called the bullshit before the but.

Then a few pages afterwards in their "x years ago" slot they covered the sermon of his predecessor in 1938 who said that if there was a just war in the world it was that being waged by General Franco and the youth of Spain against the scourge of godless Communism.

Ah, plus ca change, plus ca meme chose. The Bishop might like to meditate on the fact that not a single Catholic member of the Assembly voted against the SORs. Not one. Not even Seamus Close who absented himself from proceedings. Sic transit gloria ecclesiae is the only phrase worthy of the state of the Irish Catholic Church today.

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 2:08am GMT

Three cheers that the law was upheld. Hallelujah! Good on ya, Blighty! :-D

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 5:50am GMT

Simon

Thanks for the posting to Ford where you noted that "You will not be surprised to learn that the Part 2 regulations also have exemptions which allow religious bodies to discriminate on the basis of Religion, even though the general public cannot do so."

If that is the case, then why is there such an emotive response to this legislation? It does not seem rational.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 7:22am GMT

I see that the Bishop of Worcester voted against the motion to annul the regulations and that the Bishops of Chester, Rochester, Southwell, and Winchester voted for discrimination

Posted by: laurence on Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 9:38am GMT

Cheryl wrote: "why is there such an emotive response to this legislation? It does not seem rational."

It's because it's not rational, coming entirely from the emotions. Folk like the Christian Institute are not exactly renowned for their reasoned arguments - which is as fine as it goes: the rational choice is not always the correct one, and we'd be poorer for excluding our emotional response from our decision making. Sometimes all we can say is "Hear I stand. I can do nothing else." It's principled, but it might just be wrong.

What we can't do is replace our reason with our emotion and call it reason. It makes us look stupid.

Posted by: Simon Morden on Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 9:44am GMT

'It does not seem rational.'

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Wednesday, 10 January .

It isn't these 'religionists' are anything but rational; and of course, a bit thin on 'true religion and undefiled..'


Gerry Lynch :
'Then a few pages afterwards in their "x years ago" slot they covered the sermon of his predecessor in 1938 who said that if there was a just war in the world it was that being waged by General Franco and the youth of Spain against the scourge of godless Communism.'

Yes, this quotation is atimely reminder of the repression of Churches, and their siding with the rich, the landowners, the Francos, the Pinochets against the poor, the marginalised, the Oscar Romeros. No wonder there are so few churches in Spain and so few attenders at mass. The radio 4 play on Sunday night was a very powerful exploration of the Spanish Civil War. Also Frasnco and the RC denomination ousted the elected Government from office. A pity they couldnt have tried that with Hitler and 'the third reich'.

Posted by: laurence on Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 9:51am GMT

Simon,
Thanks. I figured there must be some sort of legislation, the scenario was hypothetical. All the same, I'd like to see someone try it and see if the aggrieved parties would press the case to claim a right they would deny to gay people.

And Dave,
"Not that many people would actually want to discriminate"

if this is the case, why are they fighting so hard and screaming so loud? Seems a bit much to stage a protest, on a workday and thus lose time at work, to demand a right they don't expect to use. Do they merely want to reserve the right in case something dire should happen and they'd need to kick gay people out of their accomodations to prevent some sort of disaster?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 11:36am GMT

the repression of Churches, and their siding with the rich, the landowners, the Francos, the Pinochets against the poor, the marginalised, the Oscar Romeros

At the danger of wandering waaaaaay off topic, I think that's a little harsh in the case of Chile where Catholic social democracy played a significant role in the opposition to Pinochet and in building what has become Latin America's most prosperous and robustly democratic state since his demise.

I'm not sure you're being entirely fair in the case of Romero, either - he was, after all, head of the RC Church in El Salvador when he was murdered and he is being considered for canonisation. You would have a more valid case with his predecessor as Abp of San Salvador.

Credit where it's due, and robust criticism where it's warranted.

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 11:52am GMT

Except that the Liberation Theology which was the fuel for the kind of movements you are talking about in Latin America was suppressed by the Pope, and seems to have found a home in what Anglo-catholic presence there is in those respective countries. I am told that immigrants from Latin America to the US will often attend Anglo-catholic churches rather than RC ones because of this, and that the rise of Evangelicalism in Latin America can be at least in part attributed to this perceived betrayal on the part of Rome against God's "preferential option for the poor". Indeed, the people and movements you mentioned seem to have been operating in spite of Rome, and were quickly shut down when they came up on the Papal radar.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 2:51pm GMT

Thanks Gerry -points taken. You are quite right on Chile and Romero. (Though I don't think he was much supported by the wider denomination in life, ws he? ). I tripped myself up in my haste to condemn (and generalize). Not the first time I'm sure.

Glad you are on the ball . Thank you.
laurence

Posted by: laurence on Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 4:11pm GMT

Ah Ford on the ball too ! Thanks. I do feel this to be the case.

'preferential option for the poor' is an expression that makes me thrill. I do feel it is, for me , at the heart of gospel. Especially if combined with 'God's' -- however we understand G-d.

I sense this what the world is waiting for...


( but then I'm probably not that reliable, as an ole piscean infp, dreamer ) ...

I was very heartened by the BBC program from Helen House children's 'hospice' / "home from home" last night. Sister Domenica spoke of the courage of the parents, and that we all need, in the face of 'life shortening-illness' -courage to stay in unknowing. I feel this is related to 'God's option for the poor'

Posted by: laurence on Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 4:21pm GMT

[ps The main cases where I can think that I would want to treat homosexuals different from heterosexuals would be in providing services, education etc that might be used for facilitating or promoting same-sex sex.] Dave (Apollos..)]

Does the legislation require that churches purchase double beds? These could replace the pews.

Good idea for the 9:30 am on a Sunday, though, because then worshippers can even arrive early (like the night before).

By the way, single beds will also be needed for times of menstruation (Leviticus 15:19-24) and giving a sign of Peace will have to be via semaphore.

Although I am heterosexual and married, and all my mixed fabric pyjamas were thrown out years ago (Leviticus 19:19), I still would not be able to take up my bed, because, wearing spectacles, I cannot approach the altar for communion (Leviticus 21:20)

Posted by: Pluralist on Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 9:04pm GMT

In that practically ANYTHING might be useful in facilitating/promoting same-sex sex (mobile phones, semaphore flags, bungee ropes, custard, whoopee cushions), I suggest that all faithful Christians should immediately retreat to the Nubian desert and live solitary lives....

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 11:14am GMT

It is those exemptions which are *not* covered that are more a matter for concern. Two examples:
(1) The Christian teacher not in a specifically Christian school;
(2) The Catholic adoption agencies.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 1:05pm GMT

Quite right too.

Gay people have the right to adopt children, thus individual adoption agencies should obey the law.

Christian teachers need to be aware that their role is not to inflict their opinions about gay people upon their pupils. Being gay and having gay relationships is perfectly legal, perfectly acceptable in the law. Their religious opinion should stay in the church, not be brought into secular education

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 3:32pm GMT

Wow I do like that phrase, the gift of spiritual courage to dwell in the unknowing ...

Thanks loads.

Presumably a ConsEvs religious believer who is teacher in a non-religious or religious school need not be forced to be the sole faculty sponsor of a Gay-Straight Students Alliance, nor allowed to block the forming of the student group, either.

Perhaps such a teacher can join in anti-bullying and suicide prevention and violence prevention efforts, in his or her own school?

Remains to be seen in particular cases, what the ConsEvs conscience of the teacher will permit or support. Often the only way out of the pitched, automatic presuppositional dilemmas of some difficult ConsEvs thinking is to step outside of the proposed box, and start again with a view to trying out any other starting place that promises to avoid ending up with only two, categorical, black vs. white moral or policy or practical ways forward. That is part of the sheer beauty of thought - the sky doesn't fall down just because you see what thinking outside the preferred ConsEvs boxes might be like. Some claims just to the contrary notwithstanding.

Posted by: drdanfee on Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 4:03pm GMT

(1) The Christian teacher not in a specifically Christian school;

Hm. Such a school follows an agreed syllabus of religious education, in which the school is expected to teach that (eg) Islam is a valid religious tradition, or as valid as any other. This, of course, is heretical and anyone engaging in such false teaching or condoning/tolerating it within the institution within which they work is guilty of a serious, perhaps even a mortal sin.

But I don't see Christian teachers running screaming out of schools because their institution teaches things against their faith. So why is the gay issue so very different?

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 5:36pm GMT

Because they have accepted, at times grudgingly, that they can't insult Muslims like that. Now there are those who consider this to be anti-Christian persecution, but I will charitably claim they are a lunatic fringe. So, they accept you can't tell a Muslim she worships a false god, but you can tell a gay person he is disordered and can't have a normal human relationship. With anybody. Or that he is sick, or a child molestor, or has a shortened lifespan, or is naturally more promiscuous than his straight classmates. But we've seen today the latter statements can be backed up by "science" so that's OK then.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 7:48pm GMT

the gift of spiritual courage to dwell in the unknowing ...

Thanks loads.
You're welcome. It is good the way you have rendered it. I shall note it.
We really need such courage and grace.

Wonderful radio 4 tonight -- Vietnamese Buddha. About the zen monk Thikh Nhat Hanh. A deeply spiritual and moving program of Thay's return to Vietname at age 74 odd, after a 40 year exile imposed on him. I think Christians and Churches need his teachings desperately.

DO listen on the bbc radio 4 listen again site.

Posted by: laurence on Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 9:36pm GMT

The only way of getting accurate information and a high educational standard is to have free debate and freedom of conscience on these issues.

Each person must be free to say what they believe to be the case so long as (a) they back this up with argument which is aware of the arguments brought by those who disagree with them and (b) they indicate where they are in a minority, and/or mention that significant contrary minorities exist (if they do). Minorities should be calculated *internationally* rather than nationally, unless we are to be solipsistic (everyone is British or a western liberal, and if they are not, why aren't they?)

Indoctrination and clamping of freedom of thought are bad enough in any circumstances. When children are involved, they are worse.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 12 January 2007 at 12:38pm GMT

'Their religious opinion should stay in the church, not be brought into secular education':

Hurrah! This encapsulates the fundamental dualistic fallacy:

The education in question is not just education of liberal humanists' children. In fact, there are more Christians' children being educated than those of lhs. So why should not the proportion of Christian education be in proportion to the number of Christians being educated?

Do we want a liberal humanist absolutism in education? If it is truly education at all, there should be no kind of absolutism.

What is a 'religious opinion' anyway? We all have opinions on plenty of things, but why should there be a separate category called 'religious opinion'? An opinion is what one beleives, after studying the data, is the case.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 12 January 2007 at 12:44pm GMT

"So why should not the proportion of Christian education be in proportion to the number of Christians being educated?"

Because it is not the job of the publically funded school system to teach religion of any kind. Of course, teachers are human beings and entitled to their religious beliefs, and those beliefs will influence how they teach and even what they are comfortable teaching, but teaching of their, or anybody's, religion is not their responsibility. And "liberal humanists"? Come on. A lot of Christians don't want their religion taught in school either. It isn't the good Christians versus the humanists, however that might fit nicely into your world view. And separation of Church and State is not dualism, so why use the term here?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 12 January 2007 at 1:51pm GMT

State education is secular. Simple as that.

There is a place for religious education, but not religious indoctrination.

Personally, I would abolish all faith schools without delay.

Posted by: Merseymike on Friday, 12 January 2007 at 1:51pm GMT

I incline to that view mike, I must say.

And yet, I did, myself, enjoy the school asemblies at state Junior and then Comprehesive schools. I loved all the singing. I loved the delay of more onerous --and often less worthile things than singing. But then it was mild and solid I found and gave the days and weeks a rhythm. I found this enriching as a personal and cultural level. The hymns tended to have a unitarian kind of theology, and hymns with Jesus in, had him as Friend, brother , example, kind adult and I did (and do) find the poetry and music of it enriching. And a Bible reading at Junior school often I think, and again, this was from a great landmark of Englsih literature (KJ / AV Bible). I think it was a plain and solid kind of restrained religion, but with poetry, ethics and intimations of life's bewildering beauty. Course this is highly subjective.

I do think some of the denominational schools may have over-done things and functioned as an innoculation agin religion ! So sometimes I think the various fatih schools may turn their students towards thinking for themselves by default !

I think the students must find much that is hilariously funny at faith schools -- like all schools. (See the History Boys). Hope so.

(Have siad a bit more and posted separetely in case too long !)

Posted by: laurence on Friday, 12 January 2007 at 5:56pm GMT

continued from above post : ---

For me, the great draw-back would be separation of children and young people into 'ghettoes', and hindering friendships across the board and social enrichment and cohesion. But to have one's own culture and language, including religous expressions in music and poetry; and diurnal and seasonal rhythms is incredibly valuable, at the level of aesthetics and soul. (Esp. as we are less in touch perhaps, with agriculture, nature, the seasons.

I am happy to see 'secular' versions and equivalents, too, like say --the Last Night of the Proms, the FA Cup, Christmas, the New's Day Concert from Vienna,' Wimbledon',Cardiff Singer of the World, PRIDE celebrations; AND personal rites de passage--so many people creating wonderful weddings, funerals, civil partnerships and baby naming ceremonies , with such imagination and flare ! The C ofE is in danger of losing its brand !

Also new iconic events,& things, and people's own canons -- whether Lord of the Rings, Harry P., Sound of Music, Tate Modern, ..........over to you

Posted by: laurence on Friday, 12 January 2007 at 5:58pm GMT

Ford & Mike -
I am not sure either how you are defining 'religion' (was there ever a vaguer word?) or why you think there is such a clear dividing line between what you refer to as 'religions' and other ideologies held to just as zealously/dogmatically/absolutely and without appeal to evidence: liberal humanism, communism, relativism, postmodernism - you name it. You are saying that in education these systems should be everything, and Christianity should be nothing? (A bit unbalanced - to say the least.) That is so out of proportion to the proven value of the respective systems. After all, why do you think Catholic and Christian schools always do so well? Is it a fluke? Do you want to get rid of precisely those schools which are doing well? It don't add up, do it?

Can't evidence be the only criterion? Then we would have a level playing field. The present dualism between 'religious' and non-religious ideologies could always be a clever plot to exclude Christ. ;o) You never know.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 12 January 2007 at 6:27pm GMT

The religious parts of school assemblies are asking schools to do something many of them find uncomfortable and irrelevant, and the "broadly Christian" basis of them does lead to a kind of unitarian assumption that laurence mentions.

There is a kind of the State accepting parents passing the buck of religious involvement to it. RE, locally derived - not part of the National Curriculum - but compulsory, can be justified but not when it is compulsory. I justify it as teaching abstract thought which students have to start to acquire as they get into teenage years; the trouble is so much RE in schools is so bad and lacks progression, so that there is a lot of repetition of what took place even in primary schools.

I'm a qualified RE teacher, it is the medium through which I got my teaching qualification, but it is the most awkward and ambiguous subject in the curriculum because it has the shadow of Victorian morality over it, as do assemblies, and illustrates all that is wrong about being British and the appearance of religion.

If it was the responsibility of faith communities to teach their faith, and that was all (other than for examined courses), then there might be a bigger role for those communities in providing religious education. Set against that view would be bias - learning untruths about other religions - where schools ought to be better, but there is a great deal unsatisfactory about compulsory RE and I would abolish compulsion.

Posted by: Pluralist on Friday, 12 January 2007 at 10:34pm GMT

Pluralist
Yes, the Victorians were a bad lot. They did unmentionable things like lead the world in engineering and pioneer all the main organised team sports, besides rising to a peak of international influence which put the continent of Africa in their debt, as it still is today.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 13 January 2007 at 12:26pm GMT

Christopher: I seem to recall that the myth of the benevolent Brit in Africa has undergone something of a battering in the last few years..... Certainly there are plenty of South Africans of all pigments who might have a rather different take on it.

Probably a campaign by pinko Guardian readers, though, and there's probably a 43 page expose of their wish to undermine western society in tomorrow's 'Mail on Sunday'.

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Saturday, 13 January 2007 at 2:57pm GMT

Hi David
How can one generalise? Britons brought to Africa a higher degree of technology and of Christianity. Millions are grateful for both. There were certainly abuses too.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Monday, 15 January 2007 at 12:40pm GMT

Not a "higher degree of technology", but a different technology.

And I certainly object to Calvinism being paraded as a "higher degree" of Christianity. It isnt.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 15 January 2007 at 6:52pm GMT

Hi Goran-
You misunderstood my point. By a 'higher degree' I meant simply that more Africans have now been enabled to become Christians than were previously Christians. Many were previously in thrall to witchdoctors and animism.
I hang my head in penitence for suggesting that these are in any way inferior to Christianity.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 1:00pm GMT

"There were certainly abuses too."

You mean like stealing vast amounts of resources, treating the local people like subhumans, enslaving them, and dividing the continent up arbitrarily into countries that had little relationship to traditional ethnic boundaries thereby setting the stage for well nigh a century of ethnic strife!? Yeah. Real beneficial. And how about the more subtle effects of colonialism? I grew up in a place where everybody was white, English speaking after a fashion (our dialect is quite distinct), and Christian. The International Grenfell Association provided medical missionaries for over 100 years. Now, the benefits of "the Mission" were enormous: the reduction in human suffering, the stimulus to the local economy, etc. The missionaries, however, behaved, almost unconsciously, in a way that made it perfectly clear we were second class. Now if they were that way to us, who were like them in so many ways, I can only imagine how bad things were in Africa. I make no wonder ++Akinola has such an obvious desire to punish Britain and her colonialist successors. Nigeria still suffers directly from this as Western companies take Nigeria's oil wealth leaving her people in poverty. I don't doubt that, were I born in the same place, time, and situation as my Lord of Abuja, I'd feel very much the same way.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 3:24pm GMT

Ford-
Exactly. And that is why one should separate the huge benefits from the huge deficits: this is a case of both/and.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 17 January 2007 at 12:37pm GMT

I'm not so sure the benefits have been all that huge, actually, but I'm not African. Would that Tunde were here to comment on what he would consider the "benefits" of colonialism to Nigeria. I'd bet that being one of the colonized wasn't nearly as benign as you seem to think. I've been speaking in the past tense, but the same thing is going on now in the south of Nigeria, except this time it's oil companies and the colonization is more subtle. Nigeria's still being robbed though.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 17 January 2007 at 2:01pm GMT

Britain and the colonial powers broke all the Ten Commandments in Africa. (Let alone the spirit of the sermon on the mount). Killing, stealing, enslavement, lying,many forms of abuse -- the lot. I am putting this as temperately as I can. I feel no pride. I cannot say 'my country right or wrong.'

As the original inhabitants of 'America' said,
" When the white man arrived he had the Bible and we had the land. We closed our eyes with them in prayer, and when we opened our eyes,we had the Bible, and the white man the land."

Homophobia pales next to this enormity of wilful ignorance.

Posted by: laurence on Wednesday, 17 January 2007 at 4:33pm GMT

'Yes, the * Victorians were a bad lot. They did unmentionable things like lead the world in engineering and pioneer all the main organised team sports, besides rising to a peak of international influence which put the continent of Africa in their debt, as it still is today. '

'the continent of Africa in their* debt, as it still is today.'

*This is obscene. And not based in scripture & the spirit of Christ but rather 'repugnant to the same'.

Africa has not recovered from these interventions --will it ever recover --before the parousia, I wonder ? I do hope so, encouraged by various signs of hope like Nelson Mandela, South Africa, and Desmond Tutu. (No credit to us).

When will we 'show fruits worthy of repentance' --or is this demanded only of others ?

Posted by: laurence on Wednesday, 17 January 2007 at 4:44pm GMT

Simon says "So the Church of England can refuse to let Roman Catholics, Pagans, or Methodists borrow its churches or meet in its parish halls, if it so chooses. Even though it lets the Baptists, Unitarians, and Greek Orthodox do exactly those things. Just because it wants to."

And I fail to see what is wrong with this. The only wrong thing I can see is that someone outside of Christianity might be expected to rent their premises to a religious group it disagrees with -which seems silly.

Posted by: dave williams on Wednesday, 17 January 2007 at 10:13pm GMT

"Disagree" does not mean "enemies", Dave.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 18 January 2007 at 11:04am GMT

Hi Laurence
The point was about the Victorian age. That is, essentially, the post-Wilberforce, post-abolition age.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 19 January 2007 at 12:44pm GMT

The new Sexual Orientation Regulations are unnecessary as there is already plenty of legislation in place to stop discrimination to protect homosexuals. These new laws are about rubbing people’s religious beliefs in the dirt. Telling them what they can believe and how they can live their beliefs, even to the point of forcing people to act against their beliefs. Now where is the equality in that? Do two wrongs make a right? If the respect is not mutual, but only one way, then what is it worth?

During the last week of the SOR debate I have heard nothing but aggressive divisive words coming from those who claim to represent the oppressed homosexuals, is this helpful in an open free democracy? Or is it true that liberals are only liberal when you agree with them; anyone who dares to hold a different view or hold different beliefs and values should be treated with the utmost contempt. Please tell me how this makes them any better than the people they love to criticise?

If the people of faith allow these regulations to become law it will only be a matter of time before we have a secularist/ atheistic state, which I believe is the Government's ultimate agenda. The SORs are one big step in that direction.

This Government has road roughshod over the majority, time and time again to appease a militant minority. It has shown no respect whatsoever for the beliefs and values of the people of faith.

Posted by: Simon Icke on Wednesday, 24 January 2007 at 3:54pm GMT
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