Friday, 17 February 2012

Trevor Phillips: Christians 'aren't above the law'

Updated Friday evening

Two newspapers report recent remarks by Trevor Phillips head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, at a public debate on 8 February.

Telegraph Christians ‘aren’t above the law’, says equalities chief Trevor Phillips by John Bingham and Tim Ross.

Christians who want to be exempt from equality legislation are like Muslims trying to impose sharia on Britain, Trevor Phillips, the human rights watchdog, has declared.

Mail Equalities chief tells Christians: You’re no different to Muslims who want sharia law by Daniel Martin.

Christians who argue they should be exempt from equalities legislation are no different from Muslims who want to impose sharia law in Britain, a human rights chief has declared.

Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, said religious rules should end ‘at the door of the temple’ and give way to the ‘public law’ laid down by Parliament.

The entire proceedings of this debate are available from the Religion and Society website of the University of Lancaster. See Religious Identity in ‘Superdiverse’ Societies.

Britain is more religiously diverse than ever before. What does this mean for how we live together? Listen here to podcasts of the presentations, responses and discussion at this first debate. These are accessible at the foot of the page, together with texts of the academic presentations. You can also watch the full event below from YouTube. The debate was chaired by Charles Clarke and Linda Woodhead.

  • Podcast 1: Professor Linda Woodhead [Lancaster University, Director of the Religion and Society Programme] introduced the debate, highlighting the concept of superdiversity. Introduced by Charles Clarke. 10.30
  • Podcast 2: Professor Kim Knott [Lancaster University] argued that “Britain has been ahead of the European curve” in addressing issues of integration. 12.51
  • Podcast 3: Dr Therese O’Toole [Bristol University] focused on apparent contrasts between New Labour’s and David Cameron’s stances regarding religion. 11.30
  • Podcast 4: The Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP [Attorney General], responding, said religious belief is central to society. He praised religion for embracing diversity. Introduced by Charles Clarke. 12.16
  • Podcast 5: Trevor Phillips [Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission], responding, welcomed the concept of superdiversity as significant. We need to establish agreement on procedures for dealing with disputes. Introduced by Charles Clarke. 14.02
  • Podcast 6: Questions and comments from the audience, and responses by the panel. 28.42

Update

Heresy Corner has actually checked these recordings and reports in What Trevor Phillips actually said has found that both newspapers and even the Tablet have not reported the event fully. Do read his article in full to discover what happened.

And Linda Woodhead also had this article in last week’s Church Times: The quiet revolution in UK faith.

THERE is a great deal of talk at the moment about the return of religion, desecularisation and post-secular­ism. The editor of The Economist, John Micklethwait, co-authored a book, God is Back (Penguin, 2009).

This raises some questions. Where did God go to — did he fall asleep like Rip Van Winkle? And now that he is back, does he look the same?

And the Telegraph has a further report, Trevor Phillips stands by ‘ridiculous’ Sharia comparison.

Trevor Phillips is standing by his claim that Christian groups seeking exemptions from equality laws are like Muslims who want sharia rule in parts of Britain, despite criticism that his comments were “strange” and ridiculous”.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 8:50am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: equality legislation
Comments

Presumably this comment applies to the failure of the appeal of two elderly Christian boarding house keepers against a conviction for chosing whom they want to accomodate? They did not wish to let rooms to unmarried heterosexual couples or to pairs of homosexuals, male and female. For this they were dragged before the courts by two men. Considering that this is an ostensibly Christian website it amazes me that so many of its readers object to a couple who used their conscience to inform their Christian standards. I suspect that they are now robbed of their livelihood and ruined because I can envisage co-habitees and homosexuals knocking at their door seeking acomodation for the fun of it.knowing that they are unwelcome. The age and poor health of this couple would mean nothing to them.

Posted by: John Bowles on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 10:49am GMT

"Surely the kernel of British ways of living – the very thing under attack today – is tolerance of those things we would not choose for ourselves, the other side of the bargain being that our choices will be tolerated by those who disagree with them and us?"

Posted by: Gerry Dorrian on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 11:02am GMT

This is a superbly self-satisfied exercise in missing the point. As with the matter of the Shari'a, the question is not whether Christians should be exempt from the law, but whether the law should try to accommodate the sensibilities of Christians, and how far it should do so. We all accept that equality is not always the same thing as fairness (i.e., justice sometimes dictates that different people should be treated differently). And the law accepts that there can be religious justifications for discrimination: this is why even Trevor Philips can't insist that the RCC ordain women, or every mosque have a gay imam and every synagogue a Gentile rabbi.

There is a debate to be had about exactly how far the right to discriminate on the basis of faith may go, and the frontiers between religiously-justified discrimination and secular-humanist egalitarianism will continue to be negotiated for some time. But making sweeping statements of principle about the priority of one over the other is polarising and destructive. It tends to result in cases like that of the Catholic Adoption Agency, in which both sides acted extremely badly and the adoption agencies themselves were the victims of a vain and unnecessary showdown between the Labour government and the Catholic bishops. We need a bit of patience and principled pragmatism - virtues Anglicans at least should be able to bring to the fray.

Posted by: rjb on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 1:16pm GMT

Well,to me there is no discussion here and Mr.Phillips' statement is of no consequence to me. We are talking about God's laws here,not man's and as such, it is non-negotiable. This is a Christian country is it not? Man's laws fall way below God's laws and because man takes upon himself to implement his laws and disregard God's we are seeing such comments. Of course we obey the laws of the country, but some laws are not up for grabs and as such, shame on Mr.Phillips.

Posted by: Rosalyn Liddle on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 2:25pm GMT

John Bowles,

No blacks, no Irish, no mixed race couples, no disabled people, no-one with a speech impediment, no Germans, no Evangelicals, no Muslims, no foreigners, no women, no Japanese, no Conservatives, no working class people…

The list of possible notes on websites anad front doors is endless once you let your personal dislike rule.

Do you really want to live in a world where everyone can decide and advertise which group or groups of people they don’t want to provide goods and services to?
The majority of people in this country would like to live in a place where individuals either provide goods and services to everyone – or they don’t provide them to anyone.

Just because homosexuality is your particular sticking point and that of some other Christians does not mean it has any greater claim to be on the “yuck” list of people to avoid at all cost with legal backing than any other of the above.

Discriminating against particular groups of people for whatever reason just cannot happen in a pluralist society in which all citizens are equal. Even the ones you disapprove of.

You can believe what you like, your religion is protected. But so is the freedom of others not to be diminished by your religion.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 2:58pm GMT

He's obviously unaware that Anglican Canon Law IS part of the law of the land...

Posted by: Tristan on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 3:26pm GMT

As others may have noticed, the Telegraph has an "instant vote" button at the bottom of its Trevor Phillips story. When I checked just now, the majority of Telegraph readers - yes Telegraph readers - responding had ticked the button for "religious rules should end at the door of the temple".

Posted by: Iain McLean on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 4:13pm GMT

"He's obviously unaware that Anglican Canon Law IS part of the law of the land..."

Anglican Canon Law says absolutely nothing about any of the issues people have been going to court over and lost.
Anglican Canon Law does not say "you may discriminate in your work against people you don't approve of", or "you may flout the rules if your employer stipulates that dangly crosses on chains should not be worn for health and safety reasons".

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 6:49pm GMT

Erika:

Here you say: 'The majority of people in this country would like to live in a place where individuals either provide goods and services to everyone – or they don’t provide them to anyone'

On another thread, you say: 'Talking about minorities and majorities as though numbers had any value at all is completely misleading. In all possible topics.'

So which of your statements here has 'any value at all', the former or the latter.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 11:24pm GMT

David:

You don't GIVE rights to one minority group by depriving another minority group of theirs...especially when the former are engaged in a business that 1) they chose for themselves and 2) is presupposed to be non-discriminatory.

Tell me, would you be sanguine about this couple running a restaurant where they refused to serve a gay couple? If not, why is a hotel any different?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 18 February 2012 at 12:08pm GMT

David,
whether something is right or not cannot be determined by the number of people who support it.

But in a democracy, the majority of people can decide on something. Or better, through the political system the people vote in representatives who can then make decisions on their behalf.

The decision may then be right or it may be wrong. But it is something that, within the context of the political system we live in, has to be accepted by all.

Those who believe it is wrong can use the political channels available to change the decision. But until they've changed it, they're bound by it.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 18 February 2012 at 12:28pm GMT

Rosalyn,
"We are talking about God's laws here,not man's and as such, it is non-negotiable. This is a Christian country is it not?"

But what is Christian?
I think that is where we're going terribly terribly wrong.
We seen to believe that being Christian is to impose our views onto those we believe to be sinners and to shun them if they don't fall in line.

But what did Jesus say we should do to those we disagree with?
Were the ones who brought the women taken in adultery encouraged to throw stones?
Or was Jesus the only one who was allowed to condemn her while everyone else recognised they had no right to do so and went away?

Wasn't the sin of Sodom a lack of hospitality?
How did Jesus treat people who had gone wrong?

What's really at fault here is our insistence of setting ourselves up as more moral than the others and then using all our powers to shun the others, to get the State to discriminate against them and lobbying to be allowed to treat them shabbily ourselves.

That is precisely NOT following God's laws.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 18 February 2012 at 12:38pm GMT

A great argument for the separation of Church and State, and yes, I'm a Yank. When Church and State start to interfere in each others business, they only corrupt each other.

In a pluralistic society, as Britain increasingly seems to be (and if Britain didn't want a cosmopolitan culture, then it should never have had an empire), privileging one religion over others and allowing it to determine what is right and legal for everyone else is an engraved invitation to escalating conflict, as we are finding out over here after more than 30 years of evangelical Christian political hegemony.

Not getting your way with every piece of legislation; not getting the privilege to determine what is right and legal for everyone else; and not being deferred to by everyone else is not oppression.

Marginalizing people, singling them out, firing them from their jobs, throwing them out of their homes, declaring them to be deviate and criminalizing them, beating them up and killing them just for being themselves, that is oppression. That could describe the experiences of Muslims, atheists, gays and lesbians, Hispanics, Jews, Irish, Asians, and Blacks among many others in this country.

Posted by: Counterlight on Saturday, 18 February 2012 at 1:09pm GMT

Erika Baker

Your emotional rhetoric cuts no ice with me. My concern is for this elderly couple whose livelihood has been ruined by a pair of fractious, middle-aged queans determined to cause trouble. They could easily have found accomodation elsewhere where the pink pound is acceptable..

Posted by: John Bowles on Saturday, 18 February 2012 at 6:02pm GMT

John Bowles should read the Church Times' account of the appeal and the reasons for its rejection. The Bulls have been portrayed as an inocuous elderely couple running a small guest house. In fact they are running a fairly substantial hotel with seven rooms, separate from the part of the building in which they live. So the argument that they should be able to choose who they invite into their house hardly applies.

Secondly they let twin bedded and family rooms to anyone, same sex, married or not. They innocently or naively seem to think that sex only takes place in double beds. Not in my experience! If only married couples can have double beds there must be descrimination.

Thirdly, there can be no exception to obeying the law as regards business. As hotel proprieters they have to obey health and safety laws and fire regulations. Is Mr Bowles saying that because they put their trust in the Lord they should be excused smoke alarms?

I would suggest that since they were unable or unwilling to abide by the law as it developed they should have retired and avoided this confrontation altogether. As it is they have been used by the Christian Institute and others as fodder in their campaign against 'militant secularism'.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Saturday, 18 February 2012 at 6:14pm GMT

John Bowles,
I didn't think I was being emotional.
The law's the law's the law, that doesn't change because we hold opposing views very sincerely.

And yes, I happen to believe that it is the only sensible law to have to facilitate different people and different opinions to live together in the same society: we're all bound by it.

It isn't actually very difficult to grasp that.

I must say, I am astonished about the opinions some Christians express on this forum and in general. Immigrants are expected to understand the principles of citizenship better than that before they can apply for naturalisation, primary and secondary schools teach them to children.

Your religious belief is protected by law.
My freedom from your religious belief is also protected by law. Unless you use the political process to enshrine your morals in law, in which case they again apply to everyone.

The law treats every one of us the same, and requires us to treat everyone the same, no preferences, no exceptions.

It's irrelevant whether that cuts any ice with you or not.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 18 February 2012 at 9:53pm GMT

"My concern is for this elderly couple whose livelihood has been ruined by a pair of fractious, middle-aged queans [sic] determined to cause trouble. They could easily have found accomodation elsewhere where the pink pound is acceptable.."

I suspect the reception of this comment would be very different if the couple denied accommodation were Jewish, and we read the antisemitic equivalent to "middle aged queans" and "pink dollars." It never ceases to amaze me that what is now completely forbidden by decency these days is still acceptable when the subject is gay men.


Britain is now a pluralistic country. If it didn't want to be pluralistic, then it should never have had an empire. Privileging one sect above others is an engraved invitation to escalating conflict, as we are finding out in the USA after more that 30 years of political hegemony by evangelical Christians. That hegemony created a ferocious and ongoing backlash. Indeed, agnosticism is the fastest growing religious identification in the USA now.

Not getting your way on every policy decision, not getting the privilege of deciding what is right and legal for everyone else, and not having everyone defer to you and your beliefs is not oppression.

Denying people accommodation, housing, or a job, declaring them to be deviate and criminal, marginalizing them, denying them safety, beating them up and killing them just for being themselves is oppression.

Posted by: Counterlight on Sunday, 19 February 2012 at 12:21am GMT

"My concern is for this elderly couple whose livelihood has been ruined..."

To use a favorite phrase of Mr. Bowles, I remain unmoved.

A public house is a public house. They only had the right to deny accommodation if the couple couldn't pay or were involved in something criminal. The old folks have only themselves to blame.

Posted by: Counterlight on Sunday, 19 February 2012 at 12:50am GMT

Hello, Moderator?

It seems to me that HATE SPEECH is being broadcast on this thread of Thinking Anglicans! Please, PLEASE, moderate.

[Nevermind "royal line", questioning the *species* of the parentage of the perpetrator comes next...]

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 19 February 2012 at 1:57am GMT

JFC - when was 'robust argument' the same as 'hate speech'?

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Sunday, 19 February 2012 at 8:25am GMT

Erika:

In one place, you readily dismiss the references to numbers 'in all situations' as completely irrelevant to the issue of morality. Here, you defend you own reference to the majority view as relevant. It was used to bolster the moral claims your own argument. That's self-serving and selectively applied.

I may partially disagree with him, but John Bowles is perfectly entitled to participate in the political process of debate in which (as you say) 'Those who believe it is wrong can use the political channels available to change the decision. But until they've changed it, they're bound by it.' He has not broken the law.

Pat:
Maybe there's another David to whom your query is addressed. I never raised the issue of accommodating one minority at the expense of another. My only reference was to Erika's blatant self-contradiction.

I have on other threads indicated that the Bull's approach was ill-informed and uncharitable. However, to further Richard Ashby's Health and Safety example, it would be right to censure an establishment's lack of clear fire assembly point notices. That doesn't make it right for someone to precipitate prosecution and punishment by turning on the shower with the bathroom door open, hoping that it will trigger the smoke alarm and thereby expose a deficiency in the evacuation procedure.

The Pharisees wanted vengeance in bringing the adulteress to Jesus. The same motive was at work in the organisations that supported the case against the Bulls.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Sunday, 19 February 2012 at 9:45am GMT

JCF
I don't actually think this "hate speech" should be moderated at all, as long as it isn't directed at a contributor to this thread.

I think the kind of thinking it uncovers is a huge problem for Christianity and for society itself, and it's time for moderate and liberal Christians to work on it.

In the past the great Christians conflicts were about what we believe about God and Christ. They were bloody, they were destructive, but they could ultimately be put aside simply by ignoring them.
It was possible to live next to someone who didn't accept Transubstantiation, and although you thought he would probably roast in hell forever and you hated his guts, your own life wasn't affected.

Our conflict now is different and it's a very important one: What does mean to believe something if I'm not allowed to live it. Where are the boundaries of my belief and of how I must act in the public sphere. What do I do when a severe conflict arises.
Why is it acceptable for a doctor to opt out of carrying out abortions but not for a B&B owner to opt out of hosting people he really really really believes to be beyond the pale. How would I feel if the boot was on the other foot? Could someone force me to work on a translation for the Westboro Baptist Church? What would I do if they did?

At the moment, the answers come from secular law: it's the law, therefore you have to comply.

That's fine as far as it goes, but it causes a deep disconnect in people who lose their respect for the law, who feel bitter and disenfranchised, and who, if there should ever enough of them, can become destructive to the democracy we live in.

It's time religious people grasped the nettle and worked on a proper theology that breaks through the liberal vs. conservative impasse and that allows all Christians to come to find a way of living with the moral dilemmas of our time.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 19 February 2012 at 10:06am GMT

As for the Bulls, yes, I do have sympathy for them. It is horrible when your beliefs conflict with the law and you don't know which way to turn.

But we needn't dramatise their situation either. The last time I googled the hotel was still taking bookings. What's more, the couple is clearly still making the same stand against the law because the website still stresses that unmarried couples will not be given a double room: http://www.chymorvah.co.uk/bookingform.html

And if John Bowles is right and the gay couple are a selfish, immoral aberation without any support from moral upright people, then the Bulls business should thrive.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 19 February 2012 at 10:20am GMT

Just in case the last reply was junked:

ED NOTE:
[remainder deleted]

Earlier reply retrieved from Junk file and published. I am sorry that so many valid comments are getting rejected by the software and are therefore not seen until the author writes to complain.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Sunday, 19 February 2012 at 2:13pm GMT

'Could someone force me to work on a translation for the Westboro Baptist Church? What would I do if they did?'

...or perhaps, commission you to develop a new layman's translation of Mein Kampf, carefully annotated to fall short of hate speech, yet resonate with the marginalised and disaffected youth of this country. If political affiliation became a protected charateristic, like religion, you would have no choice.

This is where the church can play a part in persuading its members to adopt a code of business morality that always delivers service to those with whom we may disagree strenuously, as long as they work within the legal limits of free speech: 'And whosoever shall compel thee to go one mile, go with him two.' (Matt. 5:41)

'It's time religious people grasped the nettle and worked on a proper theology that breaks through the liberal vs. conservative impasse and that allows all Christians to come to find a way of living with the moral dilemmas of our time' is the most cohesive statement that you've made here.

We don't get through the impasse by treating all those with differing views as hopelessly obtuse, or too thick to grasp the importance of equality.

We don't get there by insisting that equality is the same as declaring an unproven equivalence.

We don't get there by caricaturing all the unconvinced as murderous, noose-wielding lynch-mongers.

We don't get there by applying World Wrestling Federation tag-team tactics to overwhelm any voice that dissents thoughtfully and respectfully.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Sunday, 19 February 2012 at 5:15pm GMT

As I said in a comment that didn't make it to this thread, if an antisemitic equivalent to "middle-aged queans [sic]" and "pink dollars" appeared here, would that still be considered "robust argument?"

I suppose in some quarters, it's perfectly permissible to speak about gay men in ways that in all other cases would be outside the bounds of all decency.

I'm with JCF. This is hate speech.

I agree with Erika Baker. These comments should stay up. The mask of pious pretense just fell off. "Give 'em enough rope and they'll hang themselves."

ED NOTE: two earlier comments found in Junk and now published. Apologies again for this problem.

Posted by: Counterlight on Sunday, 19 February 2012 at 10:25pm GMT

The law on discrimination against LGB people was actively sought because there was a lot of examples of such discrimination which makes life bad for the victims of it. There was at the time a huge campaign against the law and the issue of B&Bs was considered and indeed was one of the questions (if I recall) in the government's consultation. The law was then voted through both Houses of Parliament as was the Equality Act that replaced previous equality legislation.

The legislation did include (and does) some religious exemptions (which I support) but they are necessarily limited because if you outlaw discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation (as our Parliament has) then that is because, having considered the issue, it is felt that such discrimination is a)widespread b)harmful and c)needs to be dealt with.

The aggrieved couple may have been personally upset and offended. They may also have been somewhat outraged at people saying outright they intend to ignore the law of the land and discriminate. No society can hold together if we don't agree to obey the law and if we've gone to the trouble of passing a law it's because we intend it to be applied.

John Bowles' statements are a disgrace to himself and yes they should be moderated in my view.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Sunday, 19 February 2012 at 10:30pm GMT

John Bowles is seemingly completely careless of the truth and nothing other than a troll devoted to sneering and throwing around his inaccurate assertions. His total disregard for truth leads me to believe he is probably not a Christian, though there are times I sense he may be presenting as a radically conservative Roman Catholic.

We should not encourage him by responding.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Sunday, 19 February 2012 at 11:18pm GMT

@Richard Ashby:

"a pair of fractious, middle-aged queans determined to cause trouble" with "pink pounds"

That's not an argument (robust or otherwise). That's an ad hominem.

Erika, I get the hypothesis that by allowing bigots to spew unhindered, we let them hang their own hateful cause.

However, I would ask you to consider the counter-argument that permitting hate speech to remain posted here gives the impression that bigotry is considered merely an "alternative point-of-view" ("robust" even!). Recently, racist disparagements were made against Archbishop Sentamu: would Thinking Anglicans permit such (hateful) comments to remain here? I rather think not.

TA *has* moderation (to protect against "malicious comments" and such). While John Bowles is entitled to his opinions, TA is under no obligation to publish them---and should not. My opinion.

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 19 February 2012 at 11:21pm GMT

From this side of the pond, there's this:
"When followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity." That's one our most conservative justices, Antonin Scalia,writing for the majority in Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990)

Posted by: Steve Lusk on Monday, 20 February 2012 at 12:20am GMT

"Could someone force me to work on a translation for the Westboro Baptist Church? What would I do if they did?"

My partner would gladly do the hair of a Westboro member or Maggie Gallagher or any other hater. They would have to pay a whopping big extra charge (the "@$$*# charge"), for his services (best hair colorist in New York; where else are they going to go?).

Posted by: Counterlight on Monday, 20 February 2012 at 2:20am GMT

JCF
my issue is not that people engaging in hate speech just show themselves up for what they are - although that is undoubtedly true.

My real concern is that if we supress that kind of thing we end up with a false sense of security. All major unpleasant movements in history have started with a small minority of people spreading fear and hatred.
These things are best recognised quickly so that people can engage with them and diffuse them before they become a major problem.

You only have to look to current American politics to see where ignoring or not properly engaging with this kind of moralistic nonsense leads to.
It's one of the big failings of liberals, that we so rely on common sense, decency and due process that time and time again we end up surprised when haters make progress in society.

What has to be moderated (to my mind) are direct hate attacks against individuals on a thread. So if someone had called one of us here a middle aged quean (priceless, isn't it), they should not get away with it. But as a general comment it certainly has its value.

The exception is general speech that is directly aimed at inciting hatred and violence because that's not only morally wrong but also illegal.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 20 February 2012 at 8:12am GMT

David,
“In one place, you readily dismiss the references to numbers 'in all situations' as completely irrelevant to the issue of morality. Here, you defend you own reference to the majority view as relevant. It was used to bolster the moral claims your own argument. That's self-serving and selectively applied.”

Are you referring to this comment: “The majority of people in this country would like to live in a place where individuals either provide goods and services to everyone – or they don’t provide them to anyone.”?
But that’s factually true, whether I agree with it or not.
Obviously, people who know me on TA know that I totally agree with it. But that is actually beside the point.
If we live in a society where everyone can chose against whom to discriminate we end up with complete chaos and through the democratic process the majority of people has decided, or consented to, no discrimination being preferable because they do not want to live in total chaos.
Obviously, each one of us also has their own moral compass and sometimes the majority decision suits us perfectly. The key, though, is what happens when it doesn’t suit us. And you know better than many that there are countless occasions in the church where the current rules don’t suit me at all.
The question is what we do when they don’t suit us. And there we have several options:
Adhere to them anyway while trying to change them.
Ignore them but accept the consequences. That’s what conscientious objection always used to be about.
Ignore them and then claim that we have a right to ignore them because we don’t agree with them and that those who make them are intolerant oppressors.

I happen to think that only options 1 and 2 are acceptable.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 20 February 2012 at 8:22am GMT

David
"but John Bowles is perfectly entitled to participate in the political process of debate in which (as you say) 'Those who believe it is wrong can use the political channels available to change the decision. But until they've changed it, they're bound by it.' He has not broken the law."

And I hope you are not saying that I have suggested that he had broken the law, or that he should not post here and engage in the political process of debate.

On previous threads I have tried to encourage him to engage. Unfortunately, we never got to a real conversation because like so many whose motivation is not rational but an emotional dislike of gay people he has refused to engage with any modern theology or scientific argument,stating that he knew the theology to be wrong without having read it. He has simply left a thread when he had nothing left to contribute and then popped up a few threads later with the same arguments.
I would still like a proper conversation that doesn't just centre around yuck, queans, pink dollars and other terms of endearment but that actually moved on from that to something a little more engaging and I have said so on several occasions.


Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 20 February 2012 at 8:50am GMT

JCF
I wasn't refering to the 'two middle aged queans' since I don't consider that to be 'hate speech' just an ignorant and offensive playground insult made by someone who ought to know better. Other than that I don't see any 'hate speech' here and no one has been directly attacked for who or what they are and no one has been incited to go out and beat up John Bowles even if we might feel like it at times!!!!!

I also think it quite useful if he is allowed to condemn himself out of his own mouth. The use of such childish language negates any force which his arguments may actually posess.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Monday, 20 February 2012 at 9:10am GMT

David
“This is where the church can play a part in persuading its members to adopt a code of business morality that always delivers service to those with whom we may disagree strenuously, as long as they work within the legal limits of free speech”

I don’t know about that.
The Westboro Baptist Church was probably a poor example because their hate speech would be illegal in Britain.
Translating a treaties on Mein Kampf is a better example, and it is definitely one where I would not comply whatever the law. There has still got to be a space for personal morals. The proviso is that I would accept the consequences of breaking that law.
I also do not translate pornography, whatever the law, or anything to do with war.
Of course, most of that is only theoretical as every translator has their own fairly narrow specialist areas and is genuinely not qualified to translate outside them, so it’s often easy to refuse a piece of work on the grounds of not being qualified to do it. But that is, of course, a fudge, an evasion of the problem, not a satisfying solution.

But a real life example occurred when I had agreed to translate a lengthy booklet written by what turned out to be an extremely right wing Roman Catholic man with some deranged theology that even the Roman Catholics didn’t accept. It contained some extremely graphic sadistic sexual imagery surrounding the Crucifixion and I refused to translate that and also told the agency that I would not work for that client again.

Had this refusal been illegal I would still not have done that work.

Another moral problem arose when I undertook some work for a company selling nutrition supplements. Over time their claims got wilder and wilder, cloaked in clever language designed to trick unsuspecting people and to give them false hope: “could aid in the treatment of cancer…” that kind of thing. It was not illegal, it was definitely not moral either.

What course of action would you suggest for those instances?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 20 February 2012 at 9:24am GMT

Counterlight:

Forgive my warped sense of humour, but why do I have the feeling that the unwitting male client from the Westboro Baptist would leave the salon with the perfect irony of indelible pink undertones!

Posted by: David Shepherd on Monday, 20 February 2012 at 9:40am GMT

'The Pharisees wanted vengeance in bringing the adulteress to Jesus. The same motive was at work in the organisations that supported the case against the Bulls." - David Shepherd -

David, I must confess, I don't get the inference you are trying to draw in this statement.

Are you comparing the defenders of the Gay couple with the Pharisees? - Surely this can't be right.

In that case, 'the adulteress' would equate with the Bells! What are you trying to say here?


Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 20 February 2012 at 9:58am GMT

The difference between the couple who exercised a right to admit whom they pleased to their boarding house is that they did so from Christian principle in what was once, and is no more, a Christian country. If commentators to this website are Christian (except for the nasty bits)they shuld respect other Christian who work from a conscientious principle.

Non-Christian boarding house keepers act from a deeper level of prejudice than Christians because they ignore the secularism of the modern state, to which they are bound. Christianity is above that and frequently works beyond it. I must say, many of your commentators are a tricky bunch, in, I suspect, life as well as cyberspce. It is interesting how they resent free speech and support censorship..

In the meanwhile the loss of livelihood of the victims in this case and their age is ignored by the Christians who resent their policies.

Posted by: Jphn Bowles on Monday, 20 February 2012 at 11:34am GMT

Erika:

'I happen to think that only options 1 and 2 are acceptable'.

So during the era in which homosexuality was outlawed, you would have considered option 3 to be unacceptable: 'ignore them and then claim we have a right to ignore them because we don't agree with them and that those who make them are intolerant oppressors'.

I'm not sure what you mean by option 2 'accept the consequences', but it appears to put you at odds with the approach of the gay liberation movement.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Monday, 20 February 2012 at 11:48am GMT

David,
of course it's sometimes hard to specify what "taking the consequences" means. But a shining example to all of us is Dietrich Bonhoeoffer who went back to Germany to support the Jewish people and to work against Hitler, knowing that it was highly likely that this would cost him dear.

In the public sphere it means the kind of people who were willing to go to prison for not paying their poll tax.

I don't know what laws you believe the gay liberation movement flouts and why you think that my stance puts me at odds with most of them?

In case of the Bulls it means refusing hospitality to gay couples but accepting that this is against the law, not claiming that the law is an ass and that I should therefore be allowed to ignore it.

Within the church I personally have accepted the price of honesty when my bishop told me that I would not be licensed as a Lay Reader if I lived with my wife in a relationship that did not pretend to be a friendship.
I don't believe that living a lie that everyone knows to be a lie is following the Way, the Truth and the Light, and so I did not go along with the kind of deception that would have been acceptable. I will not play by rules I believe to be immoral.

In my professional life I have paid for my engagement on forums like this by losing a few quite lucrative contracts when Christians who would otherwise have placed a theological translation googled my name.

The alternative would be to post anonymously, or under a pseudonym, as indeed many do. Or to go along with the Bishop and pretend that the love of my life is a mere friend I share the house with.

I'm not saying this to put myself in a pretty light, but to show that simple honesty in fighting a corrupt state of affairs does, indeed, cost many of us dear. It’s no good bleating about that, it’s a consequence of placing oneself outside the framework.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 20 February 2012 at 3:12pm GMT

"Counterlight:

Forgive my warped sense of humour, but why do I have the feeling that the unwitting male client from the Westboro Baptist would leave the salon with the perfect irony of indelible pink undertones!"


No comment except Quod Est Demonstratum.

Posted by: Counterlight on Monday, 20 February 2012 at 4:06pm GMT

"The difference between the couple who exercised a right to admit whom they pleased to their boarding house is that they did so from Christian principle in what was once, and is no more, a Christian country. If commentators to this website are Christian (except for the nasty bits)they shuld respect other Christian who work from a conscientious principle."

I can remember when devout Bible-believing Christians in my native Texas frequently refused service to Blacks and Jews on religious principle; no accommodation to the children of Noah's cursed son Ham, or to the murderers of Our Lord. Should I have respected their "conscientious principle"?

Posted by: Counterlight on Monday, 20 February 2012 at 4:12pm GMT

"Christianity is above that" John Bowles.

You might think it is. I don't.
Please don't state opinion as fact.

Posted by: Laurence C. on Monday, 20 February 2012 at 4:19pm GMT

Father Ron:
'Are you comparing the defenders of the Gay couple with the Pharisees? - Surely this can't be right'

The Pharisees asked Jesus, in prosecuting the case of the adulteress, 'Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?' In both cases, the guilt was fixed before the law. In both cases, they wanted to make a public example of the couple. In both cases, they wanted punishment to the full extent of the law without a hint of mitigation.

The Bulls' B&B business failure will be a mere adverse reaction to the strong tonic needed to fix intolerance in society. It is this complete unwillingness to mitigate an irreversibly destructive penalty (damning their livelihood beyond the £1800 paid to each respondent) that Jesus addressed when He said: 'Let he who is without sin cast the first stone'.

What would Jesus do? Jesus reversed the harm done to an armed servant of the high priests, intent on capturing Him for execution. Hmm...

Erika:
Peter Tatchell is not the only gay activist who has chosen option 3 on several occasions.

Challenging the grounds of a judicial prosecution is not the same as the hurtful ostracism that you've described. The former reaps criminal penalties. Poll tax evasion does not relate to protected characteristics.

While I disagree with the Bulls, there are several cases before the ECHR in which (to follow the case law quotations) 'a person has NOT accepted a job knowing their manifestation of religion or belief will conflict with the job' and NOT 'voluntarily accepted particular restrictions in their working lives'

In its submission to the ECHR, the EHRC has correctly highlighted the narrow definition of 'a manifestation of religion or belief' adopted by the UK courts in recent appeals. Currently, to be valid, a manifestation of religion requires a comparator group of an indeterminate size: “In our judgment, in order for indirect discrimination to be established, it must be possible to make some general statements which would be true about a religious group such that an employer ought reasonably to be able to appreciate that any particular provision may have a disparate adverse impact on the group". Anything less (including the moral scruples that you’ve applied) is deemed a 'personal choice'.
http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/uploaded_files/legal/ehrc_submission_to_ecthr_sep_2011.pdf

Posted by: David Shepherd on Monday, 20 February 2012 at 7:11pm GMT

John Bowles - 'In the meanwhile the loss of livelihood of the victims in this case and their age is ignored by the Christians who resent their policies'.

As has been noted above the website for the Bull's hotel is still operating and taking bookings, It doesn't look as if they have lost their livelihood. Though it is worth noting that the offending statement about double beds is still there. Wuld they turn away a gay couple who wanted a double bed again?

As for their age; since when has age been a defence against illegal actions?

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Monday, 20 February 2012 at 8:22pm GMT

David,
do you not think that it would have been preferable to offer the couple hospitality and then challenge the law?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 20 February 2012 at 9:44pm GMT

“'Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?' In both cases, the guilt was fixed before the law. In both cases, they wanted to make a public example of the couple. In both cases, they wanted punishment to the full extent of the law without a hint of mitigation.”

‘Judge, these people were caught trying to rent a double room in our inn. According to Christian law, we must shun these sinners. Now what do you say?’

Vengeance? Or genuinely seeking an answer to a question?

We may interpret the biblical scene as people trying to set Jesus up like those who asked whether it was right to pay taxes, or as seeking vengeance. Or as simply seeking understanding.
Certainly, the way my own mind works, I would have to understand something down to the smallest “how and why” before I could accept it. And if someone came up with a completely new answer, I’d be digging pretty deep until I’d properly understood what it means.

Certainly, the response of those who brought the women is inspirational. Once they had understood what Jesus said they didn’t jump up and down and shout about not being allowed to practice their ancient religion and seek another authority to mediate and to confirm their view. They actually got the point and walked away.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 21 February 2012 at 8:01am GMT

Erika:

'do you not think that it would have been preferable to offer the couple hospitality and then challenge the law?'

Yes, I agree with that. However, if you owned a conference center, you wouldn't be able to decline hosting a summit of radical Muslims without breaking the law.

'They actually got the point and walked away.'

Well, partly. They went away defeated, but re-grouped for another attack on:
1. His amnesty towards notorious sinners who expressed sincere remorse.
2. His lack of conspicous self-denial.
3. His exposure of their double standards.
4. His contempt for man-made hierarchies that claimed spritual authority and the externalised accretions to the Law.
5. His lack of theological credentials.

Their opposition escalated to mortal emnity.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Tuesday, 21 February 2012 at 4:33pm GMT

David,

"Their opposition escalated to mortal emnity."

Of course, we don't know whether "they" were the same people. One hopes that some truly understood it.

I suspect they were pretty much like we all are - we "get" some parts, we don't "get" others. And we're all mired in some level of self delusion about our own holiness compared to the others - why else would we continuously try to insist that the others are such terrible sinners that holy people like us should have the right to shun them - in the name of the one who never shunned anyone.

But even if they didn't and if they were on their way to mortal emnity, that's not a path we should want to follow.

What ultimately counts is what Jesus was trying to teach them. And that seems to me to be pretty clear.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 22 February 2012 at 8:24am GMT

I find the idea that sex is confined to double beds alone rather charming. Of course, two single beds must mean total abstinence.

Also, most people whether gay or not, tend use mainly beds for one supreme purpose - rest and sleep !

Oh and if not too tired, a bit of reading ...

Also, I like to pray abed these days rather than huddled at the end of the bed on the lino.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Wednesday, 22 February 2012 at 6:29pm GMT
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