Monday, 20 February 2012

some recent equality decisions and legal analysis

Updated Thursday morning

The case of Bull & Bull v Hall & Preddy was decided at appeal.

On 10th February 2012, the Court of Appeal upheld a Judge’s ruling that a Christian couple, Peter and Hazelmary Bull, had discriminated against Martin Hall and Steven Preddy on grounds of sexual orientation when they refused them a double-bedded room at their hotel near Penzance.

Read the full judgment here.

Read the analysis by Marina Wheeler at UK Human Rights Blog here.

The case of Vejdeland and Others vs. Sweden was decided by the European Court of Human Rights.

Sweden’s Supreme Court (Högsta domstolen) was right to convict four men of hate crimes for distributing homophobic flyers at a school, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled.

See news report from The Local Swedes’ anti-gay flyers not free speech: court.

The full text of the judgment is available in English here.

See an analysis of the case by Antoine Buyse at ECHR Blog: Anti-Gay Speech Judgment.

The website of the Court has this useful factsheet on Hate Speech.

And there has been some interesting discussion over the weekend about a case involving our own UK schools. See this Observer news article by Jamie Doward: ‘Anti-gay’ book puts Gove at centre of faith school teaching row.

Adam Wagner analysed the situation at UK Human Rights Blog in Is it legal to teach gay hate in schools?:

…So the position is this. A school is permitted to teach about whatever subject it likes, so as not to inhibit it from teaching about a wide range of issues, including, it would seem, controversial views about homosexuality. However, the school must still ensure that those issues are not taught in a way which subjects pupils to discrimination.

So Mr Gove is entirely incorrect to say that “Any materials used in sex and relationship education lessons, therefore, will not be subject to the discrimination provisions of the act”. Schools are still not allowed to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation, religion or race and so have a responsibility to ensure that if they are going to introduce controversial material about gay sex being “directed against God’s natural purpose”, they have to be very careful indeed to balance that material so that gay students are not subjected to discrimination…

And he has further material at: Teaching Jewish children to cure gays – is it legal?

It turns out that the Observer was selective in its quoting from Mr Gove’s letter and as explained here by Adam Wagner the full letter from Michael Gove (PDF) does contain a much better explanation of the law than the newspaper article as originally published.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 20 February 2012 at 2:15pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: equality legislation

I've never been a fan of Front Nationale and I couldn't translate the full judgement, yet Feret's right-wing election slogans appear to remain within the margins of strong political protest. His comments about immigration could have easily been lifted from any UK tabloid front page.

In the current climate, we might as well prosecute the local vicar who rails at our 'godless culture'. All it takes is a formal complaint by an offended militant atheist:

Posted by: David Shepherd on Monday, 20 February 2012 at 11:46pm GMT

The ruling by the European Court of Human Rights as regards Vejdeland and Others vs. Sweden makes a significant contribution to our understanding of what can now be seen as "fair comment" or even the TA favourite "robust debate".

I can think of at least one recently retired CofE bishop who, by this standard, would now be seen to have broken the law - had his speech not been protected by parliamentary privilege!

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 21 February 2012 at 12:08am GMT

It is still incredible that the Church should continue to be an agency of discrimination, rather than of justice - on matters affecting our common humanity.

One longs for the day when prejudices - often espoused by the Church - that have divided us against one another: because of race, ethnic difference, culture and custom, gender and sexual orientation; become the cause of celebration of God's bounty rather then tools of oppression.

When one reflects on the diversity of creation, one cannot but marvel at God's intention to hold all things together in Christ. The metaphor of Paul's description of the Body of Christ being like the human body - made up of different parts, with ALL having relevance to the whole - ought to give the Church a sense of mission for Inclusion.

Such inclusion ought to be natural, and not enforced into an extra 'new' Covenant. We already have one - en Christo.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 21 February 2012 at 12:17am GMT

Father Ron:

I well remember that day in Trinidad, (running alone in the Laventille valley over 30 years ago) when God decided to spring me from my prison of remorseless futility. In recognising exactly what my life was missing, it was no longer possible to simply affirm my own goodness, nor the life that I'd lived thus far. At that point, I realised that I belonged, in biblical terms, to 'them that are afar off' (in spite of the junior churchmanship of my earlier years).

My inclusion into the body of Christ was accomplished via the new birth. It is by the Holy Spirit ('the wind blows where it wants'), rather than actions (baptismal or otherwise) that apply the will of man, or the will of the flesh.

As Christ said of my hitherto self-affirmed priorities, 'the flesh profiteth nothing'. It is only when we despair of that self-affirmation and de-throne the moral relativism that merely supports the status quo that we can reach to Christ in hope of being saved from our self-deception. 'The Law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul'.

For the scribes and Pharisees, hand washing and public displays of piety were, no doubt, 'manifestation(s) of religion'. Christ's blistering hierophobic attack on the religious leaders (Matt. 23) would have been branded as an incitement to religious hatred' in today's world. The DPP would have had a field day with his 'viper' epithet!

Posted by: David Shepherd on Tuesday, 21 February 2012 at 10:32pm GMT

And I remember the day, too, David, when God was able to get through my lack of self-respect; enabling me to realise that God loved me 'Just as I am - without one plea'. It turned my life around, encouraged me to be first a Franciscan Brother and then a priest - determined to encourage everyone into the realisation of saving Grace of God's love in Christ. I knew that if God could love me, God can love everyone.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 22 February 2012 at 1:27am GMT

Father Ron:

Many have been 'once enlightened, tasted the good word of God and made partakers of the Holy Ghost'.

Your stated position provides no objective remedy for self-delusion. Churchgoers can simply mask their moral inertia with unproven claims of psychological or genetic determinism. An objective biblical standard of Christian behaviour is rejected in favour of affirming their status quo.

Anyone can assert that a previously condemned trait is predominantly determined by nature. They merely equate behaviour with physiology, building a sympathetic theology around it and explaining away any interpretation of scripture that might contradict that view.

After applying the usual labels of contempt to anyone who refuses to be gullible, they can then insist that the church should reverse its historical position and decline further censure.

Paul stated before the Ephesians elders: 'I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.' (Acts 20:29 - 30)

Your thesis offers no protection against those false teachers, especially when it begins with the fallacy of unproven determinism.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Wednesday, 22 February 2012 at 7:18pm GMT

Well, Ron - you false teacher and wolf in fold, you - there's the kind of reasoned answer you can expect:

"NUH-UH! You call us names, you big dopey, and you're just wrongy-wrong-wrong, 'cause the Bible tells me so!"

The conservatives are right on one point: tolerance has its limits before it becomes unhealthy codepence.

We should've excommunicated these people a decade and more ago.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 23 February 2012 at 4:39am GMT

Thank you, Mark. I should have realised that reasonable argument is impossible for D.S. He seems so locked into 39-articular determinism. Agape.

But, hey! God loves him too.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 23 February 2012 at 9:16am GMT

To paraphrase the rest of the quoted children's hymn:

'Genetics is my favourite song,
All sin's just weak,
But never wrong.

Yes, Jeaus loves me,
Yes, Jesus loves me,
Yes, Jesus loves me,
He must have made me so.'

Posted by: David Shepherd on Thursday, 23 February 2012 at 9:26am GMT

what is "the fallacy of unproven determinism" supposed to mean?

Let's get this straight. It may not be (purely) genetic, there could be hormonal, environmental or any host of other influences. So what?

Fact is that people tell us time and time again that, whatever the cause, they find themselves to be gay. They don't chose it, they just become aware of it.

What makes me really really sad and can bring me to the edge of tears in front of my computer is the memory of the many many who have spoken of years of desperate prayer to be healed, of being ashamed of who they are, of trying everything to become straight. People who have felt let down by God when their prayers weren't answered, who have been miserable and who have lived in a state of self disgust because they couldn't make themselves different.
Many have comitted suicide. In other countries, they have been imprisoned and executed.

Others have survived and have told their stories, including here on TA. They are still telling their stories.

And then people like you come along with an astonishing and completely inexplicable spiritual arrogance, ignore the tears, ignore the suffering, stamp on those stories, declare them to be invalid, not worth listening to, because of "the fallacy of unproven determinism".

Have you no eyes to read? No ears to hear? No heart to understand?

Declare immoral what you must declare immoral. But for God's sake, look at the reality of the people you are talking to!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 23 February 2012 at 9:44am GMT

To paraphrase the rest of the quoted children's hymn:

'Genetics is my favourite song,
All sin's just weak,
But never wrong.

Yes, Jesus loves me,
Yes, Jesus loves me,
Yes, Jesus loves me,
He must have made me so.'

Posted by: David Shepherd on Thursday, 23 February 2012 at 2:55pm GMT

This just goes to show - that if you repeat something often enough, some people will actually believe it!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 23 February 2012 at 11:30pm GMT

So, let's just posit that we have in our congregation, a faithful, loving, forgiving, monogamous gay couple and a faithful loving forgiving monogamous heterosexual couple. They both have anal sex. They both have adopted children. You don't want to marry the gay couple, because....because why exactly?

Posted by: Catherine Uffen on Friday, 24 February 2012 at 5:10am GMT

How mature.

Spectacularly-reasoned response and so convincing.

Pure superstition seems molecular biology by comparison.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Friday, 24 February 2012 at 5:20am GMT

Fr. Ron,

God loved Job, God loved Saul(Tarsus and otherwise), God loved Nebuchadnezzer - doesn't mean they were indulged in their error and wickedness.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Friday, 24 February 2012 at 5:23am GMT

In contrast, the liberal theology tag-team's on-line equivalent of hearty biased backslapping bonhomie constitutes a reasoned rebuttal.


Posted by: David Shepherd on Friday, 24 February 2012 at 6:31am GMT

there have been plenty of reasoned rebuttals on this forum.
But you cannot change prejudice. It's simply impossible to engage reasonably with someone who is determined not to shift.

Every time a new anti lgbt equality contributor joins this forum you start again, because some turn out to be less entrenched than others and everyone is worth the effort.

But there comes a time where it becomes patently clear to everyone that no progress can be made.

When people talk about pink tinges in professional hair colouring and then post nursery rhymes to support their views you know that point has been reached.

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

Even Jesus applied a simple rhyme to expose the hypocritical contradictions of His earthly era:

“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:

“‘We played the flute for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not mourn.’ (Matt. 11:16 -17)

If you think that emotive special pleadings here equate to reasoned rebuttals, you are sadly mistaken. As above, the rhyme was yet another way to highlight the self-affirming complacency in your arguments.

You should read your Bible more.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Friday, 24 February 2012 at 5:26pm GMT

now you had me laugh out loud.

You complain that I'm emotive and then you write
"we sang a dirge,
and you did not mourn"

The irony is priceless!

How about you re-read the post you dismissed as emotive, ignore the emotions and deal with the substance?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 24 February 2012 at 6:41pm GMT


I referred to Christ's similar use of the rhyme as rhetorical device in a manner that you decried. Your response was a valiant smokescreen.

Those tactics aside, it's a pity that you don't yet see the real irony of a commenter, like yourself, claiming to promote the Christian cause, yet lacking the scriptural foundation required to challenge opposing moral arguments as Christ did. Then again, if you did, it wouldn't be ironic.

Perhaps, if you can force back the tears, as you sit at your computer, and re-present your arguments without descending into those mawkish special pleadings, we can debate these issues rationally.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Friday, 24 February 2012 at 8:06pm GMT

no serious engagement then with my point that whatever might determine being gay the real life stories of people tell us that many tried desperately to change and found they could not. That many were so miserable that they killed themselves.
So much for wanton hedonism and wicked choice

It's ok to shut yourself off into a rational universe where people's emotions are an inconvenience to be decried as not rational.

It's not ok to avoid engagement with the facts those emotional people tell you about their own lives. That is not very intelligent, does not make for a credible debate and really just stresses this is about nothing other than prejudice.

I think the conversation between you and me has run its course.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 24 February 2012 at 10:42pm GMT

As a parallel example, there is a vast difference between arguing that our no-fault divorce laws are truly moral and arguing that we should permit divorcees to participate in the church as a pastoral accommodation.

For the most part, this thread was not was certainly not about the pressing need for a pastoral accommodation to help those who experience turmoil and struggle with their sexuality (whatever their orientation). The arguments were fashioned as absolute morality affirmed by God, reason and Holy Writ.

Perhaps, it should be the police caution of the next debate:

'You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your argument if you resort to a particular standard of reasoning, only to reject it in later comment.'

Posted by: David Shepherd on Saturday, 25 February 2012 at 10:35am GMT

Mr.Shepherd. I will ask you as gently as possible; Please keep your endemic fundamentalism to your self. You won't gain any converts to your particular brand of irony here. Blessings.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 26 February 2012 at 11:38pm GMT

Blessings to you, Ron. When my advocacy for God's clemency is unwanted, I'm just a reluctant witness for His prosecution.

Don't shoot the messenger until it really gets to be too much.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Monday, 27 February 2012 at 8:40pm GMT
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