Comments: Church Times and the SORs

I think that most Christian groups have little difficulty with the broad thrust of equality legislation. The UK Evangelical Alliance's response as an example: http://www.eauk.org/public-affairs/humanrights/upload/GettingEqualPreamble.doc

Here are a couple of quote: "Religious groups, as a matter of principle, oppose unfair discrimination and unambiguously reject abusive and hateful conduct, attitudes and speech aimed at homosexual people."

"The key point to be stressed here is that sexual orientation human rights are to be regarded as on a par with religion and belief human rights – not with rights relating to race, sex and disability. Both homosexual *practice* and religion and belief involve choices with which different people may choose to disagree. Such disagreement should remain a fundamental human freedom which people are at liberty to express publicly."


What many are concerned about, including the CofE in their response to the SOR consultations, is whether the proposals respect people or groups who, while loving and accepting people whatever their sexuality, do not and cannot accept that every sexual behaviour is equally good.

As long as legislation conflates the two, it will be seen as imposing a particular view of sexual morality, not just individual equality, and be open to charges of not respecting freedom of conscience, belief and religion.

Posted by Dave at Saturday, 13 January 2007 at 1:18pm GMT

The Church Times leader is unequivocal.

After reading the CT links here, why not go to the Question of the Week and vote on this question? : ----

'Do you believe the new regulations infring your rights?'

Another small way of letting your view be known.

Posted by laurence at Saturday, 13 January 2007 at 2:46pm GMT

Sometimes it feels like whack-a-mole here. The same pesky critter keeps on popping up no matter how often you hit it with a hammer.

Not every sexual behaviour is equally good. But what has that to do with selling books? Or bread? Or teaching maths? Or running a hotel? Or a print shop?

The legislation does precisely the opposite of what Dave says it does: it deliberately seperates the person from their sexual behaviour, as says you cannot discriminate against this person. It does not conflate the two - that's the job of the opponents of the SoR.

Posted by Simon Morden at Saturday, 13 January 2007 at 2:47pm GMT

Wind in the willows eh Simon ?!

Seriously, it does feel like that, thanks.

Posted by laurence at Saturday, 13 January 2007 at 4:03pm GMT

Simon Morden wrote: "Not every sexual behaviour is equally good. But what has that to do with selling books? Or bread? Or teaching maths? Or running a hotel? Or a print shop?"

Dear Simon, Most of those are straw men. And I didn't mention any of them! If the legislation means that you can't refuse to print a book because you consider the content immoral (if that morality is to do with sexuality) then it is imposing a particular (a)moral view. If a christian church or retreat centre cannot refuse to take bookings from a group because that group has a different view on sexuality issues, the legislation is a particular (a)moral view.

If the SORs don't oblige people to provide services that are against their conscience then I am happy. But I don't think that is the case.

Posted by Dave at Saturday, 13 January 2007 at 5:40pm GMT

whack-a-mole

Isn't that that strange concoction made with avocado pear?

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Saturday, 13 January 2007 at 6:22pm GMT

I feel the point is being missed here. The passing of this legislation now means that it is illegal to teach the Christian faith,. e.g - in theory a teacher could be sued via the LEA for teaching that marriage involves a MAn and a WOMAN and for not also saying that a marriage betwen two men or two wo men is equally valid, depsite this contradicting Christian teaching. another e.hg. - a priest who refuses to bless a smae-sex union could also be sued now under this legislation. There will be test cases lining up for this April. Anglicans need to ask the deep-rooted question"who says so ?" or "BY whose authority" ....

We have witnessed this week the first Western democracy that has made it illegal to teach Christianity. And only a handful of protestors noticed. I guess we deserve what`s in store. God have mercy on the UK.

Posted by bernadette at Saturday, 13 January 2007 at 7:27pm GMT

The regulations have nothing at all to do with sexual behaviour, but sexual orientation.

And under the law, whether the Daves of this world like it or not, gay and hetero sexual orientations are as good as each other.

In other words, the civil law does not reflect traditional Christian prejudices - and that's the way things are going to stay.

Race, sex, disability and sexuality are integral to a person, in a way which belief is not.

Posted by Merseymike at Sunday, 14 January 2007 at 12:00am GMT

Simon

Thanks for making me laugh, reading some of what has gone up in the last week, I needed cheering up.

Plus there is an assumption that improper sexual behaviours do not happen between heterosexual couples.

Just to add to your whack-a-mole game, how about we add bait-a-mole?

One of my contemplations this weekend is that the penultimate Christian fantasy intrinsically aspires for selfish misogynistic celibate homosexuality.

God is male (and male only) and is Jesus. The only legitimate wife to Jesus is the one true church. Only men can truly represent the church and God's teachings. Therefore the only legitimate marriage is between the male divine Jesus and the male church.

No wonder they are so scared of homosexuality, and no wonder the church has attracted so many homosexuals over the centuries. Snicker.

Jesus loves them so much that he is going to eliminate all the other potential brides and give them a wonderful castle on a new earth and heaven; where everyone is happy and no one has to worry about taking responsbility for caring or sharing.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Sunday, 14 January 2007 at 7:38am GMT

I have to conclude that Bernadette is just not reading what is being written here and elsewhere. The current regulations for NI simply do not have the specific effects described. Why is it that people continue to make false claims about these regulations?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Sunday, 14 January 2007 at 8:54am GMT

Dave had a couple of quotes from the Evangelical Alliance in the first comment above.

Quote 1: "Religious groups, as a matter of principle, oppose unfair discrimination and unambiguously reject abusive and hateful conduct, attitudes and speech aimed at homosexual people."

“Unfair discrimination”?

It looks like the new Roman Catechism § 2357…

Quote 2: "The key point to be stressed here is that sexual orientation human rights are to be regarded as on a par with religion and belief human rights – not with rights relating to race, sex and disability. Both homosexual *practice* and religion and belief involve choices with which different people may choose to disagree. Such disagreement should remain a fundamental human freedom which people are at liberty to express publicly."

Now, the right to Freedom from State interference in religious Beliefs – and to some small extent the Freedom to express such Beliefs on the condition that Public Order be not disturbed – was established in International Law by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.

It is the original Human Right.

Innate properties such as Race, Gender and Ability came into it only in the last century (and then much opposed).

Frankly, I don’t think the Evangelical Alliance really intends to say what is expressed here, that sexual orientation (the concept of which appears for the first time in a Cambridge bible translation of 1966) be of a higher and more original Order than Race, Gender and Ability, “on par” only with the Original Freedom of Religious Belief.

“Disagreement” only came into it in the 1948 UN Charter – and who cares about that one these days ;=)

The late and novel American teachings on “choice” must be leading the EA astray.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Sunday, 14 January 2007 at 11:05am GMT

Dave wrote: “If the legislation means that you can't refuse to print a book because you consider the content immoral (if that morality is to do with sexuality) then it is imposing a particular (a)moral view.”

No it doesn’t. You need to contemplate for a while upon the (legal) difference between General and Particular. It is these provisions that are General in scope, whereas the opposition argues for a Particular moral view: Neo Platonist Moralism.

and further “If a christian church or retreat centre cannot refuse to take bookings from a group because that group has a different view on sexuality issues, the legislation is a particular (a)moral view.”

“because that group has a different view “???

Again: this legislation is General (as all legislations should be), it is not accepting that is Particular.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Sunday, 14 January 2007 at 11:06am GMT

Simon, I think Bernadette and others like her have been wilfully misled and if anything we may see even more of this as the government considers the Regs for the rest of us.

Behind all the lies, there is a real change in the law, and it is going to mean that some people in some situations will have to behave differently or suffer its penalty. If there were no occasions of discrimination or harassment then this legislation would not be necessary, so it’s no surprise that those few left in this country who recognise that their current behaviour and actions (and I don’t mean the imaginary ones) would put them on the wrong side of this law are acting-up.

Reviewing the calls on our homophobia helpline over the past weeks, it’s not hard to see that some current practices may well come a cropper. Take the 19 year old London student who came-out privately to her Pastor, the next day and for the following ten days she found the Pastor had arranged for several people to call her every half hour from 8am to 8pm to pray with her.

There is no doubt that some within faith communities and some with no faith but for example those with Fascist sympathies will find their some aspects of the current behaviour towards gay and lesbian people open to challenge in the Civil Courts.

The more obvious and least defensible of these current practices will vanish quickly when the law is implemented. But I can see the LCF and others making much of cases on the margins, we can be sure the Daily Mail has a few scandalised headlines yet to come.

The argument that there is a “better law” that will address the problem of provision of services to gay and lesbian people while leaving those whose faith and/or political doctrine might be compromised is a device to render the Regulations impotent. We all know it.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Sunday, 14 January 2007 at 11:56am GMT

I remember a conversation, that went something like:

"You can't come in here."
"Why not?"
"I don't like the colour of your trousers."
"Oh well, that's fair discrimination."

Baffling, really.

Posted by Pluralist at Sunday, 14 January 2007 at 1:19pm GMT

I too remember a conversation in class. The teacher (of the Greek Pentecostal variety) said:

"Until Hjalmar takes off his homophile trousers (very flashy), he will not be given any questions, nor allowed to ask any."

"Fair" discrimination - at the time.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Sunday, 14 January 2007 at 2:47pm GMT

I think the repeating of allegations which are simply not true are all part of the process of trying to create straw men.

When it comes down to it, we know that the ideal situation for some of those on the protest would be to either recriminalise homosexuality, or a society where there had been no progress on this issue since 1967 and where grudging acceptance of gay sexuality in private is enough. There is certainly no place for happily open gays and lesbians living in relationships which are respected and acknowledged by society.

They know that the return of their ideal world isn't going to happen, and they feel under siege - so they exaggerate in a vain attempt to try and hang on to the discriminatory society they favour. This is why their arguments become ever more shrill

Posted by Merseymike at Sunday, 14 January 2007 at 4:31pm GMT

Dear Merseymike, Sexuality doesn't change for some people; for others it does. What is more, some sexualities are harmful to others, and acting on them is illegal.

Sexual *behaviour*, on the other hand, is completely a choice (unless you become addicted/compulsive). I don't see why I should be compelled by law to not criticise, or refuse services that are requested to support *behaviours* that I see as wrong. I wouldn't expect any more from you or other people who disagree with my lifestyle choices!

I don't expect the civil law to reflect Christian morality. I think the law is there to protect us from the worst excesses of human sin. But I worry that the governing elite see it as a tool to impose a brave New Liberal (a)morality - through controlling discourse and imposing behaviours.

Posted by Dave at Sunday, 14 January 2007 at 5:45pm GMT

We have (unfortunately) been over this territory many, many times and now it is formally in the Hansard record of Parliament that the religious opposition (again we have thankfully seen many examples of religious groups in support) is not being truthful about the regulations and that they will not have the effects dreamed up by tese no doubt well meaning folks.

Normally the Government is a fairly reliable source of information as to what a law does or doesn't mean.

And, because it is secondary legislation and because of the Human Rights Act and how it works we know that the assurances of the Government will be backed up by the Courts.

Finally, while Northern Ireland has both an Equalities and Human Rights Commissions the rest of the UK will also have the Commission on Equality and Human Rights from Autumn 2007, which have a statutory duty to advise the Government on equality and human rights issues.

It's all a fuss about nothing, but the (?deliberate) misconceptions do seem to be rooted in homophobia rather than reason.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Sunday, 14 January 2007 at 5:55pm GMT

Dave says: Sexual *behaviour*, on the other hand, is completely a choice.

I agree. But unless I'm actually trying to ravish someone in the Post Office queue, I don't see what that has to do with not being allowed to buy stamps?

Posted by Simon Morden at Sunday, 14 January 2007 at 7:04pm GMT

Martin

I don't know whether to laugh or cry at your example. It reminds me of a friend of mine whose marriage broke down because her husband had committed adultery. A well meaning Christian neighbour came over to pray for her and her marriage's salvation. As if my friend had any choice in the matter!

Sometimes their well meaning prayers are actually more hurtful than if they just ignored you. A good counsellor would tell you that you need to ask your client if they would like to be helped and if there are any constraints on how you would like that help delivered.

Otherwise, it is a bit like an accident scene where someone sedates and drags away the screaming person in the ambulance only to find out at the hospital that they were trying to find the baby that had been thrown out of the car.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Sunday, 14 January 2007 at 8:18pm GMT

re ' Martin's example'.

I am pretty clear that this falls foul of the 'Protection from Harassment Act 1997' with which I have had some involvement. In order to break this Law on has to either stalk or harass for a second time. That's it. It is an excellent means of respite. The Courts will impose an enforcement order inhibiting the harassment at once, even before a full Hearing or Trial is held. The pastor's act seems a clear incitement to me.

I would have no hesitation in reporting him to the police. It is ideal law for domestic situations, but is equally good in other abusive social situations. Like this one.

Usually quite a sympathetic person, I have no sympathy for those who break this law, imposing themselves on vulnerable individuals. (We are all vulnerable in such circumstances --hence the law). Ministers of religion are particularly responsible not to step over the boundary, or intervene in a 'parishioner's' life inappropriately.

Posted by laurence at Sunday, 14 January 2007 at 11:15pm GMT

Some reasons why the proposals are wrong:
(1) A Christian teacher (especially in a nonChristian school), and likewise a Muslim teacher etc, will have to do one of two things: either lie (which they are unlikely to do) or suppress the conclusions to which they have come. We must always be against the suppression of debate - unless anyone is in favour of that?
(2) If debate is not allowed, then essentially we are issuing pre-packaged conclusions rather than trying to weigh up arguments. Everyone knows which is better. No-one disagrees with that?
(3) There is a danger that Catholic adoption agencies, which (like Catholic schools) are leaders in their field, will more or less have to close down.
(4) We are having to bow the knee to the genetics position, as opposed to accepting the truth, which is that the situation is more complex as between genetics and environment:
-Most (above 50% of) identical twins of self-styled gay people are not gay.
-Homosexual orientation does not appear to be equally apportioned among different societies. A disproportionate number of those I meet are white liberals.
-Gay identity & practice is to a large extent determined by the norms of a given society. Even the very words 'heterosexual' etc don't exist in some societies, and didn't exist in common coin in this society till very recently.
(5) Truth (or statistical findings) will be no defence - everything will be reduced to emotional impact (hatred, fear). Who lives in a world of all emotions and no facts or reasoned debate? Pre-teens?

Posted by Chrsitopher Shell at Monday, 15 January 2007 at 12:34pm GMT

"Sexuality doesn't change for some people; for others it does"
Really. Well, if you believe the claims of "ex-gay" ministries, I can see why you'd believe that, but these claims are, at best, debatable as to veracity, the definition of "change", and the effect on people's psych of the process whereby the people involved in these groups "change". In those outside these groups, "changing" is pretty rare, and it is also telling that no-one ever "changes" from straight to gay. Might this indicate that the "change" is more in name than in fact on the rare occasions when it does occur?

As to sexual behaviour being a choice, your argument would have a lot more weight if we were talking about anonymous sex in a back alley. We aren't. We are talking about relationships between people. I'm sure you'd agree that a loving committeed monogamous relationship is about a l;ot more than just sex. Again, I'm not challenging your belief in the sinfulness/lack thereof of homosexuality, I am challenging your assumptions about what gay people and our relationships are. Your argument would hold a lot more weight if you didn't come out withs statements from time to time that reveal an attitude based on assumptions rather than fact.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 15 January 2007 at 12:47pm GMT

Dr Shell's observation that the search for a 'gay gene' (other than Robinson)is simplistic is a fair one, and it is intriguing that a number of studies of identical twins reveal non-identical characteristics, not only in the area of sexuality. But identical twin studies are particularly interesting in that environmental considerations are likely to be non-variant (except in those few studies which have looked at monozygous twins raised separately) - there is still something going on here which cannot be explained in terms of 'lifestyle choice'.

And the 'white liberal' bias in gay profiles counts for nothing - would YOU sign up as a gay in a society where to do so marks you out for horrendous discrimination? It is much easier, I think, for a white liberal to come out of the closet than for (say) a Jamaican, whose very life would be at risk, and therefore white liberals will be over-represented in any sample of 'confessing' gays. Raw data is never reliable (as CS has himself pointed out, I believe).

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Monday, 15 January 2007 at 3:52pm GMT

No, Christopher.

1. It is not up to a Christian, Muslim or any other teacher to teach only their particular perspective. That simply isn't good practice.
2. Nothing to do with the regulations. Debate is allowed. Discrimination in the delivery of goods and services is not.
3. No. They may choose to close down, but the law is clear enough - that gay and lesbian people can adopt and foster children. Thus, it is not acceptable that they should be allowed to discriminate against those people, and so reduce the chance of finding a foster care or adoption placement for a child in need
4. Nothing to do with the regulations. Sexual orientation is a reality, whatever you think the roots of it are. Hence, the Government does not wish to discriminate against those who are gay or lesbian in their sexual orientation. The Government's role is to ensure that British citizens are not discriminated against, including those who are gay or lesbian.
5. The facts of discrimination in terms of receiving goods and services are clear enough.

Posted by Merseymike at Monday, 15 January 2007 at 5:51pm GMT

Christopher,
1. Supposing a conservative Christian wanted to argue that, since God cursed Ham, black people shouldn't have equal rights. That was once a factor in human rights debate. Should we suppress that?
4. Most would agree that sexuality isn't simply a matter of one gene, and the genetic influence on behaviour is as easily downplayed as it is overemphasized. Might non-white people growing up in a conservative society be afraid to admit their sexuality, thus making it appear there are fewer of us than there actually are in such societies? And I know a fair number of gay people who are anything but liberal, so my sample doesn't match yours. Also, how do you identify gay people to know whether the non-white, non-liberals you meet are gay or not? I confess, I can't, and I've got pretty good gaydar. Essentially, you seem to be making assumptions of the composition of a group the members of which you can't identify.

A lot of gay people hide by getting married and having gratuitous sex with their spouses, as little as possible, to maintain their cover. It still happens, as you know. This would be much easier in a conservative society where sex is a taboo subject. How would you identify such people?

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 15 January 2007 at 7:12pm GMT

"-Homosexual orientation does not appear to be equally apportioned among different societies. A disproportionate number of those I meet are white liberals. "

Chuckles.

Well, I imagine that a homosexual Nigerian is very comfortable with their sexuality and readily talks about it at the local coffee shop...

Do these people ever look at for the snares and traps that they set? They seem to catch themselves in them more often than they catch others.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Monday, 15 January 2007 at 8:51pm GMT

Re Dr. Shell's observations and mynsterpreost (David Rowett's) response re twins, I can point you to a pair of twins I know personally. They are not identical, they are what I as a layperson was taught to call "fraternal" twins. They are both gay. One is a man; the other a woman. Both are in same-sex life partnerships.
revLois Keen

Posted by Lois Keen at Monday, 15 January 2007 at 9:26pm GMT

Christopher Shell is a hoot!!

"A disproportionate number of those (gays) I meet are white liberals."

You must go to Walsingham Christopher for one of the more esoteric pilgrimages. I think you will find the place full of conservative gays, of course publicly homophobic to a lace cotta!

If you visit one of the large gay night clubs on a Saturday night – I think you will see as varied an ethnic mix as you do generally.

Christopher does seem to have led a sheltered life.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Monday, 15 January 2007 at 9:38pm GMT

""Sexuality doesn't change for some people; for others it does"

Ford Elms wrote: "Really... Well, if you believe the claims of "ex-gay" ministries... In those outside these groups, "changing" is pretty rare, and it is also telling that no-one ever "changes" from straight to gay."

Dear Ford, I was thinking precisely of people who "discover they are gay" when they previously lived and enjoyed a "heterosexual" lifestyle (Maybe some *were* pretending, but others seem to genuinely change). And then there are some people who admit to homosexual experiences but experience themselves are basicall heterosexual.

I think that sexuality is multidimensional (not just about other or same sex attraction), rather more fluid than you would expect from the current language of sexuality, and influenced by more factors than just genetically predetermined inclination or formative experiences.

Posted by Dave at Monday, 15 January 2007 at 10:59pm GMT

Simon Morden wrote: "Dave says: Sexual *behaviour*, on the other hand, is completely a choice. I agree. But unless I'm actually trying to ravish someone in the Post Office queue, I don't see what that has to do with not being allowed to buy stamps?"

Dear Simon, you are putting up the Straw Man that Merseymike just accused conservatives of using! NOONE is worried about selling stamps to ANYONE (unless that can be somehow construed to be affirming homosexuality). And, for the record, noone I know thinks that people are more or less equal as individuals because of their sexuality. The concerns expressed are about issues where people, who do not think that homosexual *orientation* is equal or good, do not wish to be legally obliged to speak or act in ways that support the *orientation* as such, or to support *behaviours* that they believe to be wrong.

It seems that the New Labour great and good are telling us that the SORs UK will allow us to dissent on the matter, but if the SORs NI ministerial briefing is anything to go by, they are being somewhat disingenous. In the SOR NI briefing, churches were said to be able refused use of premise to non-church gay groups, but only if they refused use of premises to all non-church groups. ie. even the established religions are not legally able to decide whether to provide ANY services, beyond their internal activities, based on the beliefs of that religion!

The UK always seems to be much more hard-edged than other countries about imposing EU directives (think non-pasteurised cheese). But by going hard-edged on this one the government are actually granting themselves the right to decide which human rights take precedence - rather than balancing human rights (which is the general approach) and, therefore, it is deciding who will be most equal and free. You will be most equal and free if your beliefs and morals are similar to those they used to decide where to draw the lines round those who disagree.

Posted by Dave at Monday, 15 January 2007 at 11:55pm GMT

Dave complained:
In the SOR NI briefing, churches were said to be able refused use of premise to non-church gay groups, but only if they refused use of premises to all non-church groups. ie. even the established religions are not legally able to decide whether to provide ANY services, beyond their internal activities, based on the beliefs of that religion!

And is there something wrong with that? Your Church Hall will still be available for all your Church sponsored activities — you just won't be able to exercise moral control over law-abiding, legally constituted non-church groups. Who appointed us as God's auditors?

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 11:36am GMT

Dave - these aren't straw men examples. You'd like them to be. You'd like to believe that nowhere in this wide world, homosexuals aren't denied access to stamps simply because they're TEH GAY! That homosexuals aren't denied housing and benefits and medical treatment and legal advice...

The axiom that hard cases make bad law is applicable here. All I hear from the noisy end of the swimming pool is about guest houses, printers, teachers and adoption agencies. Hard cases that need to be ruled on, perhaps, but absolutely and completely no excuse to say that homosexuals shouldn't be treated as equal members of our society, with all the rights and responsibilities that that entails *even when you disagree with them having sex with each other*. It beggars belief that anyone, let alone a Christian, should argue otherwise.

As it is, it is legal to refuse to sell stamps to a gay man or woman. This law will ensure that it is not.

Posted by Simon Morden at Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 12:58pm GMT

"I think that sexuality is multidimensional"
You're hardly new in this, Kinsey said the same thing. And how fluid is your sexuality, Dave? Given the right situation, could you swing the other way? I couldn't, see, I'm as far gay on the Kinsey scale as they get. As to those who "discover" they are gay in adulthood, that's a good one. Dja ever think maybe they knew all along, but denied it out of fear and shame till it became a life and/or sanity threatening burden? "Discovering" it is a lot easier on the person you have lived with and loved for years, with whom you probably have a family, than saying "Honey, I lied to you all those years ago, I never really was sexually attracted to you, our sex life has been me going through the motions. Indeed, given that an active sex life is an important part of a marriage, when I took my vows, I not only lied to you and myself, I lied to God too." Why break the heart of someone you care about? (and I have no doubt that people who find themselves in this state DO indeed love their spouses). Why not just have "discovered" it now? Indeed, the human capacity for denial being what it is, such a statement might not strictly be totally false. No, better believe they are disobedient rebels defying God Himself. No need to waste compassion on those kind of people. Don't you think it's odd that no-one ever spontaneously "discovers" they are straight after years of a happy gay relationship? The only people this happens to are the ones who fall under the power of "ex-gay" ministries", usually run by God's Manipulation Squad.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 1:53pm GMT

Well, Dave, as you want to institute discrimination against gay men and lesbians, you are right in observing that this is a genuine difference of view.
However, you are asking to have the right to discriminate in the civil sphere. That cannot be acceptable. Exemptions give you the right to discriminate in your own sphere - but thats as far as they should go

I believe that the assumption should be that gay or lesbian sexual orientation and relationships should be viewed as of equal worth to those of heterosexuals - as indeed, they are in the law. Thus, your position doesn't actually have any logical basis - because it is those laws you really need to change if you wish to restrict the provision of goods and services.

of course, this is your real aim, and i wish that conservative christians would be honest enough to admit it.

Posted by Merseymike at Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 3:40pm GMT

Hi Mike
Re the 5 points:
I don't think I proposed that anyone should teach *only* any one perspective. That goes against my whole call for more debate and fewer unsupported assertions. Of course, there are bound to be a few issues that are so clear-cut that debate is not needed. But this is not one of them. Clear setting-out of arguments and counter-arguments is required. Therefore to present the issue as clear-cut to schoolchildren or anyone else would be to lie.
What I do propose is that everyone should say what their own perspective is, and (more importantly) the reasons why. Appeal to some unargued principle, whether biblical or secular, does not count as a reason.
2 This is precisely the point. Once you classify something as 'discrimination' it sounds bad; but you are not seriously suggesting that every person would precisely agree about what counts as 'discrimination' in the first place (that would be impossible). If one believes that by treating certain people in a certain way one is expressing tacit approval for their lifestyle, and that this approval would be detrimental to society overall, then of course they will choose not to treat them that way.
3 I know the law is clear: the issue in hand isn't whether it is clear but whether it is right. One cannot assume as a premiss the very point that is up for debate.
4 What *isn't* 'a reality'? Crime, divorce, depression, everything bad - all these are realities. Among sexual orientations, it is a reality that some are paedophile, some polyamorous (??) etc.. Everything in the world, both good and bad, is 'a reality'.
5 This fifth point was not addressed. In the real world, there are both facts and emotions. A 'world' with all emotions and no facts is not the real world.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 6:26pm GMT

Hi Martin
I don't in the least mind being a hoot. What people find funny is often what they are not used to, what they find counter-cultural. The issue of whether something is true or not is separate from the issue of whether it is funny or not, and also more important.

'Sheltered': Most of the great saints (of whom I am one NOT) were a bit 'sheltered'. (Would they have been more saintly if they had experienced drug abuse and abortions first?) So are a lot of high achievers, and high achieving cultures (Jews, Indians, S.Koreans, trad British). 'Sheltered' by what criterion anyway? Every Brit is highly unsheltered by the standards of many other cultures.

Surely gay nightclubs and Walsingham are not extra-curricular experience-broadening activities (evidence of broad horizons) for someone in your position but more normal standard pastoral and parish activities? I don't consider you sheltered because (let us say) you (hypothetically) know nothing about the history of Essex County Cricket Club c1973-92 or about the films of Jacques Tati. What is central to one person need not be to another.
You are so right about not using small samples: I apologise. I only mentioned mine because it is all I have in this sub-area: I have not researched ethnic proportions, and any data would be suspect for well-rehearsed reasons. The point remains that a society's attitude to whether homosexuality is a viable option is surely going to affect the numbers who take up that option.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 6:37pm GMT

Dear Ford Elms, if you read what I wrote last time, I acknowledged that some people pretend to be "heterosexual"... But I think that when some people "discover they are gay" later in life it is a genuine change. There are also examples I've heard of, where people "discover they are straight" after living as a homosexual... (when they meet a person of the other sex who they fall in love with).

ps Some ex-gays (and some repentent gays) seem happy enough: http://www.zacchaeus.ca/OurStories.html

Posted by Dave at Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 9:38pm GMT

Merseymike wrote: "I believe that the assumption should be that gay or lesbian sexual *orientation* and *relationships* should be viewed as of equal worth to those of heterosexuals - as indeed, they are in the law. Thus, your position doesn't actually have any logical basis...."

Dear Merseymike, well that is where we disagree. And, as you point out, that is the basis for calling something "discriminatory" - because it doesn't treat those two *orientations* as equal. (As opposed to treating *individuals* with those orientations as equal - which I hope that every Thinking Anglican would agree with).

In fact it would be rather absurd to legislate against discrimination between two things that were not really equal!

I spent some effort in a previous discussion pointing out that same-sex sexuality is not equal to other-sex sexuality - for several reasons of fact relating to physiology, biology and sociology (homosexuality is not equally congruous with the physical design of the human body, or with a major objective of sex (procreation), or with forming a human family unit). In my view it is absurd to call it "discrimination" when someone differentiates between these two *orientations*.

Posted by Dave at Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 10:32pm GMT

"The point remains that a society's attitude to whether homosexuality is a viable option is surely going to affect the numbers who take up that option."

More correctly "who dare express that option."

And 'option' is a skewed word, implying voluntary adoption.

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 10:55pm GMT

" I don't consider you sheltered because (let us say) you (hypothetically) know nothing about the history of Essex County Cricket Club c1973-92 or about the films of Jacques Tati."

No perhaps not Christopher but then I have never made any comments on Essex County Cricket Club or Jaques Tati's films here.

My sheltered comment was made with warmth in my heart. It was a gentle reproof and kindly meant.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 11:12pm GMT

Christopher: I don't want to repeat myself again, but the law does not go along with your view of gays and lesbians (that they are 'not right' in some way)

There is thus no logical reason why this law should follow that viewpoint

You prefer to choose your facts, and as your aim is to reverse laws which treat gay people as equal citizens, I think they can be safely laid aside.

You've lost this argument in the wider society.

Posted by Merseymike at Tuesday, 16 January 2007 at 11:30pm GMT

Hi Mike-
(1) Do you think that 'legal' equals 'true'? In that case, truth is changing all the time. Your assumption (that the law is always right) is obviously incorrect - I am surprised that you cannot see this.
(2) Do you think that truth is determined by headcount? Obviously it can't be.
(3) So how is factual truth determined? (a) with difficulty; (b) primarily by responsible use of statistics.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Wednesday, 17 January 2007 at 12:31pm GMT

Hi Martin-
You missed my point. My point was that I know very little about what homosexuals get up to in their social life (Walsingham and nightclubs). I do, by contrast, know a little bit (and uncomfortably more than those more directly affected) about the statistical evidence relating to homosexual practice.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Wednesday, 17 January 2007 at 12:35pm GMT

"the statistical evidence"

References please. Repeatedly referring to statistics without citing your sources is no argument.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 17 January 2007 at 12:59pm GMT

Christopher:

This is a debate about the law. Not what you or I believe to be true. Thus, what you think about gay or lesbian people is irrelevant. It is a matter of the law. And the law does not, and cannot, reflect purely your view of what you believe Truth to be.

Factual Truth is neither as black and white as you imagine, and as someone with research experience, is certainly not available by simply number-crunching, particularly if it is not possible to produce meaningful statistical work.

Posted by Merseymike at Wednesday, 17 January 2007 at 2:46pm GMT

Christopher Shell

I imagine my old ladies who go to Walsingham every year would be most distressed to know you equate it with gay night clubs. Your odium theologicum is showing rather a lot.

I suggest that you might go there, and pray there at both the Anglican and Roman Catholic shrines (both are remarkable places to pray), and then come back full of grace and apologise.

Posted by cryptogram at Wednesday, 17 January 2007 at 4:38pm GMT

Dave,
Are you trying to say that people choose to be gay later in life? If you can so easily accept that sexuality is changable in this fashion, your experience is different from mine. Perhaps you are closer to the centre of the Kinsey scale than I am, and thus, while still heterosexual, are conscious of some potential to homosexual attraction, but your life, faith, and the fact that you are still basically heterosexual have made it a non-issue for you. Believe me, my sexuality is immutable. I spent ten years trying, praying, not to be gay. The only response I got from God was a way to accept myself for who I am.

As for the victims of "ex-gay" ministries, well, it's not for me to judge their happiness. I do know that such "ministries" have driven people to suicide. They can testify to what God has done in their lives? So can I. He led them to heterosexuality? He led me to healing in a happy monogamous gay relationship. I think they are people with a lot of emotional damage who have been victimized by people who feel manipulation of people's guilt and fear is a valid evangelizing tool, but I'm prepared to accept, if they are truly happy, that God led them to where they are. But He didn't lead me in the same direction, and I'm not one to question whether or not the Almighty knows what He's doing.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 17 January 2007 at 7:00pm GMT

No I think I understood your point Christopher as I believe you have grasped mine.
Interesting article here:
http://www.christianitytoday.com/bc/2007/001/5.11.html

Note:
"The real question is not whether evangelicals can clean up their statistical act. The deeper question is whether American evangelicals can learn to live without the alarmism that is so comfortably familiar to them. Evangelicals, by my observation, thrive on fear of impending catastrophe, accelerating decay, apocalyptic crises that demand immediate action (and maybe money). All of that can be energizing and mobilizing. The problem is, it also often distorts, misrepresents, or falsifies what actually happens to be true about reality. And to sacrifice what is actually true for the sake of immediate attention and action is plain wrong. It should be redefined as a very un-evangelical thing to do."

Oops! It appears cryptogram has pushed you down a rather large hole I dug for you!!

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Wednesday, 17 January 2007 at 7:33pm GMT

A fascinating link, Martin. Perhaps the statistics naifs on TA will listen to the voice of someone clearly speaking from a Christian perspective (as opposed to the biased voices of those nasty TA liberals) and submit raw data to scrutiny before building spurious arguments on them.

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Thursday, 18 January 2007 at 9:12am GMT

Mike-
I ahve made the same point many times but I'll repeat it:
-Truth is often (but not always) hard to come by.
-100% truth is impossible to come by.
-We therefore go for the nearest possible approximation, which is as free as possible from subjectivity and spin. That is obtained from large-scale up-to-date statistics, preferably an amalgamation of different surveys.
-My gripe with the law is that it is proceeding, for no reason, on a basis which is opposite to the way the statistics point. This raises a fundamental concern about how law operates.

Hi Martin-
I am a bit slow this afternoon - what was the allusion to something called 'cryptogram' and a hole?
I am (like all other Christians) only an evangelical adjectivally, not as a party political noun-name. 'Evangelical' (which is as adjective what 'gospel' is as noun) is one of the adjectives that describe what a Christian is and/or should be: others are 'reverent', 'thinking', 'ecumenical', 'catholic' and 'charismatic'. Even without trying, I find my goings and doings are broadly spread across the denominational spectrum - I suppose that is the way things are these days.

I agree with you about the predictable alarmism of some parties: it is part of their ruling myth that everything is always getting worse and catastrophe is always imminent. Which can be sociologically explained by alienation. Though it is not 100% untrue either - not by any means. Those who think nothing will ever go wrong are equally sociological 'dupes'. I am amazed at all the possible things that could go wrong any moment - and it only takes one of them to go wrong. Martin Rees (Astronomer Royal) agrees with this point. That is not alarmism but an attempt at ideology-free assessment of the realities.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Thursday, 18 January 2007 at 12:48pm GMT

There are a few comments to this article on alias Titus 1:9.

They all give the messenger (and the media) a good trashing, I can tell you...

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Thursday, 18 January 2007 at 12:55pm GMT

"Which can be sociologically explained by alienation."
It can also be explained by what seems to be the prevailing Fuindamentalist mythology, which identifies closely with the persecuted Christians of the early Church. They seek persecution. Not being allowed to mandate Christian prayers in schools or not being able to put the Ten Commandments in courthouses is persecution, and of course, other people getting angry because of the disrespect Fundies have for anyone who isn't a fundamentalist is also persecution. So when I get angry because they have accused me of faithlessness, then I am persecuting them. I believe it ties in with what you are talking about, actually. What are we to say of the faithlessness that says that God will allow His Church to fade away and die because of "innovations" or indeed of what the left would consider the fossilization of the right? Anyone who fears for the Church is not trusting Christ when He tells us not to be afraid. God will preserve what is of God, the rest will fade away. We all need to "be still" and know that He is God.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 18 January 2007 at 2:45pm GMT

No, Christopher. Large-scale statistics are actually utterly unsuitable for many purposes. if you knew anything about social research, you would understand why.

And you would also understand why the sort of material you quote, out of context, isn't applicable in the way you wish it to be.

The law takes absolutely no notice of the sort of statistics you refer to, because the law has absolutely nothing to do with your opinion about gay sex. It is about equality for those people who are gay or lesbian.

Who are going to be gay or lesbian irrespective of your opinion, and the best way of improving any groups situation is certainly not to make them illegal!

Posted by Merseymike at Thursday, 18 January 2007 at 11:09pm GMT

Hi Mike-
You still haven't answered three points:
(1) Why proceed as though the law was always right, since you know that it isn't always?
(2) Why treat the gay/lesbian thing as clearly genetic when the evidence is far less clear-cut, as I mentioned earlier? It is bad enough to impose one view over others - but to do so without clear evidence?
(3) Most of the times Christians would be offering goods and services to self-styled gay/lesbian *people* they would be unaware that they were gay/lesbian. And even if they were aware, that would not stop them offering the services. It is only in the minority of cases where offering those services would force them to collude tacitly with gay/lesbian *activities* (as opposed to people) that they would object and not collude.
I also think you have not digested the point that stats are the nearest we have (as opposed to always being especially near) to unbiased factual information. You haven't mentioned what alternative way you have of gaining factual information that is not essentially statistical or reducible to stats. I will gladly accept your toppling of my paradigm of how to obtain large-scale factual information if you propose a better alternative, but so far your proposal amounts to the absence of any proposal.

Martin-
Aha, 'cryptogram' is one of the posters. He was referring to a connection you (not I) made between Walsingham and gay nightclubs. As you recall, the connection you made was not (as he wrongly assumes, with your surprising support) that they have the same clientele, but that they are milieux (a) where many gay people are found and (b) with which I am unfamiliar at first hand.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 19 January 2007 at 12:29pm GMT

I have answered them, again and again...

I think the law is right. I think what you want is wrong. You are entitled to argue in favour of bigotry and discrimination, but your position is utterly illogical given the rest of the gay law reforms which have taken place, and which you no doubt opposed. I simply don't want to live in the sort of country where your religion is influential, Christopher, because i consider it harmful and negative. Arguing against the SOR's is illogical, because they only incorporate gay people into anti-discrimination law and recognise their status.

I suggest you argue point 2 with the BMA. However, I think its a total red herring. The issue is simply that there ARE gay people, and they deserve to be treated as equals and not discriminated against.

Thirdly, if thats the case, then they should get out of the service business.I have precisely no sympathy for those who wish to discriminate, and equally no sympathy for religions which promote discrimination.

In addition, you still can;t grasp the entire question of the limitations of statistics and their lack of applicability in this instance. You are asking the wrong questions: there is no need to gain this 'factual' information unless for a specific purpose. Yours appears to be to try and find some sort of justification for your own homophobia. Forget about 'large-scale factual information' - go and find out about qualitative research and the insights of micro-sociology.

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 19 January 2007 at 6:31pm GMT

You have it, Christopher - well almost!

I was not offering support at his mistake - just smiling!!

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Friday, 19 January 2007 at 9:46pm GMT

Yes, I should have read back about 15 posts. My apologies for getting it out of context.

My prescription for Christopher Shell's soul's health still stands, however. It might do him good to learn at first hand that Walsingham is not about "queers in cottas" but about the incarnation of the Son of God and the humility which is involved in that, on both sides.

Posted by cryptogram at Saturday, 20 January 2007 at 12:37pm GMT

Christopher Shell wrote: “(3) Most of the times Christians would be offering goods and services to self-styled gay/lesbian *people* they would be unaware that they were gay/lesbian. And even if they were aware, that would not stop them offering the services. It is only in the minority of cases where offering those services would force them to collude tacitly with gay/lesbian *activities* (as opposed to people) that they would object and not collude.”

“They would be unaware” and sometimes, when they would “think” they “knew”, they would be w r o n g.

W R O N G, Christopher...

I “think” that you should meditate for a while on that one.

“unbiased factual information”

Santa Claus.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Saturday, 20 January 2007 at 9:38pm GMT

Hi Goran-
Yes, I agree. I doubt most Christians would draw the conclusion that someone was gay unless they either said so or were promoting material which gave the game away.
(Reminds me of a spoof letter I read recently: 'Sir, I wish to object to the current misuse of the perfectly good word ''gay'' as a generalised insult. Time was, in my young days, when we could see a fellow mincing along the street, remark ''he looks a bit gay'' and think nothing more of it. Yrs etc Col. Buffy-whatever.' My point being: homosexual people may not fit the stereotypes.)

Hi Mike - your 4 points:
(1) One cannot agree with law reform on the basis of existing legislation without probing whether the existing legislation stands up. That is a bit like saying, 'Oh cannabis is effectively semi-legal now, so we should make other laws on the basis of that.' one would think it had always been semi-legal in every possible world - or that history always went in straight lines. As they say - 'Duh!' Presuppositions! The unexamined life is not worth living. My main gripe is that you are confusing what is currently normal (or normal in the little world of british society) with what is normative or prescriptive. Fashion changes quick - but even if it didnt, it is not a *criterion* for anything.
(2) There ARE gay people. I would never have guessed. Underlying presupposition: Whatever IS, IS RIGHT. There are paedophiles. There are thieves. There are mass murderers. Most gays presumably are not as bad as any of these - I am just highlighting the faulty logic. You are confusing ought with is, morals with mores. Now come! Would a seven-year-old make the same confusion? (Gasp!)
(3) But you yourself are discriminating by saying 'I have no sympathy for..': you refute this position from your own mouth.
(4) This was a good answer: thanks. I asked for something preferable to stats, and you came up with 'the insights of micro-sociology'. Yet are you saying that such insights are entirely non-statistical?

Posted by Christopher Shell at Monday, 22 January 2007 at 1:29pm GMT

"I asked for something preferable to stats"

Well, given that you still have not given references for these "stats", I have to assume that they come from studies like those done by Focus on the Family, and such like. These are heavily biased attempts to lend the cachet of science to what is essentially hate-propaganda, and are meaningless. I would suggest that "something preferable to stats" would be information gleaned from unbiased, peer reviewed studies. You have cited none.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 22 January 2007 at 5:58pm GMT

Christopher, I said "meditate for a while".

Dwell on. Ponder.

Not brush away, as your lot always do.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Monday, 22 January 2007 at 8:44pm GMT

Hi Goran-
Don't you see that by speaking of 'your lot' you have given away the fact that you are stereotyping people into well-known fixed categories before you even start? Which in my case is inappropriate, since there is no other person on this site taking my precise approach, nor have I met one off it.

Hi Ford-
Re your point: I only go by independent scientific journals. But why speak as though this is all controversial? Surely every survey under the sun (of any size) gives a higher STD/promiscuity/premature death rates to male homosexuals than to male of female heterosexuals? Not only higher, but quite significantly higher. Have I missed any that don't?

The way you are speaking anyone would think that all the scientific journals give equal figures for both homo- and heterosexuals, whereas 'Focus on the Family' does not. That position is, as everyone on this site can testify, wrong.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Tuesday, 23 January 2007 at 12:39pm GMT

"Surely every survey under the sun (of any size) gives a higher STD/promiscuity/premature death rates to male homosexuals than to male of female heterosexuals?"

Myself and merseymike have repeatedly addressed how such studies might be biased. If you truly believe that gays are more promiscuous than straights, then, first, you know some very continent straight people. My straight friends would prove you wrong. But, given that gay people have been actively excluded from any group that would encourage monogamy, given that monogamy is not even presented as an option for gay people by these same groups, given that these same groups have repeatedly addressed gay people as some sort of sick other that can only ever have second class status, and that after the kind of self abasement that is never required of heterosexuals despite all the pious talk about how we are all sinners, given that homsexuality is consistently singled out as a sin worse than all others, and given that such pronouncements are made in what is obviously ignorance of gay people's lives, why would you be surprised that they would reject those values, especially when sins in straight people are conveniently ignored? Assuming that your "statistics" are actually valid, for which I have no proof. Even on this list, presumably straight Evangelicals have denied that there is violence against gay people, that we ever been victimized by the Church, and have even jumped to the defence of the Church of Nigeria's attempt to jail even those who dare to speak positively about gay people! Why would you be surprised that gay people would reject the values of those who would treat us in such a fashion? The wonder is that any gay people can actually see value in the kind of monogamy that the Church would deny us, let alone want to have their relationships blessed. You cast us out, then blame us for being outside.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 23 January 2007 at 4:38pm GMT

Chreistopher Shell wrote: "Don't you see that by speaking of 'your lot' you have given away the fact that you are stereotyping people into well-known fixed categories before you even start?"

Just gave you an opportunity to brush away...

You took the bait.

And yes, you are not alone ;=)

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Tuesday, 23 January 2007 at 9:44pm GMT

Hi Ford-
A lot of points to pick you up on here:
(1) 'Such studies': I am not talking about *one* particular category of studies, but about the conglomeration of the results of *all* large-scale scientific studies. If there are such that give a different picture, what are the details of them? 'Your statistics' - they are not mine, but are in the public domain.
Your implicit claim to be *more* expert on the particular studies than the actual people who carried out the studies (who will have been aware of all the dangers you mention) is clearly wrong and surely it would be dishonest to persist in it.
(2) I know that in our society straight young people are highly promiscuous - which is the inevitable result of the bankrupt ruling ideology (aka spirit) of secular humanism. I was just asking whether gay or straight was the *more* promiscuous of the two. This is a different question.
(3) Monogamy is not presented as an option for gay people? They have been perfectly able to be monogamous just as anyone else is - and plenty (albeit a tiny proportion) have been. There is nothing preventing them being so.
(4) Homosexuality a sin worse than others? Hardly. They are all pretty bad. It certainly deserves more attention than others, through no fault of Christians, since currently there is an attempt to move the goalposts re whether this particular sin actually is a sin. This doesn't apply in the case of most other sins. Hence there is deservedly a lot of talk about it - caused by the people who tried to move the goalposts in the first place.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Wednesday, 24 January 2007 at 12:48pm GMT

1. How can I possibly claim to be more expert than those who conducted studies I have not been able to assess? You have not cited one reference. I am a doctor, and I'm not going to accept as Gospel something that someone else tells me is proven by studies he won't allow me to critique.
2. Are you suggesting that promiscuity is somehow intrinsic to homosexuality? You trot out the old boogyman of "secular humanism", conveniently allowing you to ignore the fact that your values are rejected by young people who see very clearly the hypocrisy of the "good old" sexually continent days. Ozzie and Harriet did it before marriage, and lied about it. Young people aren't interested in lying about their sexuality the way their elders were.
3.Given that gay rights have been allied to a subculture that normalizes promiscuity and sees little value in monogamy, then no, monogamy is not presented to gay people as an option. How do you know only a "tiny proportion" of gay people are monogamous? Cite a study. I'd need to see their inclusion criteria at the very least.
4.We have moved the goalposts before with respect to sin. Doesn't make it right, but doesn't make it specific to this issue either. And it doesn't deserve more attention. Usury causes far more damage to society than sexuality, but that isn't even considered a sin any more.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 24 January 2007 at 6:32pm GMT

HOW I love merseymike's tough and clear minded onslaughts against BS in all its fforms.

Not just becuse I was born on the banks (ar lannau Mersi) his titular river ! How Ilove it and its tidal nature--sweeping away the BS ......

Posted by laurence at Wednesday, 24 January 2007 at 9:53pm GMT

The best way to respond to all of this is simply to live the truth ... here it is -

http://www.blackbritain.co.uk/news/details.aspx?i=2357&c=uk&h=Christians+should+obey+God%E2%80%99s+law+not+man%E2%80%99s+on+Sexual+Orientation+Regulations%2C+says+black+church+leader

Posted by Ben at Friday, 26 January 2007 at 10:12pm GMT
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