Comments: Parliamentary reports on SORs etc.

Oh dear me, Mr. Sugden cannot really have it both ways. He cannot expect us to feel sad with him as he laments in public that most citizens perceive him as akin to an Islamic fundamentalist when he is also claiming and defending some piece of the right to act like a Christian fundamentalist in this area of sexual orientation variances. If I am supposed to be in sympathy for him, he needs to clean up his high-handed view which tell him that only straight believers, pretty much just like him, are allowed to read and understand scripture for themselves.

If Mr. Sugden also wishes to further engage my sympathy, he might want to take a look at the big ballpark sectors he intentionally omits to consider, i.e., the significant worldwide minority of believers who follow Jesus of Nazareth who believe that SOR's are acceptable to one degree or another because of their own gospel values, based on their own diligent study, reading, and understanding of their scriptures. Mr. Sugden simply does himself and us no favors by continuing to preach as if he is the exemplar, let alone that he is the exemplar who will be lamentably compelled to act decently towards some queer folks (single or coupled) if he decides to offer the public some good, service, or continuing education as his way of living out what he understands of his gospel.

Alas, I do not think Mr. Sugden gets any of the possible contradictions innate to his own sad plight: A person of faith who wishes to retain a right to think badly, and sometimes act badly, towards queer citizens. If a queer couple who owns a bed and breakfast has to rent to him and his wife, he has to rent to them in return.

How does the one case get to be Sugden's citizen right, and the other case get to be Sugden's special right contrarily to obtain an exception of conscience? Mr. Sugden wishes to claim all the legacy marbles to which he is entitled as a religious straight person, while he also claims the marbles that the SOR's would offer equally to non-straight people. Try again, Mr. Sugden. Someday maybe you will finally get a grasp on the obvious fact that queer folks are people, too, just like you.

Posted by drdanfee at Friday, 16 March 2007 at 1:00am GMT

I'm a little confused. Is there now to be a Parliamentary debate, or will this simply be a House of Lords committee?

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 16 March 2007 at 1:18am GMT

As to procedure my understanding is that when you have regulations instead of a bill you have various scrutiny measures.

One is a Merits committee which is able to draw specific issues to the attention of Parliament (which is the committee referred to here). Another is the Joint Committee on Human Rights which reported on the basis of the NI regs.

Yesterday there will have been scrutiny from the House of Commons Delegated Legislation Comittee.

There will, prior to the vote in both Houses, probably be a debate in the House of Lords and possibly in the House of Commons if there is sufficient demand for it (as I understand the procedure).

Posted by Craig Nelson at Friday, 16 March 2007 at 9:44am GMT

The "Mainstream" piece is perhaps best left in silence, but I cannot help myself from commenting in this:

"It is not acting on the basis of different claims to truth but is privileging one set of opinions."

Sorry, but when HM's Government is de-privileging one set of "opinions", this is because it is acting on the basis of different claims to truth.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Friday, 16 March 2007 at 9:45am GMT

With regard to Sugden's article:

1. Yes, Christian beliefs in this area are every bit as unacceptable as those other things he mentions. Bingo! I think he's got it.....

2.The Bible has nothing to do with the secular, civil law - the real experiences of people are much more important than the contents of an ancient and outdated book

3. Quakers do not share Sugden's views, on the Bible or on sexuality, though he tries to count them in as part of his coalition

4. He is still calling for an exclusive right to discriminate - unacceptable

5. His views on sexual orientation are not shared by the majority of those working in the area: ethnicity and sexual orientation are not protected because they are biologically determined, but because it is judged that discrimination against gay people or black people is unacceptable

6. His beliefs are not 'justifiably founded' but simply the product of homophobia, reflecting the inherent homophobia of his religion

7. I see the Gay Mafia argument is being used again. The PM is a Christian. The Communities Secretary is a Christian. Where are these high-profile gays running government?

8. Religious homophobia is recognised as legitimate within the context of the Church - what Sugden wants is the right to extend that homophobia into the secular public sphere, giving religious homophobia credibility and approval in that sphere. No. That's why we need this legislation!

9. Since when was either bigamy or polygamy synonymous to civil marriage. Gay couples are. That's why we have Civil Partnerships. Religious views aren't applicable in civil marriage.

10. My human flourishing is facilitated by gay and lesbian equalkity and having my relationship recognised and respected. And by the rejection of harmful religion, such as that peddled by Sugden - thankfully, a religion which gay people reject. Thats our choice, and we see no reason why we should be affected by it outside the context of the aspects of the Church which we choose not to associate with

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 16 March 2007 at 11:00am GMT

Ah, yea, I think I might repeat this:

It seems the Anglican Communion, not the British SORs, is the proper place to voice concern for the Freedom of Conscience.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Friday, 16 March 2007 at 2:10pm GMT

Cheers, Craig,

Notable that the Tories were split on the Committee, and that the collection of Tories attending the committee, with a couple of honourable exceptions such as John Bercow, who is a sterling supporter of gay rights, were the official neanderthal Christian tendency of the Cornerstone group!

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 16 March 2007 at 2:35pm GMT

I agree with merseymike that it is unfortunate that Chris Sugden seeks to invoke in behalf of his argument, the historical witness and suffering of the Society of Friends, at the hands of the British state and its Established Church working in consort, in the seventeenth century.

Especially as Quakers have been unequivocal in seeking to witness to and live out, the equality of all people, as all have the Inward Light or 'that of God in every one'.

In our own time the Society had felt led to revise its Book of discipline removing sexist language, and incorporating accounts of the lives and loves of lesbian and gay people. Having published the trail-blazing Towards a Quaker View of Sex as early as 1963 -- four years before the partial decriminalization of gay men in Britain.

At my own meeting house we had the joy of celebrating the love of two Friends, a woman and man the other day; and in a few weeks will again be meeting to celebrate the love of two Friends, a woman and a woman, on that occasion.

As for the Bible, it is approached and read in a very different way -more like a love affair than a rule book, or proof text quarry !

As the elders of Balby wrote in 1656

'Dearly beloved Friends, these things we do not lay upon you as a rule or form to walk by, but that all, with the measure of light which is pure and holy, may be guided; and so in the light walking and abiding, these may be fulfilled in the Spirit, not from the letter, for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.

Postscript to an epistle to `the brethren in the north'
issued by a meeting of elders at Balby, 1656

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Friday, 16 March 2007 at 4:20pm GMT

A humbling lesson on the difference between “belief” and “behaviour”, indeed…

The Honourable Member for Epping Forest spoke: “No one will be required to change or relinquish their conscience or beliefs as a result of the regulations; but each of us will be required to moderate our actions and behaviour in order to accommodate those who are different from ourselves.”

Starting with the honourable members themselves…

I have read Captain Marryat and I have read about the Civil War, but the Long and Short and Rump of this is that in most civilized countries these people would be read whatever may be the equivalent of the Riot Act.

And I am confident that in some they would have their parliamentary immunity lifted to applause by a Parliament in full Session ;=)

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Friday, 16 March 2007 at 4:25pm GMT

The proceedings of The House of Commons Twelfth Delegated Legislation Committee yesterday, and its debate was hilarious, and shnows the Tory homophobes up to their old tricks.

However John Bercow was very inspiring, and hit the nail on the head when he,said,

" I would like to take the opportunity. I put it to the hon. Member for Solihull that as a result of widespread discrimination, too many gay, lesbian and bisexual people in this country have suffered too much for too long and with too little done about it. I put it to her that in human terms—that is the most important point in this debate—the regulations will be welcomed by millions of gay, lesbian and bisexual people as a force for liberation and a recognition that in a modern civilised society they should enjoy equality before the law." '

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Friday, 16 March 2007 at 5:26pm GMT

The Committee meeting minutes make indeed fascinating reading! Thank you, Simon!

I note that Meg Munn claims that SOR will make it illegal for a school to "prevent a student from becoming head girl on the grounds of her sexual orientation" or for a teacher "to single out a child for ridicule or criticism because they have same-sex parents" - does this mean that under current legislation it is perfectly all right to do so? I am astonished.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Friday, 16 March 2007 at 6:07pm GMT

There is absolutely no legal comeback for either of those things, Thomas. That's why we need the new regulations.

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 16 March 2007 at 10:49pm GMT

Good as the overall aim of the Regs is - in preventing unjust discrimination against people purely because of their sexual orientation, the Regs will also make it virtually impossible to discriminate against homosexual activity. That will be the thing that causes onerous problems to individuals and schools who uphold Christian sexual morals.

Posted by Dave at Friday, 16 March 2007 at 11:50pm GMT

No wonder we have such a problem with the "listening process". Pre-emptive atttempts to move motions before data is even presented or protocols followed. I wonder how many motions from whom had been prepared before hand, and who was carrying the briefcase on this one?

I am sure members of the House of Lords are as bemused at certain parties claims to have "listened" as are some of us within the Anglican communion.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Saturday, 17 March 2007 at 12:57am GMT

"Regs will also make it virtually impossible to discriminate against homosexual activity"

I woke up this morning so tired from this continuing nonsense. Did any of you in the UK watch Comic Relief last night?

The hours and energy wasted by the Christian right trying to destroy stable relationships and families is astonishing. Just think how much more profitably this time and energy could be spent actually living a Christian life and helping to sort out the real problems facing the world.

I'm finding this truly bewildering and very deeply sad.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 17 March 2007 at 8:25am GMT

"individuals and schools who uphold Christian sexual morals."

More correctly 'those who agree with me'. There are plenty of faithful Christians out here for whom this is a cause for celebration.

I wonder whether some of our more conservatively minded sisters and brothers have noticed that the World now regards much of the Christian faith as morally inferior? They seem to continue to argue on the grounds that 'we' are more moral than the non-Christian, grounds which look increasingly shaky.

I have a nasty feeling that the old saw, 'you don't have to be Christian to be good', which greets so many priests, is going to be replaced by 'you don't have to be good to be Christian' or, worse, 'you can't be good AND a Christian'.

'Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees....' How oddly prescient.

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Saturday, 17 March 2007 at 3:54pm GMT

What is bringing push to shove here involves typical (and I think, extreme) conservative social and institutional church life habits.

One bad habit is that too often conservatives resist any new disconfirming data having to do with sexual orientation competency and human nature, in favor of maintaining their legacy presuppositions by intentionally maintaining their ignorance. This starts off as being clearly within their rights of free individual conscience. But it bodes ill for the body public at large, and they are all too often setting the future stage for just the poor citizenship we can observe when push comes to shove. Later, when the new disconfirming facts are so well known that we can little avoid them any longer, the extreme conservative ploy in religion and the public square is to blame the rest of us for already having read new facts and changing our minds without adequately bringing the resistant conservatives on board.

A second bad habit is that legacy presuppositions are shouted as trumping all possible data – adoption comes to mind as one of the hot botton domains, as well as equal treatment for civil partners? - when in fact we have a growing consensus among citizens that it should go the other way. Shouting legacy condemnations, and presuming that any shift is doomsday, simply does not reply adequately to the observable social and church life changes: As in the Ptolemaic Cosmology dilemmas, many of us now function in such a heuristic or hermeneutical manner, that the new facts trump a great many of our legacy condemnations from religion. Shouting back, loudly with great religious certainty, that homosexual acts are still sin does little or nothing to respond to the wide and deep competencies of individual and coupled and/or parenting non-straight people.

Or to the common sense discovery among so many of the rest of us, that so far as we can tell apart from the clobber passages in Christian scripture, same sex acts are love or not, just as much as opposite sex acts (because after all, these are pretty much the same acts outside of vaginal intercourse per se).

Posted by drdanfee at Saturday, 17 March 2007 at 6:54pm GMT

A third bad habit is that witting or unwitting conservative religious misunderstandings and quite a bit of alarm are always the core topics that have to be addressed, when in fact, many of these phenomena pretty exclusively derive from and/or are rooted in something in the legacy negatives that no longer has vitality inside any newer or alternative framework. It may serve conservative and religious upset to keep dragging the conversations back to discredited sexual orientation prejudice themes (like: (1) high legacy presuppositions of danger, earthly and heavenly, to non-straight selfhood and embodiment? plus (2) high legacy presuppositions of danger to children, owing to somebody not being straight? plus (3) high legacy presuppositions of danger to straight citizens?), but none of these topics now moves the conversation forward. Conservative people who still swear to God by these superstitions have now almost entirely to bear the considerable weight of them. The rest of us are struggling to get free, or indeed have begun to walk free, of them.

When sufficient numbers of citizens go free from these superstitutions about people who are not straight, the civil ground shifts in society and in institutions. So conservatives get upset, so what? Either they may withdraw into a legacy religious community formed around separations from what the rest of us legitimately consider to be superstitutions about the harm that not being straight involves from our legacy negative points of view and defintion; or they may continue their preferences for a superstitious religious life, openly, among us with all the difficulties that following superstitutions involves.

What is less and less likely is that, either way, the rest of us are mainly going to have to pay the daily freight for following the superstitions involved in the favorite Christian clobber passages.

That social and religious cost now will arrive more consistently in the mailbox of the believers who still embrace it, instead of automatically being sent via institutional and legal procedures to the people who are not straight and who no longer believer it.

Bravo to our friends and colleagues in the Society of Friends for showing us one good way to walk aside from religious superstitions, while still pledging ourselves to walk in the light.

Posted by drdanfee at Saturday, 17 March 2007 at 7:05pm GMT

As a side matter, but important, is a key part of anti-discrimination legislation is ethnicity not race. Race involves observing a collection of characteristics, which in themselves don't add up to a great deal; what matters is ethnicity, which is identity via race, language, religion, culture, origins (real and perceived) and collecting these into a group. Thus in places like Northern Ireland and former Yugoslavia, you cannot tell who is one identity of another by appearance, but ethnicity is as strong as ever.

Liberalism needs ground rules, just as capitalism cannot be lawless. One of the ground rules is not to discriminate against identifiable groups who do not contribute to social harm and, if allowed to live and let be, contribute to the social good. The combination of Civil Partnerships and SORs allows this to take place.

Chris Sugden's article undermines itself; the important thing is not to let his view become that known for being the Christian view. It isn't, but there is a lot of shouting going on.

Posted by Pluralist at Saturday, 17 March 2007 at 8:51pm GMT

I agree with drdanfee's comment that certain elements resist evidence if it is uncomfortable or inconvenient for them. It's not just on human sexuality, it also relates to the (mis)treatment of women and children, or the environment (e.g. Al Gore's 1984 attempts to get certain parties to listen on the environment).

And I agree with Pluralist the biggest and loudest does not represent the whole. http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/4837 This article expresses concerns that "English Free Churches have virtually no recognised place in public life at national level today, and the same is true of the main ecumenical bodies." It's not just the liberal end of the Anglican communion that is being denied or suffocated out of existence.

Nor is this just a Christian phenomenom, it is actually a fractal patten of disaggregation of economies that is happening and is a cultural consequence of sociopathic economics. The checks and balances that preserve the middle and smaller parts of our societies have been removed and the cultural dynamics follows. Extreme disparity in affluence is not healthy either within or between societies. It leads to social instablity, nihilism and civil unrest.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Sunday, 18 March 2007 at 5:46am GMT

It is interesting that at the same time some Christian pressure groups are agitating for further exemptions from the law others are unhappy to find themselves so exempted.

We have been discussing with the legal draughtsmen on how at least two entire denominations and many other congregations can disassociate themselves from these provisions and place themselves fully under the regulations.

They argue that this is not an exemption they have sought or want and while recognizing others might wish it, believe there should be an “opt in” arrangement.

This “opt in” should, we maintain, be a rolling arrangement so that in coming years others might also be able to make the transition.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Sunday, 18 March 2007 at 10:22am GMT

Chris Sugden:
"On one side people were presenting themselves as victims with stories of emotion, hurt and pain. On the other people were wrestling with biblical teaching, theology, science and appropriate Christian pastoral understanding and discipline."

Nice neutral language, innit? "presenting themselves as victims" contrasted with "wrestling with biblical teaching, theology..."

And I am amused by his denunciation of 'appropriate' followed by his own appropriation of that word in order to ensure that only Christian pastoral understanding of which he approves gets through the screens. Disingenuous or what?

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Sunday, 18 March 2007 at 11:59am GMT

Quite: they did not (necessarily) have pain, they were "presenting themselves" as victims. So it is like a simulcra moaning from the sidelines while, indeed, Chris Sugden's men hand out the justice.

A possible answer to Cheryl Clough's extended point is in having something distinctive to say. The liberal end might be being suffocated by the insufferable (?), but it has distinctive things to say. The problem regarding Free Churches is that almost all the arguments that made them have either gone or are not big enough to make them distinctive denominations today.

There are distinctive denominations - the Free Evangelicals, Pentecostalists, House Churches, churches like media centres, Unitarians, Quakers, even sacramentalist offshoots and the likes of the Metropolitan Catholic Church. They all represent the groups around the old big wheel. It's the ones in the wheel that have the problem, and do include Methodists, Baptists, URC - what are their selling points? They do still have small subcultures and ways of doing things, but they are not big issues (or big issues in a small world). The big issues are within them. Not that in this church-ignoring wider culture being distinctive is any guarantor of numerical success.

The media is very lazy in its approaches. The Chief Rabbi does not represent all religious Jews, nor does the Muslim Council of Britain incorporate all mainstream Muslims. A few distinctive Reform rabbis have made a public face for themselves built on their ethical and inclusive Judaism and this is the way forward for other groups.

As recruitment to churches becomes almost random and insufficient, and with so many old arguments dead or easily accommodated, the future within the fractured wheel is structural ecumenism and likely division.

Posted by Pluralist at Sunday, 18 March 2007 at 8:41pm GMT
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