Comments: Church criticises Equality Bill definition

Maybe I am badly misunderstanding this (bills can be very confusing - to me, anyway) but i think it might be quite salutary for the Church of England to be reminded that being established has responsibilities as well as privileges -- the church of the nation cannot be at odds with the values cherished by the people as good and just. After all, the C of E has been described as having Protestant Articles, a Catholic Prayer Book and an Erastian Establishment.

Posted by Prior Aelred at Friday, 15 May 2009 at 1:42am BST

The shifting civic boundaries must be worked out again and reworked as our vision of what is fair and caring rises and expands, probably in ways and to a large degree that past centuries would hardly have understood with any widespread scope. State and church in past centuries regularly did things to people of all sorts which we today would decry as human rights violations. So far as we can tell, in their own times of violence, people conforming to such institutions hardly felt anything about what they were doing, except justified and determined.

The habit of conservative believers for preaching flat earth stuff about science, evolution, gays, or whomever-whatever, hardly aids in fairly sorting out new appropriate guides and boundaries. After all, if religion must always have special flat earth leeway privileges lest God be upset that we have dared to correct our errors or misconceptions; to that extent, a wise person distances himself or herself.

Following Jesus will mean engaging more often with a wider range of critical scholarship and empirical inquiry, not less, and certainly not rigidly less or minimalist.

Prayers and best wishes to all the parties renegotiating.

Posted by drdanfee at Friday, 15 May 2009 at 3:43am BST

Whilst very much in favour of the big idea of the bill, I've got two sorts of problem:

(1) definitions. The proposed clause goes way off piste of anything pragmatically definable in legal terms. If I were a raging homophobe, I'd just set up a Jedi Knight thing and get on with it, or turn my Fred Phelps event into a ritual.

(2) Applying human rights based law usually involves a tidal race between one right and another conflicting one. Where any boat places in the tidal race is exactly the kind of issue best left to a court, and not defined notionally by "dangerous dogs" type statute. Statutes are not the best tool for every job; very few of us use a hedgetrimmer to cut our fingernails.

Posted by Bishop Alan Wilson at Friday, 15 May 2009 at 8:06am BST

Alan Wilson: but every other employer has to follow the law, and they could all find reasons why they would prefer not to. It just looks really awful when churchpeople try to wriggle out of it: the message it gives is "Church unhappy with the idea of equality."

Posted by Fr Mark at Friday, 15 May 2009 at 8:33am BST

Well, please will someone tell me how one member of a marriage is wholly responsible for a divorce? Divorce is a tragedy not a reason to appoint blame. Are the archbishops really saying that it is legitimate to employ a known adulterer whose wife puts up with it in silence, and not a person who has been divorced? Judgement surely belongs to God alone. The State has an obligation to treat as many of its citizens equally as equally as possible and members of all faiths should reconsider their exclusion clauses in the light of the fact that Christ died for us while we were yet in our sins. (Romans 5:8) Employment in the Church should not depend upon our virtues: if it did, very few priests and bishops would be allowed any employment at all.

Posted by Una Kroll at Friday, 15 May 2009 at 8:42am BST

I don't agree with religionist exemptions at all, but clearly legislation has to follow the decision of caselaw as it is established.

The Church simply underlines its own prejudices, integral to its doctrines, by requiring exemption.

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 15 May 2009 at 10:54am BST

Una Kroll is wholly correct. The present so-called no-fault divorce law in this country is an obvious lie for this very reason: that it couldn't care less about (for example) a case where the wife is faithful, innocent, and wanting a reconciliation. In fact, it gives 100% rights to the guilty party and 0% to the innocent, which is pure wickedness.

People spout the cliche that there are always faults on both sides, but there will always be plenty of cases where the fault lies substantially on one side. In such cases, the law (just as it would do if it were composed by yobs) wholly favours the party who is at fault and not at all the party who is not at fault.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 15 May 2009 at 12:12pm BST

Una, when someone abuses their spouse, or cheats on him/her, and the spouse sues for divorce, they - the abuser or cheater - are considered the "guilty" party. And quite rightly so, IMNSHO.

Posted by BillyD at Friday, 15 May 2009 at 1:09pm BST

This seems to be a return to the claim that the church should not be answerable to common law -- I thought Henry VIII put paid to that idea rather decisively!

Posted by Prior Aelred at Friday, 15 May 2009 at 2:38pm BST

"I thought Henry VIII put paid to that idea rather decisively!"

Indeed, with a vengance. It's an apt observation, but what is surprising, I suppose, is that anyone wants to return to that model.

Looks to me like what is being set aside is the spirit of the old toleration and emancipation acts of the Victorian age, which enabled a religious pluralism. With the narrow exception of clergy, parliament is again claiming the authority to dictate morality, and punish those who deviate from it. It just happens to be a new and different morality.

Interesting times.

Posted by rick allen at Friday, 15 May 2009 at 3:33pm BST

Billy D. You seem to think that there is a guilty party and an innocent party in a divorce, an abuser and an abused, an adulterer and a cuckold. Is it always that simple? What of the partner who is neglectful or arrogant, bullying or spiteful? Suppose the partner of that person commits adultery? The adultery is the ground for divorce, but the marriage may already have suffered a grievous blow. Both are guilty. Both are victims. Life's complicated. Just because one fault is made public in the divorce proceedings doesn't mean there aren't other faults, injuries in both directions. Perhaps your opinion ought to be a little more humble, IMHO.

Posted by poppy tupper at Friday, 15 May 2009 at 4:37pm BST

The cries of anguish from the 'Church' are so boringly predictable. I hope those formulating this legislation and those in parliament who will have to approve it will hold the line that there should be no exemptions as outlined. Otherwise the 'Church' only continues to show that Christian belief and human rights are incompatible.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Friday, 15 May 2009 at 5:54pm BST

rick allen: "Looks to me like what is being set aside is the spirit of the old toleration and emancipation acts of the Victorian age..."

Your comment seems hard to square with the prosecution, and indeed imprisonment, of Ritualist clergy in the merry old Victorian age.

Posted by Fr Mark at Friday, 15 May 2009 at 5:57pm BST

"Is it always that simple?"

No, but sometimes it is.

By the way, just exactly where did I say that it was always that simple? I think maybe you're reading too much into my answer. IMNSHO.

Posted by BillyD at Friday, 15 May 2009 at 11:58pm BST

Poppy, I thought of something else. You wrote:

"You seem to think that there is a guilty party and an innocent party in a divorce, an abuser and an abused ... Is it always that simple? What of the partner who is neglectful or arrogant, bullying or spiteful?"

I've changed my mind, in part. I'll go out on a limb here and say that yes, when it comes to physical abuse, there is always a guilty party and an innocent party. No amount of neglect, arrogance, bullying or spite justifies someone abusing their spouse. In such a case, no - there are not two victims. There's one. I think it important not to water that down.

Posted by BillyD at Saturday, 16 May 2009 at 1:23am BST

Billy D. Try to pay attention. I didn't say that a spouse's actions could be a justification for the other's abuse. I said that there may be prior fault on the part of the abused. No connection between the two, no justification, just that there's the possibility that both are contributing the breakdown on the relationship. Each is a victim of the other. If I abuse my partner, it doesn't then automatically clear him of all guilt or responsibility for his prior neglect/bullying/spite/whatever. And, as you ask, 'where did I say that it was always that simple'? You said it in the sweeping, no thought for exceptions way you presented your first post on this. IMHO you need to realise that there are always two sides to every story. Always. No exceptions. Until you have heard both sides you arein no position to say you understand.

Posted by poppy tupper at Saturday, 16 May 2009 at 9:58am BST

"In such a case, no - there are not two victims."

I understand, and to an extent agree with this, but SOMETHING made the abuser into an abuser. A person doesn't just DO that kind of thing. Abusers are made, not born. But the abused is not in some way responsible for the abuse, all the same. Just because someone is broken doesn't give them the right to break someone else.

Posted by Ford Elms at Saturday, 16 May 2009 at 7:09pm BST

I'm not sure we should use DV as our best analogy, searching for a simple test case; If we are going to use domestic violence as our test case, then we are going to have get complicated, not simple.

Holding individual alleged perps accountable is only the start, not the end of DV. Even so far as DV alleged perps are concerned, we haven't finished until they have attended, internalized, and applied anger mgmt in daily life or relationships.

Beyond the individual alleged perps, we have one or more victims. All the people related to DV may be vicariously traumatized, not a virtual damage at all but a very real and lasting one in at least some instances in the real world.

Beyond all those individuals, the origins of DV reach into family generations and cultural contexts of males first-males only belief systems, including of course - our religious roots.

One may engage and start intervening at many points then; probably all are needed in some degree or another to actually change DV patterns.

Just getting evangelical or penal with individuals is not the whole story by a long, long, long shot.

Maybe a better analogy might be somewhere on the continuum with Munchausen Syndrome and with Munchausen By Proxy Syndrome? Realignment believers loudly report categorically dire symptoms (capable of spreading in epidemic disseminations?). Such dire symptoms seem to require dramatic surgeries. Those invasive surgeries are to be carried out, not only upon conservative believers as such, but upon everybody else including those deeply ill and symptomatic gay folks, so much exercised internal to the realignment religious imagination?

Posted by drdanfee at Saturday, 16 May 2009 at 7:52pm BST

I am paying full attention, Poppy. And unlikely as it may seem to you, I still think you are wrong. As a matter of fact, I think your last post is striking in the way that you deny - and then affirm - a connection between the behavior of abused and abuser. Are all behaviors really equal, and equally damning? Is beating (or cheating on) a partner who is difficult to live with really on the same level as their "arrogance"? Are both sides of every story always equally valid? Isn't anyone *ever* an innocent victim in your book?

Ford, whether or not the abuser is the "victim" of their parents, genes, or society at large, as far as the relationship goes, there's a criminal and their victim.

Posted by BillyD at Sunday, 17 May 2009 at 1:20am BST

"as far as the relationship goes, there's a criminal and their victim."

Which is what I meant by:

"Just because someone is broken doesn't give them the right to break someone else."

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 18 May 2009 at 4:32pm BST
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