Thinking Anglicans

Religious beliefs give no right to discriminate

Religious beliefs give no right to discriminate against gays is the title of an article in The Times today, written by David Pannick QC. This article is concerned with the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007. (PDF of print version here.)

Mr Pannick is a barrister at Blackstone Chambers and a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He writes a fortnightly column for The Times Law section.

Part of what he says:

…The regulations do not prevent anyone from believing whatever they like for whatever reason they wish. But although freedom of belief is absolute, freedom to manifest belief is strictly limited. This was confirmed by the law lords last year when rejecting the claim of the schoolgirl who wanted to wear a particular form of religious dress in defiance of the school uniform policy.

The right not to be discriminated against on the ground of sexual orientation is a fundamental right, any interference with which requires substantial justification. That the discriminator is acting by reference to his or her religious beliefs cannot of itself provide a justification, any more than if the provider of the services (perhaps Boers who emigrated from South Africa after the National Party lost power) have a religious objection to dealing with people of a different race.

No doubt the State should interfere with the manifestation of the religious beliefs of others only where that is justified. But the religious objector is entitled to no special protection in this respect. If I run an adoption agency and believe that it is wrong for children to be adopted by homosexuals, the fact that my views are based on logic, careful study of reports, and an expertise in child psychology cannot make my beliefs less entitled to respect than if they are based on a belief that God told Moses or Muhammad the right answer…

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Ford ElmsNPMynsterpreost (=David Rowett)Erika Bakerlapinbizarre Recent comment authors
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EPfizH
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EPfizH

The lead story of today’s Daily Episcopalian reflects the resignation of another clergy member due to a inappropriate sexual relationship with a member of the congregation. The Church is St. James Newport CA and it is a member of the Anglican Province of Uganda, Diocese of Luweero. Here is a link to the story: http://www.dailypilot.com/articles/2007/04/24/religion/dpt-stjames24.txt Canon Anderson of the American Anglican Council, previous rector of St. James, will replace the rector. Although this is a limited issue, it begs the question of how APO might work. Neither article makes reference to any involvement of the bishop of Luweero to whom… Read more »

Laurence Roberts
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Laurence Roberts

It is encouraging that this has reached ‘the public square.’

A corrective to some of the more strident words emanating from the Sees of Westminster,Canterbury, York and Birmingham, of late. And which were rather troubling to be subjected to …

Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
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Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

With regard to NP’s poser on the printer and the gay wedding invitation, we might take it further. Which of the following would he regard as defensible?

The refusal to print ordination cards for a woman (on the grounds of a belief in the necessity of male headship?)

A refusal to produce material for a political party to which s/he was opposed?

A refusal to print wedding invitations for a divorcee?

Material for religious organisations other than their own preferred denomination?

The list’s a big one, and I do find this end of the argument rather silly.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

EPfizH,
This is really sad. Guaranteed there’ll be the usual attempts to invalidate “the other side” based on this. The there will be the conservatives pointing out how illiberal the “liberals” really are, then there’ll be a lot of backing and forthing going nowhere, and everyone’ll get all fussed up and irritated, listen less and yell more, etc. That it’s Ahminson’s parish is surely fuel to that fire. Your very sensible question will get lost in all the to-do, I fear.

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

BRAVO UNITED KINGDOM!!!!!

Cheryl Clough
Guest

“…If I run an adoption agency and believe that it is wrong for children to be adopted by homosexuals, the fact that my views are based on logic, careful study of reports, and an expertise in child psychology…” I am not sure if my reading is out of context. One thing that does worry me about this statement is the blind spot taht logical careful study of reports and an expertise in child psychology means that one has made rational decisions. I would refer souls to the Roses’ work on culture and paradigms affecting what scientists perceive and test for… Read more »

Jon
Guest

Hmmmm, so opposing slavery on religious grounds, as people like Wilberforce did, is totally acceptable, but opposing a law requiring one to directly serve those one feels are engaged in immorality is to be forbidden? In both cases the activist feels he is opposing immorality at the expense of those held to be engaged in the immoral activity. Is that a hint of a double standard I smell blowing on the wind? What is the objective standard by which all rational people can see that slavery is horribly evil while ss partnerships are good things to be embraced, or is… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Quite obvious really. Slavery exploits one human being for the benefit of another. It has no place for dignity and freedom. Committed same sex partnerships bring pleasure and joy to those who partake in them, and all stable relationships help to contribute to a more harmonious and happy society. There is no case for gay relationships being ‘immoral’ based on anything other than what some bloke said in a book thousands of years ago. people are quite at liberty to believe those things, but not to think that those beliefs can outweigh the rights of citizens – some of whom… Read more »

Weiwen
Guest

“The Archbishop will also decry the lack of moral vision displayed by MPs compared to the likes of William Wilberforce, who was instrumental in the abolition of the slave trade 200 years ago.” (Telegraph article) ++Rowan might want to read and comment on this Ship of Fools article: http://ship-of-fools.com/Features/2007/john_newton.html The author, Stephen Tompkins, contends that as late as the mid-18th century, Wilberforce did not see anything wrong with the slave trade. Wilberforce did in fact rape and torture his slaves. His treatment of his slaves did improve markedly after his conversion, but he continued to support the trade, and only… Read more »

Thomas Renz
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Thomas Renz

Mynsterpreost – you are quite right to broaden the discussion about printers. Assuming for the moment that indiscriminate printing of everything that pays and is not illegal is a moral good, the question is whether the state should force printers to be either good in this sense or give up their profession. It seems to me logically possible to distinguish the case of printers discriminating against people (“I am not printing your stuff because I don’t like the colour of your hair or your sexual orientation”) from the case of printers exercising a choice over what to print (“I am… Read more »

Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

Sorry, Jon, but you fail to recognise that religious ‘rights’ have a mixed track record in promoting morality and human well-being. Your argument would equally well protect those who on religious grounds oppose giving equal rights to people of colour, wouldn’t it?

write out one thousand times ‘religion does not equal God’

NP
Guest
NP

Mynster – I do not need to tell you that freedom is a very important right and should not easily be given up…..even if it is the freedom of others that you may think needs restricting. Freedom of thought and conscience are under attack for authoritarian political correctness – bizarrely, in the name of liberalism! Those who restrict freedom, even if they are from the left, are a danger to the whole of society. The state should be encouraged to protect freedom and the dignity of ALL individuals…..or one day you will have made a powerful government restricting freedoms you… Read more »

Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

Hi Cheryl-

Supposing you reject ‘most-researched / reasoned conclusions’ as a criterion (not that anyone, surely, would reject it point-blank?). What better criterion can then replace it? For all we are left with then is *less* researched and *less* reasoned conclusions.

Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

Thomas; Hard cases make for bad law – but where DOES one draw the line? The illegal is simply dealt with. However, the stuff which is the subject of legitimate moral debate (including that which has not been declared illegal) should not, I think, be subject to this hidden censorship. If the Law were to allow (say) a printer with a large Church contract to turn down material if s/he does not approve of it, could that printer afford to accept work (say) from a source highly critical of religion, in the knowledge that pressure might be brought to bear… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“I do not need to tell you that freedom is a very important right and should not easily be given up…..even if it is the freedom of others that you may think needs restricting.” Like the freedom of gay people to be able to stay in a hotel, or not have some teacher tell their 6 year old that his/her parents are going to Hell? Honestly, NP, why is it that the only freedom that counts is yours? And how is it that you posted that message without stopping to consider how your words apply to you? When society prevents… Read more »

Thomas Renz
Guest
Thomas Renz

Mynsterpreost – fair point about the threat to a printer’s freedom which arises from being heavily dependent on a single client. It is a forceful argument against certain business strategies but I am not persuaded that it is a strong argument in favour of abolishing altogether the freedom of printers to decide what they want to print. I take it that you agree that it is at the least a little irksome that printers should be forced to print blatant nonsense, pornographic material or far-right pamphlets which just about manage to stay inside the law (and maybe merely because their… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Mynsterpreost “Hard cases make for bad law – but where DOES one draw the line? The illegal is simply dealt with. However, the stuff which is the subject of legitimate moral debate (including that which has not been declared illegal) should not, I think, be subject to this hidden censorship.” The question is difficult. As a translator I have often refused to translate morally dubious texts. Much of my work is for a company selling nutrition supplements. Whenever their cleverly crafted implied claims for the healing properties of their products have exceeded what I think is morally right, I have… Read more »

Weiwen
Guest

please ignore my earlier comment. I was confusing William Wilberforce and John Newton – it was John Newton whose conversion never really took until 40 years later.

however, comparing Rowan Williams to John Newton is still valid.

NP
Guest
NP

Are you not doing the same thing, Ford?

You do not care for the freedom of a printer who may not wish to print material eg from a far right party??

Why should he (or she, before many here have kittens because I assume the printer is a man!) have to print stuff he disagrees with?

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

As an interesting measure of where civil society in the UK is on this issue, take a look at this press release from a major recruitment agency:
City is Gay,Friendly and Proud, Reports Joslin Rowe
http://www.joslinrowe.com/news/22/

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Simply because the right of gay and lesbian people not to be discriminated against comes above that right, NP.

I simply don’ty accept any argument which says otherwise – so you will have to live with that reality. You believe gays and lesbians ahould be discriminated against because its what your homophobic religion teaches. You are entitled to that view. But its not socially acceptable as public policy.

Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

Erika;
sounds to me as though the company in question is leaving itself wide open to legal action at some time in the future, and therefore to dissociate from potentially illegal/unlawful acts falls well within the parameters. It is not ‘a matter of opinion’ whether the product contains nuts, or whether supplement x is contraindicated. It IS a ‘matter of opinion’ with regard to things like the gay issue.

Does that make sense?

Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

NP: an awful lot of the printers I have met are more likely not to want to print something from:
the Labour Party;
FoE
CND
etc.

This is surely something to do with not stifling liegitimate activity by appeal to vague ‘principles’.

In the Early Church, the problem of compromised consciences was dealt with by suggsting that some professions (the military, the theatre) were not compatible with Christian discipleship. Now that updated WOULD be ‘Cost of Conscience’, wouldn’t it!!

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Why should he (or she, before many here have kittens because I assume the printer is a man!) have to print stuff he disagrees with?” Which is the debate, how do we decide whose rights are paramount? Do we need to? I would argue that a printer is involved in the publication of the written word, and then we get into areas of censorship. A printer cannot be a censor. Do you think I should be allowed to refuse to print a flier for an Evangelical event, on the grounds that I believe Evangelicalism to be in error, a distortion… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Mynsterpreost, yes, what you say makes sense. But how about when the translation is about dubious claims that are written in such a way as to make less educated people believe that taking a supplement will rid them of cancer. Some of the examples are borderline illegal, but not actually so. How about this: A “testimony” from someone who says he has been suffering from cancer and has been getting worse despite top medical care, so he decided to stop his invasive and crippling chemo. Then he found this supplement. After 2 weeks of taking it he felt better. After… Read more »

Thomas Renz
Guest
Thomas Renz

I wonder whether “censorship” isn’t too big word to use for the freedom of publishers, printers and translators to decide what they want to get involved in and what not. By refusing to translate something, Erika is not putting the material on an index, she is not necessarily preventing anyone else from translating it… …she may be loosing money, however – cost of conscience. I am sure some, maybe many, printers, prefer a law that forbids them to act on their conscience or at least creates a conflict of conscience which makes it easier to ignore any qualms about printing… Read more »

Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

In the UK the Advertising Standard Authority would probably have something to say about such material, and to refuse to publish such misleading information would be defensible at law, I think – if only on the grounds that being involved in the publishing of such material might make one liable to legal proceedings. My own inclination in UK would be to send a complaint to the ASA about the material.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Mynsterpreost, yes, I could do that. But the answer doesn’t quite address the moral dilemma (which was given as an example of difficult questions). There is every chance that the ASA would not judge the material to be deliberately misleading. These people have a huge legal department and are generally good at skirting on this side of legality. What if it was decided that it was legally ok? Would that make my moral qualms redundant? And what do I do in the meantime, while I have to assume that it’s legal, yet I still feel very uncomfortable about it? BTW… Read more »

Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

Erika;

I suppose this is part of the ‘massa peccati’ – the side of original sin which never gets a look in! There is a murky area where moral impeccability is not possible – so in this regard, this particular hard case, you can set a precedent for censorship (with all that might involve) or you can not intervene (and risk some people being misled). Neither is nice. everyone ends up with dirty hands (hat tip Sartre – and Ionesco!), perhaps being aware we have dirty hands is important?

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Oh yes, Mynsterpreost, I know I already have dirty hands! I know I need a forgiving God! And I feel like you do, that this is a murky area indeed. With respect to this thread, though, “are we ever allowed to discrimminate based on our moral/religious beliefs”, it shows that sometimes there is no easy answer. Merely asking whether something is legal is not enough. This is where I fully understand Rowan’s moral concerns with the principle of legistlation taking the place of an individual’s requirement to make moral choices. That it arose during the SOR debate is sad, because… Read more »

Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

Erika asked:
Would you still say “However, the stuff which is the subject of legitimate moral debate (including that which has not been declared illegal) should not, I think, be subject to this hidden censorship”?

Yes, I think the area of current serious moral discussion (thus ruling out red herring issues like ‘the right not to have theft outlawed’) is the most significant and vulnerable area. Voltaire springs to mind.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

So, Mynsterpreost,
no “massa peccati” after all? A straightforward “no censureship”? I just translate and pray for forgiveness and that no-one may actually end up making harmful choices because of the product claims I’m helping to spread?

I don’t think I can do that, and I think I shall have to continue to either modify the translation, or refuse to work on certain texts.

mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

Erika; not quite. I am aware of people who have taken the post modern thing and attempted to demonstrate that there is no such thing as ‘morality’, so I was trying to establish that there are things which are clearly beyond the pale. I would place the issue you describe in a terrible area of conflict between two competing goods. The ‘massa peccati’ lies in part in the fact that good should compete in the first place, do you not think? A parallel example as in the Satanic Verses debate, where the right to freedom of speech clashed with the… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Mynsterpreost,
“The ‘massa peccati’ lies in part in the fact that good should compete in the first place, do you not think?”

That’s an interesting point.
Freedom of expression vs protecting others from harm seem to be the two competing goods here.
But the “massa peccati” surely lies in the fact that one of those “goods”, the freedom of expression, is already tainted by having a morally dubious aim.

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

Probably worth bearing in mind that different professions have different ethical frameworks and ethical issues. Very difficult or impossible for me fully to appreciate the issues and constraints of other professions. I think it is important for fellow professionals to talk and receive support from each other. I had not appreciated that being a translator raised these issues, though I have had to work through translators in an NHS context and that was a revelation to me ! Even within my own field, it is often the case that therapists of different theoretical and technical orientations have difficulty appreciating the… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Laurence, Yes, translating is fraught with difficulties, and most are not moral problems! With NP insisting that the bible is literally true, I have recently been thinking of the complexity of translating something apparently simple as “man shall not live by bread alone” into Japanese. I don’t know how the official Japanese bible has solved the problem, but I can look it up if anyone is interested. Bread is not the staple food of Japan but a modern import, although getting more and more common and less exclusive. Still, using the literal translation for bread would make it sound a… Read more »

Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

Erika; I think both carry seeds of corruption, or at least potential to corrupt. When does protecting another from harm drift into paternalism and infantilisation of the other (the sort of thing which early C20 intellectuals felt about educating oi polloi)? And freedom of expression which begins as the heart responding to the unique call of God is equally open to distortion and self-aggrandisement.

Just a thought.

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Well, it seems to me that “daily bread” is “daily food”.

Look how meat (sheep or goat) is substituted by bread in the Seeder meal!

So “go han” gives both aspects. Ko me doesn’t.

(note that we do not know exactly how to translate “daily” – this day, tomorrow or every day)

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Göran, I hadn’t thought of the translation of “daily”, what a fascinating problem! As we say “give us today our daily bread”, I think we can probably exlude “tomorrow” as an option – but then, I don’t know the original text! The “bread” game goes further than that, though. Man doesn’t live by bread alone. I am the bread of life. As you said: Give us today our daily bread. And, most of all, scooping them all up in one sublime act: breaking bread in Holy Communion, where the bread has now become the body of Christ. In British culture… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Mynsterpreost,
I agree that every good contains the seeds of corruption.
But that is not the same as saying that every good IS corrupt.
The problem only arises when one of those seeds begins to grow.

Or not?

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Innuit Christians break “fish”?” Interesting question. In the larger view, how do you speak of sacrificial redemption in a society that has no knowledge of such things? The Maya were apparently open to some aspects of Christianity, since their native religion had numerous images of the holiness of blood, and they even had a form of “baptism”, with quite different meaning of course. The issue of the Inuit language is interesting. The Lamb of God is a powerful image replete with symbolism. How do you convey this to people who have no knowledge of lambs, much less that there might… Read more »

lapinbizarre
Guest
lapinbizarre

This is not just in the UK. There’s a piece in yesterday’s Washington Post – “Conservative Black Pastors Fight Bill on Hate Crimes”.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/27/AR2007042701899.html

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Yes, Ford, that’s the kind of difficulty I was trying to talk about. Of course,”the lamb of God” is only a powerful image in societies where that kind of symbolism developed. It has no symbolism outside those cultural frameworks. A good translator would have to have a comprehensive understanding of the word to be translated, and then transcribe it effectively into his mother tongue so that people reading it would at least get an approximation of what we mean. However, assuming that “shifting the blame onto an innocent creature” is a universal human tendency, I have to assume that every… Read more »

mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

Erika;
Agreed – but you could argue that one consequence of living in a flawed universe is that two good imperatives can compete, whether or not those imperatives are flawed themselves.

Apropos the discussion of ‘bread’ I commend a study of the A/S ‘hlaf’ and its various derivatives and compounds – ‘hlaford’, ‘loaf-guardian’ = ‘master’, ‘hlafaeta’, ‘bread-eater’ = ‘dependent’.

NP
Guest
NP

Smokescreens – yes, we all know that translating is difficult.

But the problem the AC has is that TEC is translating “do not” as “do”

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

NP,
“yes, we all know that translating is difficult”
You do? Good! Then at least we can now get away from the pretence that the bible is literal truth! Thank God for that step forward in our conversation.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Mynsterpreost,
Agreed. So the question is who makes the decisions as to which good imperative has precedent over the other in individual, tricky cases. Or better, who decides which competing good is showing seeds of corruption in individual, tricky cases.

Bearing in mind that the democratic legislative process is time consuming and clumsy, and decisions often have to be made quickly and pertaining to one particular case.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

If anyone is still interested in the complexities of translation, the Guardian carried a good article on Saturday:

http://books.guardian.co.uk:80/review/story/0,,2066927,00.html

NP
Guest
NP

Yes, Erika – but translating is not so difficult that you can translate “do not” to mean “do” just to justify what you want to do anyway

mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

Erika;
Do you remember the philosophers Vroomfondel and Majikthise in ‘Hitchhiker’? “What’s the point of us sitting up all night discussing whether there is a God if next morning your machine gives us his address?’ (or words to that effect).

It’s in this desperately difficult areas that ethicists earn their living!