Thinking Anglicans

EU objections to UK equality legislation

Jamie Doward reports in today’s Observer:

The government is being forced by the European commission to rip up controversial exemptions that allow church bodies to refuse to employ homosexual staff.

It has emerged that the commission wrote to the government last week raising concerns that the UK had incorrectly implemented an EU directive prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of a person’s sexual orientation.

The ruling follows a complaint from the National Secular Society, which argued that the opt-outs went further than was permitted under the directive and had created “illegal discrimination against homosexuals”.

The commission agreed. A “reasoned opinion” by its lawyers informs the government that its “exceptions to the principle of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation for religious employers are broader than that permitted by the directive”.

The highly unusual move means that the government now has no choice but to redraft anti-discrimination laws, which is likely to prompt a furore among church groups.

Read Brussels says churches must lift ban on employing homosexuals.

According to an EU press release, found via eumonitor.net:

Employment equality rules: reasoned opinion to the UK; case closed for Slovakia

The European Commission has today sent a reasoned opinion to the United Kingdom for incorrectly implementing EU rules prohibiting discrimination based on religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation in employment and occupation (Directive 2000/78/EC, see also MEMO/08/69 ). It has also decided to close infringement proceedings concerning the same Directive against Slovakia as their national legislation has been brought into line with EU requirements.

“Tackling all forms of discrimination – especially at work – has been a priority for this Commission and for me personally. Our legal action has led to better protection against discrimination in workplaces across the EU,” said Equal Opportunities Commissioner Vladimír Špidla. “We call on the UK Government to make the necessary changes to its anti-discrimination legislation as soon as possible so as to fully comply with the EU rules. In this context, we welcome the proposed Equality Bill and hope that it will come into force quickly,” he added.

In the reasoned opinion sent to the United Kingdom, the Commission pointed out that:

  • there is no clear ban on ‘instruction to discriminate’ in national law and no clear appeals procedure in the case of disabled people;
  • exceptions to the principle of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation for religious employers are broader than that permitted by the directive.

There’s a response to this news item at Cranmer EU forces Government to put gay equality over Christian conscience.

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Spirit of Vatican II
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Spirit of Vatican II

Thank heaven for Europe. It dragged Ireland, kicking and screaming, into the 20th century when it forced us to abolish our smelly Victorian homophobic legislation; today Ireland is grateful for that. The churches will also discover they have reason to be grateful to Europe for this latest intervention.

Laurence C.
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Laurence C.

Thank Europe for Europe. And ‘Hurrah’ for the National Secular Society.

choirboyfromhell
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choirboyfromhell

Oh, it’s all the EU’s fault now isn’t it? Nothing exempts you from taking responsibility for your life like blaming somebody else….sounds like the ones that are blaming Obama over here.

Ed Tomlinson
Guest

those rejoicing at the secular elite’s rulings might pause to consider what relevance this has to truth or the Gospel.

After all it was the ruling elite who, by virtue of Pontius Pilate, sent Jesus to his death and rejoiced at the martyrdom’s of thousands of Christians

Be careful what you wish for.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“those rejoicing at the secular elite’s rulings might pause to consider what relevance this has to truth or the Gospel.”

As I’ve said before, it is ridiculous to believe that human rights should ever be seen as contrary to gospel values. Human rights may be hard to discern, but they are always aimed at reducing man’s cruelty, injustice and inhumanity towards other people.
Human rights and theological truths can never oppose each other.

toby forward
Guest

I must be using a different Bible to Mr Tomlinson. In mine, Pontius Pilate tried to release Jesus, but the religiously incited crowd demanded the release of Barabbas and the execution of Jesus. Secular mercy was defeated by religious bigotry. Funny that. Perhaps it’s all in the translation.

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

You have to smile at Fr Ed, he is such a one! I used to feel some sympathy for people in his position, now I just have the deepest compassion for the young and innocent who fall prey to parish priests who continue to teach this nonsense. It is for this reason I am content to see them becoming something else – even if I am sad for my RC friends who view their arrival with trepidation. My hope is that the new parish priest at St Barnabas TW will engage the whole community with the challenge of the gospel… Read more »

Ed Tomlinson
Guest

Gosh what a bitter attack. My post only warned that secular politics and faith do not often make good bed fellows and BANG – off you all go. I did not even comment on the rights or wrongs of this news. I just worry that what may be helping your cause now might bite you further down the line as aggressive secularism takes hold. As to Pilate- he washed his hands of Jesus- that is as much a sin as braying in a hostile crowd IMO…or am I missing something? And Martin, any sympathy shown to me on this board… Read more »

peterpi
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peterpi

Pontius Pilate crucified thousands. He was recalled to Rome for brutality — and that’s saying a lot. Despite the revisionism of the Gospel writers, Pilate didn’t care what happened to a single itinerant rabbi from Galillee whom the authorities said was raising the rabble on a Jewish holiday, rebuking tax collectors, and disturbing the peace on the Temple grounds. Furthermore Ed, sometimes the Christian ruling elite rejoiced at the martyrdom of Jews, religious “heretics” (those who chose to worship or think differently) and atheists innocent of any crime. But, back to the EU ruling, does the EU ruling refer to… Read more »

Fr Mark
Guest

Fr Ed: “those rejoicing at the secular elite’s rulings might pause to consider what relevance this has to truth or the Gospel.” Fatherdear, it has every relevance to the Gospel, because it reminds us yet again that the institution of the Church can descend to the level of mere Pharisaism. I was a chaplain at a detention centre for asylum seekers, a good number of whom were seeking asylum on the basis of persecution on account of their sexual orientation. It caused me great shame that very often the Church, and the Anglican Church at that, whose cassock I was… Read more »

Rev L Roberts
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Rev L Roberts

“Toby Forward put that Bible down at once ! Who do you think you are?! Father will tell you what it says, and what it means.”

Ah yes, the old saying, ‘ a pope in every pulpit’ !

I am glad of the European Commission. And any body that can protect lgbt people or enable or enhance our flourishing.

Now I am engaging in a spot of Ignatian meditation — I am trying to imagine an anglo-catholic congregation which is a totally straight congregation…

Nope, sorry I just can’t manage it. (It’s Totally beyond my experience you see.)

Rev Simon
Guest
Rev Simon

Thinking Anglicans, seem only to be thinking about matters relating to equality and diversity issues and very little else these days. It has got so bad that father has found himself migrating more to Fulcrum than here simply for a more diverse read (diversity issue I know).
I fully appreciate that such issues are important and I probably deserve a verbal wack for this post but can we try for once in a while to think as Anglicans about say spirituality or liturgy or how about some other suggestions?

toby forward
Guest

Well, as far as I can see, on many readings, Pilate attempted to set Jesus free but was forced to condemn him by the religious mob. Now, have I got that wrong or not? The problem was, he didn’t have a Human Rights Commission to make him stand up to the religious crowd. Throughout the ages, the world has needed secular powers to protect people from the vicious behaviour of religious bigots. If we’re going to use the Bible to shore up our arguments, then let’s at least read it. I’m reminded of the old criticism of the man who… Read more »

Fr Mark
Guest
Fr Mark

Rev Simon: “Thinking Anglicans, seem only to be thinking about matters relating to equality and diversity issues and very little else these days”

Perhaps because the rest of the Church is refusing to think properly about these issues nowadays, and for it to have any credibility with the world outside its closed doors that situation needs to change urgently?

I doubt whether going to a conservative Evangelical site is the best way to be sure of getting away from the gay issue, somehow… the number of straight Evangelical men apparently obsessed with the topic is staggering beyond belief.

karen macqueen+
Guest
karen macqueen+

“But religious groups expressed alarm at the move. The Christian charity, Care, said: ‘If evangelical churches cannot be sure that they can employ practising evangelicals with respect to sexual ethics, how will they be able to continue?’ I suggest an answer to the question. Perhaps they will be able to continue in the manner in which Jesus did. Christian charities are not make-work programs for like minded Christians nor are they a mean of attempting to convert the recipients. Take care that you in the England do not find yourselves in the position of we Americans who have to put… Read more »

Leonardo Ricardo
Guest

Oh yes, let´s think about some rosy colored shafts of light that have covered us in holy bliss (as our Anglican LGBT brothers and sisters/family/friends/priests are murdered and thrown in prison in Uganda). Holy, Holy, Holy…how silly of me to object to following the ABC´s (and Yorks) purish example of DENIAL!

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“Now the government must demonstrate its commitment to equality, rather than continuing to jump to the church’s tune.”
– Keith Porteous-Wood –

It speaks volumes about the Churches’ attitude towards common human rights, when a secular government has to over-rule their discrimination against the LGBT community. Thank God for Britain’s membership of the E.U.

Paul
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Paul

I am an Irish Anglican and would like to find some forum for ‘Anglican Thinking’ – this is genuinely my 1st tme on this site. This thread so far doesn’t encourage me much though unfortunately. My primary concern on this issue is not the state ruling what are permisable attitudes towards homosexuality, but it ruling on what are permissable attitudes towards sexual ethics in general. For instance, could these laws make a requirement of monogomy illegal? If my wife and I were into ‘swinging’ should a church be permitted to see that as an impediment to participation in full time… Read more »

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest

In Luke’s passion narrative Pilate thrice declares Christ guiltless and thrice offers to let him go. Yes, the Church has to be discriminating over against secular authority, but that includes warmly approving and supporting the godly values of secular authority, such as justice. Human rights is a core value of our civilization; we cannot mount a mature critique of their interpretation and application in a given case if we adopt an Augustinian scepticism about the authorities to begin with. Gays have found secular law to be a blessing over against church attitudes (ever since the law ceased to be a… Read more »

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

“After all it was the ruling elite who, by virtue of Pontius Pilate, sent Jesus to his death and rejoiced at the martyrdom’s of thousands of Christians”

And the Ugandans proposing to do the same to people by what they’re born as??? In the name of the big religion in town…except it’s Christianity this time and not Judaism. Proud aren’t you Ed?

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

“…. at what is a very painful time for orthodox Catholics,…”

Even more painful for others buddy.

Eric
Guest
Eric

I disagree with this completely. The churches have not taken any steps to violate the rights of the state that I know of and the state needs to take a similar approach. The issue of whether church’s should have homosexuality staff is really secondary here. The real issue is about whether the state has the right to force churches to take stands they don’t agree with on issues like this. If Britain is a free society, then a church has every right to take whatever position it wants to regarding homosexuality. If a state can dictate that position, then how… Read more »

ordinary vicar
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ordinary vicar

Fr Ed is right; much as I applaud the effect of the decision, forcing the church to act against its its wrong beliefs is not very far from forcing it to act against its right ones. The application of force in this case is doing the right thing for the wrong reasons (or perhaps the wrong thing for the right reasons). And as for it being ridiculous to assume that human rights could ever run counter to the Gospel, how might a universal secular principle of toleration of religious beliefs be interpreted within the mindset of a secular authority with… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“For instance, could these laws make a requirement of monogomy illegal? If my wife and I were into ‘swinging’ should a church be permitted to see that as an impediment to participation in full time ministry?” – Paul, on Monday – I suppose Paul, that as this is your very first time looking in and commenting on this site, you perhaps have already gained the wrong impression. I don’t thinkl anyone here has ever made the crass suggestion (which you proffer here) that the Church will ever outlaw conventional marriage as the preferred vehicle for the production of children. So… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Ordinary Vicar, “haven’t you alreasdy decided that the requirements of human rights have primacy over the claims of the Gospel?” What I have said is that human rights can, by definition, not run counter to gospel principles. If you think that doing away with man’s injustice towards man can ever be against God’s wishes, you have to make a sound theological case for it. To me it is self evident that once something has been recognised as a genuine human right, it is automatically a theological truth. If the two are genuinely out of kilter, you will have to take… Read more »

Fr Mark
Guest
Fr Mark

ordinary vicar: “how might a universal secular principle of toleration of religious beliefs be interpreted within the mindset of a secular authority with the power to enforce its will? How far can I or anyone insist publicly on the divine nature of Christ before someone counters by arguing that my articulation of this runs counter to the claims of Judaism (or Islam, come to that) and is therefore offensive?” I think what you are describing here is a situation that arises not from living within the mindset of a secular authority so much as living within a society which contains… Read more »

ordinary vicar
Guest
ordinary vicar

Erica; thank you. Very thought provoking. You have conceded my point, I think. By holding as a first principle that the two cannot run counter, you have established that the human rights agenda is one of the ways in which you accord value to and understand the value of the Gospel and, by turns, the scale by which you judge human behaviour. Can you conceive a human right which ran counter to the gospel? I don’t think you can logically acknowledge the faintest possiblity. I can’t think of one, but I own it as a possibility. And how do you… Read more »

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

The ‘elephant in the room’ here just might be our shifted evidence? Thanks to empirical sciences still flooding out, plus changed common sense experience in daily life (those labeled oxymoron by traditional religious thinking? – gifted-competent women, competent queer folks?) – if Ed T or other conservative posters preach the same old legacy sex stuff, they increasingly fly in the face of the heavy call to go do their change homework. Push is coming to shove. In the 1950s, we all could grant that the research was very new, the changed experiences of competent gay and lesbian soldiers in WWII… Read more »

ordinary vicar
Guest
ordinary vicar

Come now, Fr Ron – you can do better than that; where’s your normally open and pastoral heart? Paul’s asked a question – courteously as a newcomer- and you deride him. You were a newcomer once. And much more besides he’s absolutely right to frame his question in the way that he has: how far a church can set and maintain its own code of ethics and that is precisely the question at point here. Paul asks ‘Could these laws make a requirement of monogamy illegal? The EU is telling the UK government that it cannot allow the churches as… Read more »

Paul
Guest
Paul

Thanks for the replies folks. Ordinary Vicar has picked my concerns up precisely.

While there may be some co-beligerant payoff for some people from this current EU ruling. I don’t believe that this form of intervention is to be welcomed by any.

Strikes me that the more secularly minded european governments don’t seem to consider whether the principle of seperation of church and state might carry bi-directional obligations.

Fr. Ron – I’ll share more shortly.

anthony
Guest
anthony

There will be no peace on such issues until the state finally gets wise and becomes blind to religion. Religious organizations ought to be held to exactly the same legal requirements as any other organizations. No exceptions, including exceptions for ministers. Law is the prerogative of the state.

anthony
Guest
anthony

“Christian charities are not make-work programs for like minded Christians nor are they a means of attempting to convert the recipients.” – Karen MacQueen

News to me.

anthony
Guest
anthony

“To me it is self evident that once something has been recognised as a genuine human right, it is automatically a theological truth.

If the two are genuinely out of kilter, you will have to take another look at your theology.” – Erika Baker

Having taken another look at my theology, I find this statement tantamount to a claim of infallibilty for whoever does the recognizing.

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

The thread narrative which seeks to categorically separate human rights and gospel is doomed to falsity, if not triviality. Human rights for believers is surely deeply rooted in the gospel news of the Incarnation/Resurrection – the cross upon which we crucified Jesus of Nazareth is all too familiar as an instrument of the genocides we continue to pursue and celebrate. The thought experiment sounds plausible; but it sets up a bad faith argument whose end can be seen coming fifteen miles ahead of time. A case example which predict of course that if any change should or could occur, then… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Ordinary Vicar and Athony I’m not sure I understand what you say, but I think you both have a dual reference system in which people discern something about their own lives on the one hand, and then there is this external God who does and requires completely different things. But religion and our experience of God ARE of this world. There is no way that we can separate ourselves out from this human world and our human lives. And so, Anthony, yes, there has to be an element of implied infallibility somewhere in the system. We believe that God is… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Paul, OK, let’s take your question seriously. First of all, if you haven’t been reading Thinking Anglicans for a while, you have to understand that you have been pressing a few very sore buttons. If homosexuality is acceptable, what next – bestiality? Paedophilia? Polygamy? Having affairs outside marriage? Whatever you might mean by not living monogamously ….. Do you see what happens here? Homosexuality is always ever only compared to something either illegal or definitely morally wrong. And we are, quite frankly, sick and tired of explaining that our contention is that homosexuality is NOT to be included in the… Read more »

toby forward
Guest
toby forward

Why are people making this so complicated when it’s all pretty simple? Human rights are defined, not by what we demand for ourselves, but by what we think we should grant to others. Based on a theology of creation, we accept that God’s world is good and should be respected. So, we respect people, as part of God’s creation. Further, people, unlike the rest of creation, are made in the image of God, so we offer them the respect we would to God. That’s all people, no matter what their gender, sexual orientation, skin colour, whatever. The stories about Jesus… Read more »

anthony
Guest
anthony

No, Erika, no, the God Jesus speaks of in the gospels demands that we treat each other with justice, at the very least. If what you call “human rights” is precisely and only the virtue of justice, we have no argument. But I thought you had a wider referencee, so just for the record, I regard rights ethics as wholly secular, a product of Rousseau and the eighteenth century enlightenment. I think it is a workable ethical system, and respect the people who follow it. I do not think it matches up precisely with scriptural ethics, though of course there… Read more »

Paul
Guest
Paul

Erika, you are inferring far too much from my comments. People do have sensitivities and we should be courteous towards them. I do feel as though you have made a bit of an ‘appeal to sympathy’ in your 1st paragraph though. Calling taboo seldom does little more than get people’s backs up. My point is that it is for the church itself to determine and apply it’s own ethics. Much as I would like the Catholic church to revoke it’s rules on mandatory celibacy for preists (not to mention admission of females also), I respect that they have the independence… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Paul You may feel that I’ve made an appeal to sympathy, I’ve tried to get you to see other people’s point of view. I am not one little bit interested in your sympathy. Your very first post here started by questioning whether this was a forum for thinking people – this is not the best way of making new friends. As you have also said that you are new to Thinking Anglicans, I thought I’d try to explain why you got fairly short shrift here. Of course the church can determine and apply its own ethics in its own religious… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Anthony You say that if what I call “human rights” is a virtue of human justice, we have no argument. But then you merely shift the goal post to defining what “human justice” is. As you point out, there was a time where it slavery was not considered to be unjust. So do we have an argument or don’t we? I agree there is a huge danger in claiming gospel authority for political ideas. It’s what causes the church’s insistence that lgbt people aren’t equal. And of course human rights are discerned in a particular cultural context in time. But… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“My point is that it is for the church itself to determine and apply it’s own ethics. Much as I would like the Catholic church to revoke it’s rules on mandatory celibacy for priests (not to mention admission of females also), I respect that they have the independence to determine these rules for themselves, and that state interference would be a violation of freedom.” – Paul, on Sunday – Paul, I find this a very interesting argument – especially when it comes from a Christian Believer (R.C.?). You speak here as if the Church was some sort of purely secular… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

I do apologise. My remarks were off topic and unhelpful in assisting this important thread to move in the right direction.

I am sad (on this evidence) to be thought “insenstive, cruel and spiteful” – my expressed hope that those who are to become Roman Catholics should “flourish” was sincere. As one who made the journey the other way, painful as it was at the time, I have no regrets.

Rev L Roberts
Guest
Rev L Roberts

There is a good deal of discussion in the Churches about what ‘the Gospel’ might be. It is far from clear.

John Holding
Guest
John Holding

Paul — and others. Quite right that the church should determine its own standards and rules. BUT, and it’s a large one, when those standards and rules come into conflict with the standards and rules of the society within which the church lives, then the church forfeits — ought to forfeit gladly — all the rights and privileges of a participant in that society and becomes an underground group. I don’t see any of the churches willing to go that route. They are therefore in the position of trying to have it both ways — they want out of society… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

“Can you conceive a human right which ran counter to the gospel? I don’t think you can logically acknowledge the faintest possiblity. I can’t think of one, but I own it as a possibility. And how do you see God’s failure, in these terms, to respect human rights?” Good googly-moogly, OV: this takes me back to the issues I wrestled with in my first year of seminary! But this is the way I frame(d) it: 1. Is God “God” because God is Good? *OR* 2. Is Good “Good” because God is Good? The first, I (and CS Lewis!) would argue… Read more »

Fr Mark
Guest
Fr Mark

John Holding: that’s a very good comment.

You say “Most members of the CofE take its privileged position vis a vis the state for granted — they may not like it”.

I think they do like it, very much, in fact. I don’t hear any on the conservative side of current debate in the C of E wishing that their voices received only the same amount of public attention or airtime that they would receive if they were Methodist, Baptist or Pentecostal ministers engaging in fierce internal doctrinal debate, for example.

anthony
Guest
anthony

Well, I am not going to argue with anyone any more on this thread. Erika, when you put it the way you did in your last post I couldn’t possibly want to argue with you, in fact I’m going to have to read that post a couple of times more, I liked it so much. And to JCF, all I can say is “Oh. OK.” Best wishes to all. Anthony