Thinking Anglicans

Trevor Phillips: Christians 'aren't above the law'

Updated Friday evening

Two newspapers report recent remarks by Trevor Phillips head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, at a public debate on 8 February.

Telegraph Christians ‘aren’t above the law’, says equalities chief Trevor Phillips by John Bingham and Tim Ross.

Christians who want to be exempt from equality legislation are like Muslims trying to impose sharia on Britain, Trevor Phillips, the human rights watchdog, has declared.

Mail Equalities chief tells Christians: You’re no different to Muslims who want sharia law by Daniel Martin.

Christians who argue they should be exempt from equalities legislation are no different from Muslims who want to impose sharia law in Britain, a human rights chief has declared.

Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, said religious rules should end ‘at the door of the temple’ and give way to the ‘public law’ laid down by Parliament.

The entire proceedings of this debate are available from the Religion and Society website of the University of Lancaster. See Religious Identity in ‘Superdiverse’ Societies.

Britain is more religiously diverse than ever before. What does this mean for how we live together? Listen here to podcasts of the presentations, responses and discussion at this first debate. These are accessible at the foot of the page, together with texts of the academic presentations. You can also watch the full event below from YouTube. The debate was chaired by Charles Clarke and Linda Woodhead.

  • Podcast 1: Professor Linda Woodhead [Lancaster University, Director of the Religion and Society Programme] introduced the debate, highlighting the concept of superdiversity. Introduced by Charles Clarke. 10.30
  • Podcast 2: Professor Kim Knott [Lancaster University] argued that “Britain has been ahead of the European curve” in addressing issues of integration. 12.51
  • Podcast 3: Dr Therese O’Toole [Bristol University] focused on apparent contrasts between New Labour’s and David Cameron’s stances regarding religion. 11.30
  • Podcast 4: The Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP [Attorney General], responding, said religious belief is central to society. He praised religion for embracing diversity. Introduced by Charles Clarke. 12.16
  • Podcast 5: Trevor Phillips [Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission], responding, welcomed the concept of superdiversity as significant. We need to establish agreement on procedures for dealing with disputes. Introduced by Charles Clarke. 14.02
  • Podcast 6: Questions and comments from the audience, and responses by the panel. 28.42

Update

Heresy Corner has actually checked these recordings and reports in What Trevor Phillips actually said has found that both newspapers and even the Tablet have not reported the event fully. Do read his article in full to discover what happened.

And Linda Woodhead also had this article in last week’s Church Times: The quiet revolution in UK faith.

THERE is a great deal of talk at the moment about the return of religion, desecularisation and post-secular­ism. The editor of The Economist, John Micklethwait, co-authored a book, God is Back (Penguin, 2009).

This raises some questions. Where did God go to — did he fall asleep like Rip Van Winkle? And now that he is back, does he look the same?

And the Telegraph has a further report, Trevor Phillips stands by ‘ridiculous’ Sharia comparison.

Trevor Phillips is standing by his claim that Christian groups seeking exemptions from equality laws are like Muslims who want sharia rule in parts of Britain, despite criticism that his comments were “strange” and ridiculous”.

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John Bowles
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John Bowles

Presumably this comment applies to the failure of the appeal of two elderly Christian boarding house keepers against a conviction for chosing whom they want to accomodate? They did not wish to let rooms to unmarried heterosexual couples or to pairs of homosexuals, male and female. For this they were dragged before the courts by two men. Considering that this is an ostensibly Christian website it amazes me that so many of its readers object to a couple who used their conscience to inform their Christian standards. I suspect that they are now robbed of their livelihood and ruined because… Read more »

Gerry Dorrian
Guest

“Surely the kernel of British ways of living – the very thing under attack today – is tolerance of those things we would not choose for ourselves, the other side of the bargain being that our choices will be tolerated by those who disagree with them and us?”

rjb
Guest
rjb

This is a superbly self-satisfied exercise in missing the point. As with the matter of the Shari’a, the question is not whether Christians should be exempt from the law, but whether the law should try to accommodate the sensibilities of Christians, and how far it should do so. We all accept that equality is not always the same thing as fairness (i.e., justice sometimes dictates that different people should be treated differently). And the law accepts that there can be religious justifications for discrimination: this is why even Trevor Philips can’t insist that the RCC ordain women, or every mosque… Read more »

Rosalyn Liddle
Guest
Rosalyn Liddle

Well,to me there is no discussion here and Mr.Phillips’ statement is of no consequence to me. We are talking about God’s laws here,not man’s and as such, it is non-negotiable. This is a Christian country is it not? Man’s laws fall way below God’s laws and because man takes upon himself to implement his laws and disregard God’s we are seeing such comments. Of course we obey the laws of the country, but some laws are not up for grabs and as such, shame on Mr.Phillips.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

John Bowles, No blacks, no Irish, no mixed race couples, no disabled people, no-one with a speech impediment, no Germans, no Evangelicals, no Muslims, no foreigners, no women, no Japanese, no Conservatives, no working class people… The list of possible notes on websites anad front doors is endless once you let your personal dislike rule. Do you really want to live in a world where everyone can decide and advertise which group or groups of people they don’t want to provide goods and services to? The majority of people in this country would like to live in a place where… Read more »

Tristan
Guest
Tristan

He’s obviously unaware that Anglican Canon Law IS part of the law of the land…

Iain McLean
Guest
Iain McLean

As others may have noticed, the Telegraph has an “instant vote” button at the bottom of its Trevor Phillips story. When I checked just now, the majority of Telegraph readers – yes Telegraph readers – responding had ticked the button for “religious rules should end at the door of the temple”.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“He’s obviously unaware that Anglican Canon Law IS part of the law of the land…”

Anglican Canon Law says absolutely nothing about any of the issues people have been going to court over and lost.
Anglican Canon Law does not say “you may discriminate in your work against people you don’t approve of”, or “you may flout the rules if your employer stipulates that dangly crosses on chains should not be worn for health and safety reasons”.

David Shepherd
Guest

Erika:

Here you say: ‘The majority of people in this country would like to live in a place where individuals either provide goods and services to everyone – or they don’t provide them to anyone’

On another thread, you say: ‘Talking about minorities and majorities as though numbers had any value at all is completely misleading. In all possible topics.’

So which of your statements here has ‘any value at all’, the former or the latter.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

David:

You don’t GIVE rights to one minority group by depriving another minority group of theirs…especially when the former are engaged in a business that 1) they chose for themselves and 2) is presupposed to be non-discriminatory.

Tell me, would you be sanguine about this couple running a restaurant where they refused to serve a gay couple? If not, why is a hotel any different?

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David, whether something is right or not cannot be determined by the number of people who support it. But in a democracy, the majority of people can decide on something. Or better, through the political system the people vote in representatives who can then make decisions on their behalf. The decision may then be right or it may be wrong. But it is something that, within the context of the political system we live in, has to be accepted by all. Those who believe it is wrong can use the political channels available to change the decision. But until they’ve… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Rosalyn, “We are talking about God’s laws here,not man’s and as such, it is non-negotiable. This is a Christian country is it not?” But what is Christian? I think that is where we’re going terribly terribly wrong. We seen to believe that being Christian is to impose our views onto those we believe to be sinners and to shun them if they don’t fall in line. But what did Jesus say we should do to those we disagree with? Were the ones who brought the women taken in adultery encouraged to throw stones? Or was Jesus the only one who… Read more »

Counterlight
Guest

A great argument for the separation of Church and State, and yes, I’m a Yank. When Church and State start to interfere in each others business, they only corrupt each other. In a pluralistic society, as Britain increasingly seems to be (and if Britain didn’t want a cosmopolitan culture, then it should never have had an empire), privileging one religion over others and allowing it to determine what is right and legal for everyone else is an engraved invitation to escalating conflict, as we are finding out over here after more than 30 years of evangelical Christian political hegemony. Not… Read more »

John Bowles
Guest
John Bowles

Erika Baker

Your emotional rhetoric cuts no ice with me. My concern is for this elderly couple whose livelihood has been ruined by a pair of fractious, middle-aged queans determined to cause trouble. They could easily have found accomodation elsewhere where the pink pound is acceptable..

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

John Bowles should read the Church Times’ account of the appeal and the reasons for its rejection. The Bulls have been portrayed as an inocuous elderely couple running a small guest house. In fact they are running a fairly substantial hotel with seven rooms, separate from the part of the building in which they live. So the argument that they should be able to choose who they invite into their house hardly applies. Secondly they let twin bedded and family rooms to anyone, same sex, married or not. They innocently or naively seem to think that sex only takes place… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

John Bowles, I didn’t think I was being emotional. The law’s the law’s the law, that doesn’t change because we hold opposing views very sincerely. And yes, I happen to believe that it is the only sensible law to have to facilitate different people and different opinions to live together in the same society: we’re all bound by it. It isn’t actually very difficult to grasp that. I must say, I am astonished about the opinions some Christians express on this forum and in general. Immigrants are expected to understand the principles of citizenship better than that before they can… Read more »

Counterlight
Guest

“My concern is for this elderly couple whose livelihood has been ruined by a pair of fractious, middle-aged queans [sic] determined to cause trouble. They could easily have found accomodation elsewhere where the pink pound is acceptable..” I suspect the reception of this comment would be very different if the couple denied accommodation were Jewish, and we read the antisemitic equivalent to “middle aged queans” and “pink dollars.” It never ceases to amaze me that what is now completely forbidden by decency these days is still acceptable when the subject is gay men. Britain is now a pluralistic country. If… Read more »

Counterlight
Guest

“My concern is for this elderly couple whose livelihood has been ruined…”

To use a favorite phrase of Mr. Bowles, I remain unmoved.

A public house is a public house. They only had the right to deny accommodation if the couple couldn’t pay or were involved in something criminal. The old folks have only themselves to blame.

JCF
Guest
JCF

Hello, Moderator?

It seems to me that HATE SPEECH is being broadcast on this thread of Thinking Anglicans! Please, PLEASE, moderate.

[Nevermind “royal line”, questioning the *species* of the parentage of the perpetrator comes next…]

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

JFC – when was ‘robust argument’ the same as ‘hate speech’?

David Shepherd
Guest

Erika: In one place, you readily dismiss the references to numbers ‘in all situations’ as completely irrelevant to the issue of morality. Here, you defend you own reference to the majority view as relevant. It was used to bolster the moral claims your own argument. That’s self-serving and selectively applied. I may partially disagree with him, but John Bowles is perfectly entitled to participate in the political process of debate in which (as you say) ‘Those who believe it is wrong can use the political channels available to change the decision. But until they’ve changed it, they’re bound by it.’… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

JCF I don’t actually think this “hate speech” should be moderated at all, as long as it isn’t directed at a contributor to this thread. I think the kind of thinking it uncovers is a huge problem for Christianity and for society itself, and it’s time for moderate and liberal Christians to work on it. In the past the great Christians conflicts were about what we believe about God and Christ. They were bloody, they were destructive, but they could ultimately be put aside simply by ignoring them. It was possible to live next to someone who didn’t accept Transubstantiation,… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

As for the Bulls, yes, I do have sympathy for them. It is horrible when your beliefs conflict with the law and you don’t know which way to turn. But we needn’t dramatise their situation either. The last time I googled the hotel was still taking bookings. What’s more, the couple is clearly still making the same stand against the law because the website still stresses that unmarried couples will not be given a double room: http://www.chymorvah.co.uk/bookingform.html And if John Bowles is right and the gay couple are a selfish, immoral aberation without any support from moral upright people, then… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

Just in case the last reply was junked:

ED NOTE:
[remainder deleted]

Earlier reply retrieved from Junk file and published. I am sorry that so many valid comments are getting rejected by the software and are therefore not seen until the author writes to complain.

David Shepherd
Guest

‘Could someone force me to work on a translation for the Westboro Baptist Church? What would I do if they did?’ …or perhaps, commission you to develop a new layman’s translation of Mein Kampf, carefully annotated to fall short of hate speech, yet resonate with the marginalised and disaffected youth of this country. If political affiliation became a protected charateristic, like religion, you would have no choice. This is where the church can play a part in persuading its members to adopt a code of business morality that always delivers service to those with whom we may disagree strenuously, as… Read more »

Counterlight
Guest

As I said in a comment that didn’t make it to this thread, if an antisemitic equivalent to “middle-aged queans [sic]” and “pink dollars” appeared here, would that still be considered “robust argument?” I suppose in some quarters, it’s perfectly permissible to speak about gay men in ways that in all other cases would be outside the bounds of all decency. I’m with JCF. This is hate speech. I agree with Erika Baker. These comments should stay up. The mask of pious pretense just fell off. “Give ’em enough rope and they’ll hang themselves.” ED NOTE: two earlier comments found… Read more »

Craig Nelson
Guest
Craig Nelson

The law on discrimination against LGB people was actively sought because there was a lot of examples of such discrimination which makes life bad for the victims of it. There was at the time a huge campaign against the law and the issue of B&Bs was considered and indeed was one of the questions (if I recall) in the government’s consultation. The law was then voted through both Houses of Parliament as was the Equality Act that replaced previous equality legislation. The legislation did include (and does) some religious exemptions (which I support) but they are necessarily limited because if… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

John Bowles is seemingly completely careless of the truth and nothing other than a troll devoted to sneering and throwing around his inaccurate assertions. His total disregard for truth leads me to believe he is probably not a Christian, though there are times I sense he may be presenting as a radically conservative Roman Catholic.

We should not encourage him by responding.

JCF
Guest
JCF

@Richard Ashby: “a pair of fractious, middle-aged queans determined to cause trouble” with “pink pounds” That’s not an argument (robust or otherwise). That’s an ad hominem. Erika, I get the hypothesis that by allowing bigots to spew unhindered, we let them hang their own hateful cause. However, I would ask you to consider the counter-argument that permitting hate speech to remain posted here gives the impression that bigotry is considered merely an “alternative point-of-view” (“robust” even!). Recently, racist disparagements were made against Archbishop Sentamu: would Thinking Anglicans permit such (hateful) comments to remain here? I rather think not. TA *has*… Read more »

Steve Lusk
Guest
Steve Lusk

From this side of the pond, there’s this:
“When followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity.” That’s one our most conservative justices, Antonin Scalia,writing for the majority in Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990)

Counterlight
Guest

“Could someone force me to work on a translation for the Westboro Baptist Church? What would I do if they did?”

My partner would gladly do the hair of a Westboro member or Maggie Gallagher or any other hater. They would have to pay a whopping big extra charge (the “@$$*# charge”), for his services (best hair colorist in New York; where else are they going to go?).

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

JCF my issue is not that people engaging in hate speech just show themselves up for what they are – although that is undoubtedly true. My real concern is that if we supress that kind of thing we end up with a false sense of security. All major unpleasant movements in history have started with a small minority of people spreading fear and hatred. These things are best recognised quickly so that people can engage with them and diffuse them before they become a major problem. You only have to look to current American politics to see where ignoring or… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David, “In one place, you readily dismiss the references to numbers ‘in all situations’ as completely irrelevant to the issue of morality. Here, you defend you own reference to the majority view as relevant. It was used to bolster the moral claims your own argument. That’s self-serving and selectively applied.” Are you referring to this comment: “The majority of people in this country would like to live in a place where individuals either provide goods and services to everyone – or they don’t provide them to anyone.”? But that’s factually true, whether I agree with it or not. Obviously, people… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David “but John Bowles is perfectly entitled to participate in the political process of debate in which (as you say) ‘Those who believe it is wrong can use the political channels available to change the decision. But until they’ve changed it, they’re bound by it.’ He has not broken the law.” And I hope you are not saying that I have suggested that he had broken the law, or that he should not post here and engage in the political process of debate. On previous threads I have tried to encourage him to engage. Unfortunately, we never got to a… Read more »

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

JCF I wasn’t refering to the ‘two middle aged queans’ since I don’t consider that to be ‘hate speech’ just an ignorant and offensive playground insult made by someone who ought to know better. Other than that I don’t see any ‘hate speech’ here and no one has been directly attacked for who or what they are and no one has been incited to go out and beat up John Bowles even if we might feel like it at times!!!!! I also think it quite useful if he is allowed to condemn himself out of his own mouth. The use… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David “This is where the church can play a part in persuading its members to adopt a code of business morality that always delivers service to those with whom we may disagree strenuously, as long as they work within the legal limits of free speech” I don’t know about that. The Westboro Baptist Church was probably a poor example because their hate speech would be illegal in Britain. Translating a treaties on Mein Kampf is a better example, and it is definitely one where I would not comply whatever the law. There has still got to be a space for… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

Counterlight:

Forgive my warped sense of humour, but why do I have the feeling that the unwitting male client from the Westboro Baptist would leave the salon with the perfect irony of indelible pink undertones!

Father Ron Smith
Guest

‘The Pharisees wanted vengeance in bringing the adulteress to Jesus. The same motive was at work in the organisations that supported the case against the Bulls.” – David Shepherd –

David, I must confess, I don’t get the inference you are trying to draw in this statement.

Are you comparing the defenders of the Gay couple with the Pharisees? – Surely this can’t be right.

In that case, ‘the adulteress’ would equate with the Bells! What are you trying to say here?

Jphn Bowles
Guest
Jphn Bowles

The difference between the couple who exercised a right to admit whom they pleased to their boarding house is that they did so from Christian principle in what was once, and is no more, a Christian country. If commentators to this website are Christian (except for the nasty bits)they shuld respect other Christian who work from a conscientious principle. Non-Christian boarding house keepers act from a deeper level of prejudice than Christians because they ignore the secularism of the modern state, to which they are bound. Christianity is above that and frequently works beyond it. I must say, many of… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

Erika:

‘I happen to think that only options 1 and 2 are acceptable’.

So during the era in which homosexuality was outlawed, you would have considered option 3 to be unacceptable: ‘ignore them and then claim we have a right to ignore them because we don’t agree with them and that those who make them are intolerant oppressors’.

I’m not sure what you mean by option 2 ‘accept the consequences’, but it appears to put you at odds with the approach of the gay liberation movement.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David, of course it’s sometimes hard to specify what “taking the consequences” means. But a shining example to all of us is Dietrich Bonhoeoffer who went back to Germany to support the Jewish people and to work against Hitler, knowing that it was highly likely that this would cost him dear. In the public sphere it means the kind of people who were willing to go to prison for not paying their poll tax. I don’t know what laws you believe the gay liberation movement flouts and why you think that my stance puts me at odds with most of… Read more »

Counterlight
Guest

“Counterlight:

Forgive my warped sense of humour, but why do I have the feeling that the unwitting male client from the Westboro Baptist would leave the salon with the perfect irony of indelible pink undertones!”

No comment except Quod Est Demonstratum.

Counterlight
Guest

“The difference between the couple who exercised a right to admit whom they pleased to their boarding house is that they did so from Christian principle in what was once, and is no more, a Christian country. If commentators to this website are Christian (except for the nasty bits)they shuld respect other Christian who work from a conscientious principle.” I can remember when devout Bible-believing Christians in my native Texas frequently refused service to Blacks and Jews on religious principle; no accommodation to the children of Noah’s cursed son Ham, or to the murderers of Our Lord. Should I have… Read more »

Laurence C.
Guest
Laurence C.

“Christianity is above that” John Bowles.

You might think it is. I don’t.
Please don’t state opinion as fact.

David Shepherd
Guest

Father Ron: ‘Are you comparing the defenders of the Gay couple with the Pharisees? – Surely this can’t be right’ The Pharisees asked Jesus, in prosecuting the case of the adulteress, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ In both cases, the guilt was fixed before the law. In both cases, they wanted to make a public example of the couple. In both cases, they wanted punishment to the full extent of the law without a hint of mitigation. The Bulls’ B&B… Read more »

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

John Bowles – ‘In the meanwhile the loss of livelihood of the victims in this case and their age is ignored by the Christians who resent their policies’.

As has been noted above the website for the Bull’s hotel is still operating and taking bookings, It doesn’t look as if they have lost their livelihood. Though it is worth noting that the offending statement about double beds is still there. Wuld they turn away a gay couple who wanted a double bed again?

As for their age; since when has age been a defence against illegal actions?

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David,
do you not think that it would have been preferable to offer the couple hospitality and then challenge the law?

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“’Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ In both cases, the guilt was fixed before the law. In both cases, they wanted to make a public example of the couple. In both cases, they wanted punishment to the full extent of the law without a hint of mitigation.” ‘Judge, these people were caught trying to rent a double room in our inn. According to Christian law, we must shun these sinners. Now what do you say?’ Vengeance? Or genuinely seeking an answer… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

Erika: ‘do you not think that it would have been preferable to offer the couple hospitality and then challenge the law?’ Yes, I agree with that. However, if you owned a conference center, you wouldn’t be able to decline hosting a summit of radical Muslims without breaking the law. ‘They actually got the point and walked away.’ Well, partly. They went away defeated, but re-grouped for another attack on: 1. His amnesty towards notorious sinners who expressed sincere remorse. 2. His lack of conspicous self-denial. 3. His exposure of their double standards. 4. His contempt for man-made hierarchies that claimed… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David, “Their opposition escalated to mortal emnity.” Of course, we don’t know whether “they” were the same people. One hopes that some truly understood it. I suspect they were pretty much like we all are – we “get” some parts, we don’t “get” others. And we’re all mired in some level of self delusion about our own holiness compared to the others – why else would we continuously try to insist that the others are such terrible sinners that holy people like us should have the right to shun them – in the name of the one who never shunned… Read more »