Friday, 30 April 2010

Is Christianity now the love that dare not speak its name?

 Lord Justice Laws has dismissed a legal challenge by Mr. Gary McFarlane, a Christian relationship counsellor, who was sacked after refusing to offer sex therapy sessions to homosexual couples because it was against his beliefs. (See Daily Telegraph report here )

"Lord Justice Laws ruled that while everyone had the right to hold religious beliefs, those beliefs themselves had no standing under the law.
“In the eye of everyone save the believer, religious faith is necessarily subjective, being incommunicable by any kind of proof or evidence,” he told the court.
While acknowledging the profound influence of Judeo-Christian traditions over many centuries, he insisted that no religious belief itself could be protected under the law “however long its tradition, however rich its culture”.
“The promulgation of law for the protection of a position held purely on religious grounds cannot therefore be justified,” he said.
“It is irrational, as preferring the subjective over the objective. But it is also divisive, capricious and arbitrary.” 

"Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, which supported Mr McFarlane, described the depiction of traditional religious views on marriage as subjective as an “alarming” development.
“In effect it seeks to rule out Christian principles of morality from the public square,” she said.
“It seems that a religious bar to office has been created, whereby a Christian who wishes to act on their Christian beliefs on marriage will no longer be able to work in a great number of environments.” 

And this is how Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, sees this ruling:

“The right to follow a religious belief is a qualified right  and it must not be used to legitimise discrimination against gay people who are legally entitled to protection against bigotry and persecution.”

  Leading Catholic barrister,Neil Addison, has published some early thoughts about this ruling

 on his blog here. He notes:

  "The decision in the McFarlane case was based very largely on the earlier Court of Appeal decision in Ladelle v London Borough of Islington [2009] EWCA Civ 1357. Both the Court of Appeal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal had rejected the the decision of the original Employment Tribunal which had decided that Miss Ladelle had been discriminated against but I do feel that the original Tribunal had understood the issue better than the EAT or Court of Appeal when it said

"This is a case where there is a direct conflict between the legislative protection afforded to religion and belief and the legislative protection afforded to sexual orientation .... One set of rights cannot overrule the other set of rights"

That common sense and balanced view is clearly not the view of the Court of Appeal and Lawyers dealing with religious discrimination cases are going to have to reconsider their tactics accordingly."

Did the script writers for the Sexual Orientation Regulations foresee such  'direct confrontation between the legislative protection afforded to religion and belief and the legislative protection afforded to sexual orientation'?
Perhaps they did.
At any rate, while it falls to unelected Law Lords, to decide the interpretation of poorly drafted legislation, we can probably look forward to further cases in which the attempt to protect believers who take a stand on matters of conscience under the law are thrown out as irrational and capricious.
Perhaps it would be simpler to abolish 'conscience'.
Oh, wait...

1 comment:

  1. There are only about a billion counsellors in any given country. To think that this couple HAD to choose a counsellor who saw their relationship as unhealthy is very strange.

    As a retired marriage and family counsellor I would have to say that many if not most of my clients came to me with issues that I judge as unhealthy. Eg. Physical, emotional abuse. Drinking too much. Lying, cheating / unfaithfulness all sorts of behaviours that some might try to justify. I worked with people in making changes or outright quiting these behaviours. that's not being phobic about this or that behaviour, it's what counsellors do.

    More specifically, I've worked with dozens of homosexual couples who had relationship issues. If we worked together long enough, they came to know my thoughts about homosexuality and I would challenge anyone to find one single couple who thought that I didn't approach them with as much respect as anyone else.

    It was my choice to work with these people despite my feelings regarding the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality. Had I not felt able to do work with these people (as often happens in agencies where for example a female counsellor might ask to not work with a sexual offender) I would have made a referral. Common practise. To suggest that a counsellor must agree with a clients lifestyle in order to help them is as ludicrous as demanding the a physician agree with a person's lifestyle before treating that person.

    This judge is a bigot pure and simple.