A MORAL CONUNDRUM

From IOL:


A Christian marriage counsellor sacked for refusing to give sex advice to homosexuals had his appeal bid quashed by a top court today. Gary McFarlane, 48, from Bristol, wanted permission to appeal against an employment tribunal ruling which supported his 2008 sacking. The father of two, who had worked for the national counselling service since 2003, claimed unfair dismissal on the grounds of religious discrimination.

The high-profile case led to an intervention by former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, concerned about a perceived bias against Christians in the courts. Carey called for a specially constituted panel of judges with a "proven sensitivity and understanding of religious issues" to hear the case. He said recent decisions involving Christians by the British courts had used "dangerous" reasoning which could ultimately even lead to civil unrest.

But throwing out McFarlane's case at the Court of Appeal on Thursday, Lord Justice Laws said legislation for the protection of views held purely on religious grounds could not be justified. Laws called the idea irrational. "But it is also divisive, capricious and arbitrary," he said.

The judge said it was possible Carey's misplaced views arose from a misunderstanding of the law on discrimination. But Carey in his letter, read out in court, said: "The description of religious faith in relation to sexual ethics as 'discriminatory' is crude and illuminates a lack of sensitivity to religious belief."

He said the comparison of a Christian, in effect, with a "bigot" was further evidence of a "disparaging attitude to the Christian faith and its values."

Referring to that case, Carey said: "It is, of course, but a short step from the dismissal of a sincere Christian from employment to a religious bar to any employment by Christians."


COMMENT: Yes, we don't like George Carey. Yes, his views on certain minorities based on the less enlightened parts of Jewish tribal legislation most sensible and sensitive Jews regard as no longer applicable, make the possibility of the Kingdom of God be realised on earth less likely rather than more likely. But he may have a point.

His last comment, "It is, of course, but a short step from the dismissal of a sincere Christian from employment to a religious bar to any employment by Christians," is perfectly valid because we have the empirical evidence to prove this happens. The Church itself, including the one Carey used to head up, easily step from the condemnation of gay sex to barring gay people from employment in the Church (a policy the Roman Catholic Church is actively adhering to at the moment via its seminaries and which also reared it's ugly head when the Bishop of Hereford vetoed the appointment of a celibate youth worker because he was gay, a year or so back).

There is one thing that does worry me about the judge's decision and that is that it allows the sacking of people who held certain religious views when it was not illegal to do so. What if the Grand Tufti gets his covenant accepted and it becomes church law. If we agree with the judge on this judgement will we have to agree to be hardline believers in the infallibility of all scripture under such a covenant?

Over to you...


Comments

A MORAL CONUNDRUM — 22 Comments

  1. No he doesn’t have a point at all. What he has is some scaremongering hyperbole. There are no acceptable reasons in employment law as to why a christian should be barred from employment. In fact the the passage of the equality bill ensures that any such discrimination is illegal
    unless you are a church employing individuals for the advancement or teaching of the faith.
    The law is fairly simple when it comes to employment, you want the job, you do what it requires. You want to argue, go find another job. Forget law! What about prfessional ethics, leave your own opinions at home.

  2. I think if you train to be a sex therapist you should accept that LGBT people may ask for your help if the therapist cannot accept that that is tough.

    (I am regularly bored out of my skull by my job but that is just tough, too.)

  3. It’s entirely conceivable that one might hold a position, particularly with a government agency, that requires one to do something that one considers to be immoral.

    Don’t whine. Resign.

    Where does it say that one’s moral principles may not ever cost something?

    Of course, some people’s “moral principles” are bigoted balderdash. But that’s their problem.

  4. Mike in Texas: “What religion holds the belief that one may continue to collect a salary while refusing to carry out one’s job duties?”

    MadPriest: “Anglicanism.”

    But I thought that “Anglicanism” wasn’t a religion but only a brand-name used by certain North American bigots.

  5. I agree, Grumpy Cleric. But you are still talking in the present tense. Do you think people who took the job before there was training in the counselling of gay couples should have to counsel gay couples.

    If your answer is yes then, if the Church changes the rules on us (for example, insisting that we preach as if every word of the Bible is literally true), should we then accept being sacked if we refuse to?

  6. Okay, Bill. We now know your position on government employees. So can we assume you would apply the same rules to church employees who have had the rules of the game changed on them without their permission?

  7. Paul (A), would you please refrain from spoiling my brilliant, one word retorts with pedantry. I don’t get paid for this, so, at least, let me feel pleased with myself occasionally (or, if you want to be pedantic about it – pleased for myself regularly).

  8. I approve the regular pleasuring of oneself.

    Oh dear, did I misread MP’s comment to the other Paul (A)?

    As to Lord Carey I believe he confuses comparing a Christian with a bigot with identifying a bigot as a bigot. I doubt the “Christian” label is relevant. At least I don’t think that label should be relevant in courts of law.

  9. Answer: Don’t know.

    Now my huff and puff is this:
    What really gets my goat is how smug religious people presume that their is a sepcial place for them in an organisationally or taxpayer funded workplace. I say piss off! If your views are so precious and so compelling and so valuable, then try them out in the marketplace and organise your own private practice. Put your own shingle up outside your own office. “Sex Advice by Homophobe. Please enter and take a seat.”

    What gives these people the right to take a job (that presumably other candidates were willing to take) and then say they can’t/ won’t do this or that?

    Piss off and don’t take a job you’re not qualified to do because of religious impedent. Thats what I say.

    Is that too strong? Have I missed something?

  10. Have I missed something?

    Yes. You’re talking in the present tense and I think we are pretty much all agreed on that. But that’s not the conundrum.

    I’m beginning to think people are scared to answer my question because it might result in a “two-faced, hypocritical” type of situation.

  11. There is one thing that does worry me about the judge’s decision and that is that it allows the sacking of people who held certain religious views when it was not illegal to do so.

    I’m not sure I agree, MP. The man was sacked for refusing to do his job not becuase he held religious views. He claims he’s allowed to refuse to do his job because he has certain religious views and that these views should allow him to not have to do certain parts of his job; that his views should accord him a special status and that his special staus should be protected by law.

    What I understand the judge to be saying is that regardless of where your veiws come from they can’t be accorded special protection. That woud be divisive, capricious etc. If you hold certain views you have to take on the chin what the consequences of those views might be. It might mean you can’t do certain jobs.

    Your point is that what if the church says you have to preach certain ideas and morality as part of your job as a church employee? Lets say you have to teach that being a lesbian mother is wrong. Can’t the church then sack you if you say that you can’t teach those things because you don’t believe them?

    I don’t see the Grand Tufti dilemma because I don’t see that the Judge is saying you HAVE TO do something or believe something, merely that you can’t expect to keep your job (and cliam discrimination) if you don’t want to do something.

  12. So, Boaz. Are you saying that if the Covenant gets through, then if we are told to preach as if the Bible is infallible, we should do or resign, even though when we joined up it was not church law to do so?

  13. Ah perhaps I now see your point.

    No, we should preach the same as we always have. Definately not resign. The covennant would be a “change of rules” which is not fair. It would disenfranchise preachers and their congregations overnight and would be unenforceable. Or any enforcing of it would lead to chaos.

    I think it comes down to letting people know at the outset what you will and won’t do. If a Rector hid that he was liberal and then after 12 months started preaching liberal theology I think his evangelical congregation should be entitled to sack him. They wouldn’t be wise to sack him but entitled to. But now I realise that the church school that doesn’t want the lesbian teacher might be entitled to sack her. That makes me a bit of a hypocrit because I think the kids need that lesbian teacher there in their school. I’m in favour of the kids. But the parents don’t want her there because they are not in favour of their own kids in the same way I am. Maybe she shouldn’t expect to be able to keep a job in what is essentailly a creepy adn hsotile work place.

    Geez. Mad One you show up our cracks! It being Friday. I certainly need a drink this evening!

  14. Put your own shingle up outside your own office. “Sex Advice by Homophobe. Please enter and take a seat.”

    I am not sure I would want sex advice from someone with a shingle displayed outside their office. Especially if it was their own.

  15. The right to practice discrimination is different on this side of the pond MP. In most countries in the Americas from the USA south, it is legal for religious institutions to practice discrimination. (I am not sure about Canada.)

    So if your are a faith-based counselor working in a faith-based counseling ministry that believes homosexuality to be a sin, you can legally choose not to offer counseling to homosexuals, or to only offer reparative therapy to assist them in changing their sexuality from gay to straight.

    Just as they can also discriminate against just about anything else; race, gender, age, etc. So no matter how many civil laws are passed baring discrimination in civil situations, they do not change anything in religious situations.

    The only time that is different is when a religious institution accepts government funds to offer social services. So if the counseling ministry is accepting funds to offer counseling services they cannot legally discriminate if there are stipulations connected to the funding that prevents it.

  16. Do you think people who took the job before there was training in the counselling of gay couples should have to counsel gay couples.

    If your answer is yes

    It is. Couples are couples, are couples, are couples (Even IF you believe the TabA/TabA couples are going to Hell, as is your right)

    then, if the Church changes the rules on us (for example, insisting that we preach as if every word of the Bible is literally true), should we then accept being sacked if we refuse to?

    1. I don’t see really see the analogy. One’s about obeying civil rights law, the other delves into beliefs in one’s head, accordingly

    2. Who can say whether a sermon conforms to a particular hermeneutic or not? (They’d have to PROVE it didn’t. The counselour could counsel based on a believe that her gay couples were going to Hell—but the gay couple would have to prove that. And what could they do about it, anyway? Mr McFarlane TOOK himself out of the counseling sitch. Unless you QUIT the pulpit, who’d know?)

    HTH.

  17. If we agree with the judge on this judgement will we have to agree to be hardline believers in the infallibility of all scripture under such a covenant?

    Try preaching that infallibility stuff and see what happens.

    wv = ortion
    (a part with a part missing)

  18. “Carey said: “It is, of course, but a short step from the dismissal of a sincere Christian from employment to a religious bar to any employment by Christians.”

    The problem with this supposition is that it’s a blatant example of several logical fallacies, among them an appeal to probability (which is often used to exploit paranoia), the continuum fallacy, and hasty generalization + special pleading.

    And of course, with Lord Carey, one is almost always subjected to an argumentum verbosium (proof by verbosity) as well 😉