There should be room for Christians and homosexuals in a truly tolerant society
The application of law has moved far beyond non-discrimination and tolerance to the effective enforcement of a particular morality.
Published 06 March 2011 | Christian Today
Mild-mannered Pentecostals Owen and Eunice Johns have offered a loving home to no less than 15 children previously without any problems. Yet their application to foster again was put on hold by Derby City Council not because they are drug abusers, not because they are thieves, not because they are alcoholics, nor because in their home lies an accident waiting to happen.
Rather the Johns’ application was stalled by the council because they said they would not be able to promote the homosexual lifestyle to a child in their care.
In a deeply troubling ruling last week, the High Court acknowledged that with Christians who hold traditional views on sexual ethics, “there may well be a conflict with the local authority’s duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of looked-after children”.
It made clear that when it came to equality provisions concerning homosexual rights and equality provisions concerning freedom of conscience, “the equality provisions concerning sexual orientation should take precedence”.
The judges then had the audacity to declare that their ruling did not amount to religious discrimination against the Johns as the ruling concerned their moral beliefs and not their Christian beliefs, a conclusion which denies the reality that for many Christians, their beliefs on homosexuality cannot be divorced from their Christian faith and the teachings of the Bible.
Although Christians have not been banned from applying to be foster carers, it is hard to believe at this point in time that those who hold traditional views on sexuality will not face difficulties in future. It seems after this ruling that it is only going to become increasingly difficult for them as the application of law has moved far beyond non-discrimination and tolerance to the effective enforcement of a particular morality.
The words ‘totalitarian’, ‘inquisition’ and ‘tyranny’ have been bandied about in relation to this ruling. That many Christians – and even the historian and self proclaimed gay atheist David Starkey – are deeply concerned about its implications is entirely understandable.
The long list of recent judgements against Christian nurses, registrars, counsellors and other employees, clearly demonstrates that the rights of homosexuals have long been trumping the rights of Christians to manifest their religious beliefs - without any obvious justification for this. There appears to be an automatic presumption these days that secular beliefs are objective while religious beliefs are subjective and therefore less worthy of protection.
This ruling offers very little reassurance to Christians who fear that the Government’s plans to allow places of worship to conduct same-sex civil partnership ceremonies might lead to vicars who decline being dragged before the courts and stripped of their right to refuse.
The Government may well promise that churches won’t be obliged to host the ceremonies, but time and time again, when Christians have dared to fight for their rights in court, the courts have judged against them and the equality laws are being used to justify their judgements.
This ruling only further reinforces the new status quo for Christians in Britain, where it has effectively become a crime not to share the views of the state. This is particularly unfair given that the viewpoint of wider society on homosexuality is far from clear cut.
Not everybody in Britain agrees that homosexuality is a normal or healthy lifestyle. The right to express and live by such a belief should be protected by the laws of the land. Instead the laws of the land are being used to restrict the ability of Christians to live according to their faith, the very faith that underpins much of this country’s legal heritage - as much as the judges in this particular case may have tried to deny that fact.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission - in its attempt to backtrack on its unforgivable intervention stating that Christian beliefs may “infect” children - noted that “the Equality Act provides protection against discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief as well as on the grounds of sexual orientation”. Going by the court judgements against Christians in recent years, one would be forgiven for thinking the Act only protected discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Sadly, this latest ruling only further reinforces the new status quo for Christians, that if they dare to oppose the ruling ideology – and speak up, God forbid, for the union of one man and one woman - they can well expect to face the penalties. This is utterly unacceptable. Opinion on homosexuality is still very much divided in Britain and the rights of homosexuals and Christians are conflicting.
As long as that continues to be the case, it is criminal of the state to impose one view upon those who do not and cannot share it in good conscience. There should be enough room in a truly tolerant society for those who are homosexual to live as homosexuals and for those who disagree with it, to be able to disagree with it. There is an imbalance in the application of the equality law that Parliament must begin to redress.
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