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Monday, February 01, 2010

B16 and the Equality Bill

There's a post at America magazine's blog about an address delivered to the Catholic bishops of England and Wales by the Pope about Britain's Equality Bill, an upcoming bill which would make it illegal to to turn down applicants for jobs if they are LGBT people. A more informative post on the issue can be found here at Thinking Anglicans. Here's part of what B16 said ...

Your country is well known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society. Yet as you have rightly pointed out, the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs. In some respects it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed. I urge you as Pastors to ensure that the Church’s moral teaching be always presented in its entirety and convincingly defended. Fidelity to the Gospel in no way restricts the freedom of others – on the contrary, it serves their freedom by offering them the truth. Continue to insist upon your right to participate in national debate through respectful dialogue with other elements in society. In doing so, you are not only maintaining long-standing British traditions of freedom of expression and honest exchange of opinion, but you are actually giving voice to the convictions of many people who lack the means to express them: when so many of the population claim to be Christian, how could anyone dispute the Gospel’s right to be heard?

Yikes .... Where in the Gospel does it advocate discrimination against lesbians/gays? How is religious freedom limited by a law that only affects the hiring of non-religious employees? What part of natural law informs job discrimination? How is the right of the Church to participate in an exchange of opinion restricted by the Equality Bill?

One can read more about what the Equality Bill does and doesn't do at MYTH-BUSTING: the Equality Bill and Religion


Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you can't support your argument,fall back on natural law. No one knows what it says or where to find it. And the church says it can infallably determine what natural law means. So that ends the argument!!!

9:52 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Yes, I think natural law theory is a can of worms.

2:50 PM  
Blogger Mike L said...

I wonder if this is a case of B16 having a definition of freedom in mind that does not match the popular concept of freedom. This seemed to be the case when he discussed "Church" and what institutions were and were not churches by his definition.

It also appeared to me that the Equality Bill did seem to imply that it would be illegal for the Catholic Church to turn down women who applied for the priesthood. While I kind of think that female priests would be a good thing, I do have a problem with forcing it by law.

And while there are denials of the intent of such actions as removing religious symbols for work places, I note that at this time crosses are illegal in schools (I assume this includes Catholic) and at least one person has been fired for following her beliefs that children should not be adopted by gay couples.

Anytime a law is passed that can be interpreted in an extreme, it probably will be in time. Note that there has been an attempt to force Catholic schools to hire non-Catholic teachers who live a lifestyle in contradiction to Catholic teachings. In most cases I think the Church is wrong, but I would not like to see such enforced by law, just as I do not want Catholic (or any other religion's) morality given the force of law.

In balance I think this was a bad law, but how natural law impinges on it escapes me :)!


Mike L

7:28 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Mike,

How are you? How are the cats, dog?

It also appeared to me that the Equality Bill did seem to imply that it would be illegal for the Catholic Church to turn down women who applied for the priesthood

Nope - it doesn't apply to clerics/priests at all, only non-religious jobs.

there has been an attempt to force Catholic schools to hire non-Catholic teachers who live a lifestyle in contradiction to Catholic teachings.

Catholic schools do already hire people who are not Catholic, at least colleges do (and I guess they also hire known Catholic LGBT pople too like Mary Daly at Boston College). Here in the US, I think employers can't ask an applicant what their sexual orientation is before deciding to hire them, so who knows how many gays/lesbians may be teaching in Catholic schools.

10:47 PM  
Blogger Mike L said...

Hi Crystal,

Well. the dog is fine, most often found laying next to the wood stove these days along with the cats. The cats are getting a bit pissy, I think they are starting to suffer from cabin fever. We have about 4 more inches of snow on the ground this morning and it is still coming down heavy. This is the 5th or 6th storm to go through this year and locals are saying they haven't seen this much snow in decades. I don't mind the snow at all, it is a good excuse to sit in front of the wood stove or go talk to someone on the ham radio, but I do dread the mud that will follow. None-the-less, we will take all the moisture we can get, and a little bird seed makes for great entertainment :).

You are right, the Equality Bill did not apply to clerics/priests, but I understand the definition of a clerical job was based on a number of hours doing specific jobs, which may not have included things like consuling, and would have been difficult for a priest to document. I assume time spent saying the office, private prayers, etc. would not have been included. Weather or not this was false propaganda or not, I don't really know, but I do notice that this mornings news says that the bill has been withdrawn after listening to B16's talk.

Yes, the Church does hire non-Catholics for teachers, but has also fired some of them for behavior in opposition to Catholic teachings. I am not sure I believe in forcing such practices by law. There is an itch between my shoulder blades that says if we can force an anti-discrimination hiring law, which is based on ethics and morality, why not an anti-abortion law also based on ethics and morality?

There is another factor that I am not sure of and may well vary from country to country, that being whether or not a priest is hired, or is an independent contractor according to law. I believe here in the US it is that later, and is done so for tax purposes. If a priest was considered a "hired hand" I can see a lot of different implications and requirements.

It does seem to me that passing laws to implement what is basically morality is always dangerous. It is too easy to see what we think is right and to ignore the rights and beliefs of others. Perhaps the Equality Law will come back with a better balance and a better consideration of society as a whole.

11:07 AM  
Blogger crystal said...


Here it's been raining still a lot but inbetween it's sunny and starting to be spring-like.

behavior in opposition to Catholic teachings.

The thing is, anyone who is hired can be fired if they way they act at work is innappropriate, but how would anyone know about a person's personal life and how would that affect their job ..... I think what churches wants to be able to do is to fire people not for what they are doing on the job but for who they are .... this is like firing people because they are of a minority race.

12:41 PM  

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