Archbishop speaks sense on Equality Bill

The Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, recently addressed the House of Lords of the British Parliament with regards to an Equality Bill being debated. The bill addresses employment discrimination but many Christian leaders have worried that it does not contain enough protections for religious groups.

If passed it might have created great difficulties for Christian Churches. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, might have been prosecuted for employment discrimination owing to their refusal to hire women as priests; other Churches might have been prosecuted where their doctrinal or behavioral standards for clergy and staff might prevent non-Christians or homosexuals from being hired.

This is one area where a societal commitment to "inclusivism" in the abstract as a value, even a "right," may well come into conflict with the particulars of Christian faith and ecclesial practice. If the governing authorities do not make allowances for religious exemptions, then certain pieces of the Christian faith will have become criminalized, despite our Western societies' supposed commitment to religious freedom.

This is actually very worriesome to me because it could happen that non-Christian magistrates, who may not fully grasp the nature and coherence of the various aspects of Christian faith and ecclesial practice, may nevertheless be called upon to pass judgement on us and would do so from their own ideological commitments, creating in essence a clash of faiths within the legal system.

Anyways, here is an exerpt from the Archbishop's prepared remarks to the house of Lords:

The Archbishop [said]: "There are, I know, those who struggle with the concept of allowing any exemptions provision for religious organisations in relation to discrimination in the field of employment. But the argument is a very simple one: religious organisations, like all organisations, need to be able to impose genuine occupational requirements in relation to those who serve them.

"Successive legislation over the past 35 years has always recognised the principle that religious organisations need the freedom to impose requirements in relation to belief and conduct which go beyond what a secular employer should be able to require.

"Noble Lords may believe that the Roman Catholic Church should allow priests to be married, they may think that the Church of England should hurry up with allowing women to become bishops. They may feel that many Churches and other religious organisations are wrong on matters of sexual ethics. But, if religious freedom means anything it must mean that those are matters for the churches and other religious organisations to determine for themselves in accordance with their own convictions. They are not matters for the law to impose. Start down that road and you will put law and conscience into inevitable collision. That way lies ruin. "

As Edmund Burke said: 'Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.' The onus is on Her Majesty's Government to demonstrate why any narrowing of the provisions in existing legislation under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Sexual Orientation Regulations 2003 needs to be made.

Update: this bill failed to pass.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home