March 23rd 2010

As noted in other places, today a piece of law comes into force in this country.

I guess my response is simply Galatians 4:16.

Shall we carry on as before? Yes, I think so too.

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  • Sue

    It is now against the law to incite hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation. When we live in a world where people can and have been attacked and murdered for being gay, why would anyone who is Christian want the right to incite hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Peter_Ould Peter Ould

      I don't think any Christian would want to incite hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation. The issue is whether others might think that by simply expressing what Scripture says it might be suggested that they are doing so.

    • Niall

      Sue: You must know full well that mainstream orthodox Christians do not want to incite hatred against gay people (unless you are using a definition of hate so broad as to be meaningless). You have been reading this blog for long enough to have gained an understanding of the conservative position. It's hard for me to believe that you can suggest, in good faith, that what Evangelicals et al. are worried about is that they will no longer be allowed to incite hatred.

      The problem, as Peter and Philip have pointed out, is this: there are plenty of people who would like to completely shut down the conservative Christian witness on sexuality, by legal means if necessary. There is a legitimate fear among biblically orthodox Christians that such people will use well-meaning but loosely-drafted law to challenge the right of Christians to discuss sexual morality openly. Philip's post is particularly perceptive in this respect.

  • Philip Cole

    I think it’s now almost inevitable that there will be a test case taken up by one of the gay lobby groups against a Christian expressing orthodox biblical views on homosexual behaviour.

    My guess is that it will probably be either a street preacher (after all, everyone knows that street preachers are nutters, right?) or an orthodox Christian in a ‘workplace conversation’.

    And make no mistake, whichever gay lobby group brings the case, it will be very carefully chosen, both to find an orthodox Christian who is as unsympathic and media unfriendly as possible, and probably also someone who has tripped over their words and gone a bit further than they should.

    The purpose of the said case will be to establish a precedent as a bridgehead on the way to declaring the preaching of biblical views on homosexuality as being illegal.

    I think it is now time for orthodox Christians in the UK to be very clear on what they are, and are not, saying about homosexual behaviour. In some situations, it will probably also be wise to keep a tape recorder handy!

    • William

      According to the Christian Institute web-site, “religious liberty will be protected by a free speech shield included in the law” and “This protection makes it clear that criticising homosexual conduct or encouraging people to refrain from or modify such conduct is not, in itself, a crime.”

      So what’s all the fuss about, for heaven’s sake?

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/Peter_Ould Peter Ould

        The fuss is about how the courts will interpret the law, not how the Government or any other agency or private institution thinks the courts will interpret it.

  • Philip Cole

    William

    >>>So what’s all the fuss about, for heaven’s sake?<<<

    Let me try and respond to your question with an illustration from my own recent experience in South Africa. Granted, its a different country and the population is far more strongly Christian and morally conservative than the UK. It remains however one of the few countries to legalise gay marriage, so the case is instructive.

    I accessed the regular South African Social Attitudes Survey (SASAS) in connection with some work a couple of weeks ago. When I googled some links for commentary I saw a link to a Nov 2008 article in the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) Review entitled: 'Pride and prejudice: Public attitudes toward homosexuality'. Its available at http://www.hsrc.ac.za/HSRC_Review_Article-121.phtml. Intrigued, I followed the link.

    Much of the article is a discussion of trends in public attitudes to homosexuality in South Africa. For example, in response to the question: ‘Do you think it is wrong or not wrong for two adults of the same sex to have sexual relations?' More than 80% of South African adults consistently answer 'Yes' to this question, which doesn't really surprise me.

    What is far more interesting is the interpretation that the authors of the article put on this simple statistics, and I quote: 'How deeply entrenched is homophobic sentiment in South Africa, and have there been signs of change over the past five years? Negative attitudes towards lesbians and gay men are widespread. Overall, more than 80% of the population aged 16 years and above expressed the view that sex between two men or two women could be considered ‘always wrong' in each of the five survey years'.

    Do you see the subtle shift in the interpretation, especially to interpret answers to the question as showing evidence of the 'H-Word'? The question is only asking whether people think same-sex practice is right or wrong. But the authors interpret this as evidence of 'homophobic sentiment' and of 'negative attitudes towards lesbians and gay men'. Do you see the complete failure to differentiate between different types of attitudes?

    It gets worse, because the authors leap to the conclusion that: 'Finally, it would seem that rights do not necessarily result in justice. This tension seems to exist if we consider, for example, recent hate crimes of lesbians in Cape Town, Ladysmith and Soweto. Perhaps the empirical data suggests that much work remains at the level of public education around diversity (which will include understanding same-sex issues)'. Where is the evidence that the response to one simple question is linked to hate crimes? Where is the differentiation between different types of views and different rationales, religious or otherwise, for those views. No evidence at all!

    Why does this matter? Well for me personally it matters not one jot! I live in South Africa, a country which is 74% Christian and 44% Evangelical and Charismatic. Irrespective of the views of a few academics, the South African government is not going start prosecuting people that believe that 'same sex relations are always wrong'. Many, perhaps most, South African MPs also believe this to be true.

    However I cite this case to show the type of arguments that can be made, by recognised academics, between a simple attitude that 'same sex relations are always wrong' and homophobia and hate speech. The HSRC is the South African government funded research organisation for the social sciences and has a high academic profile and reputation. I happen to have met one of the authors in a meeting. She seemed a nice enough person but my impression was that she was fairly typically hard-left on using using legislation to change people's attitudes.

    And while such people are very firmly in the minority in South Africa, I suspect that they form a majority amongst the opinion-formers, commentators and legislators. You see where I am going with this? Laws, ultimately, can only be enforced based on public agreement on their basic justice, on what many analysts have termed the 'social contract'. And the social contract rests upon a shared set of values.

    But the British, and European, social contract is well down the road to breaking down. The old Judeo-Christian framework of social justice and individual freedom is being discarded for a largely elite driven framework centred on 'human rights'. And, as I have commented before, a human rights framework without an underlying set of shared values inevitably turns into what we have in the UK – a battle between competing rights.

    And my somewhat isolated hard-left South African zealot in the HSRC is very firmly in the majority in government, administration and perhaps even in the public at large. So, despite the commitment to free speech now written into the Act, I stand by my argument that the climate in the UK is such that there will be a series of legal test cases designed to push the envelope against free speech, probably by establishing a legal definition of 'homophobia' and then extending it to 'hate speech'. And they will have EU law on their side, which is already establishing that sexuality freedom of expression trumps religious freedom of expression.

    So, yes, I do think that there is a 'fuss' to be made!

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