Understanding Monday’s Amendments

The Bishops (below) have asked Peers to vote in favour of three amendments to the Equality Bill in place of the Government’s compromise amendment. Let me spell out what the different amendments (and the current text) mean.

The first amendment (98) reads as follows.

Page 165, line 5, leave out “application is a proportionate means of complying” and insert “requirement is applied so as to comply”

The amendment is to Schedule 9 which is the list of exemptions from the Bill, of which Part 2 covers religious requirements in relation to sex, marriage, sexual orientation and the like. This amendment would change Schedule 9, Part 2(5) of the Bill from as follows

The application of a requirement engages the compliance principle if the application is a proportionate means of complying with the doctrines of the religion.

to

The application of a requirement engages the compliance principle if the requirement is applied so as to comply with the doctrines of the religion.

The original wording would allow a court to decide what was and wasn’t a “proportionate means of complying” with a doctrinal requirement. The amendment simply requires a court to decide whether a refusal to hire someone for a job was in line with a religious organisation’s doctrinal stance. The difference is crucial, because as the law stands it isn’t good enough just to refer to a religious requirement, the restriction on employment also has to be “proportionate”, which is left for a court to decide.

Amendment 99 reads as follows

Page 165, line 8, leave out “application is a proportionate means of avoiding conflict” and insert “requirement is applied so as to avoid conflicting”

This would change Schedule 9:2(6) from

The application of a requirement engages the non-conflict principle if, because of the nature or context of the employment, the application is a proportionate means of avoiding conflict with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers.

to

The application of a requirement engages the non-conflict principle if, because of the nature or context of the employment, the requirement is applied so as to avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers.

Once again, this amendment removes from the courts the ability to overturn a religious objection on the grounds of proportionality and returns any legal debate simply to the matter of whether a religious objection to hiring someone on the grounds of sex, marriage, sexual orientation etc was in conflict with the beliefs of the religion’s followers. Of course, it’s still down to a court to decide what a “significant number”of followers was.

Amendment 100 reads as follows

Page 165, line 13, leave out sub-paragraph (8)

This removes this entire section from Schedule 9:2(8)

Employment is for the purposes of an organised religion only if the employment wholly or mainly involves—

(a) leading or assisting in the observance of liturgical or ritualistic practices of the religion, or
(b) promoting or explaining the doctrine of the religion (whether to followers of the religion or to others).

As this section currently stands, only those employees of a church who were explicitly employed to teach doctrine could be exempted from the strictures of the Equality Bill. Positions like receptionists, detached youth workers, vergers etc wouldn’t be exempt from the strictures of the Bill, even though a Church would reasonably want to employ people in public facing representative roles whose manner of life complied with Scripture.

The proposed Government amendment tries to remedy this and reads as follows

Page 165, line 10, at end insert—

“( ) Employment is for the purposes of an organised religion only if—

(a) the employment is as a minister of religion, or
(b) the employment is in another post that exists (or, where the post has not previously been filled, that would exist) to promote or represent the religion or to explain the doctrines of the religion (whether to followers of the religion or to others).”

Obviously it’s clear that this amendment doesn’t provide the ability for churches to require employees in public facing roles to have a manner of life consistent with Scripture.

One final question for the lawyers out there. Would amendment 98 above, if passed, give the Church of England legal grounds to forbid its clergy to enter into Civil Partnerships?

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32 Comments on “Understanding Monday’s Amendments

  1. Thank you very much indeed for helping us understand these arcane amendments, Peter!

    First of all, I think we should thank God that we are the only country left in the democratic world that allows clerics (i.e bishops) to sit in its legislature as of right. They don’t even allow that in Iran. So we should be grateful that the bishops will have a say in the debate on Monday.

    The crux of the matter seems to be the last point you make:

    “Positions like receptionists, detached youth workers, vergers etc wouldn’t be exempt from the strictures of the Bill, even though a Church would reasonably want to employ people in public facing representative roles whose manner of life complied with Scripture.”

    Oh dear! How awful for us! So we might have to employ a verger who is not a Christian! How utterly appalling! Of course, it couldn’t possibly be that this might be a gift from God for us to open up our church, allowing the opportunity for us to bring that verger to God and indeed for her or him to widen the horizons and culture of our church community, perhaps bringing in wider types of people as a result? That’s utterly inconceivable isn’t it? (…Not)

    Or could the inference, perish the thought, be that a Church might have to employ a gay verger! Nooooo! The end of the world is nigh!

    I think we ought to bear in mind that the government does have an obligation to use this bill to bring the country roughly into line with EU legislation. I don’t have a problem with that.

  2. Dear Peter,

    I am a Christian, a committed member of the Church of England in the same diocese as you, and a transsexual woman.

    Thankfully I am loved and included by my local church and my transsexualism, according to the leadership of my church, is a ‘gift’.

    It saddens me deeply that simply because of my gender identity I or any other transsexual christian might be excluded from employment anywhere in the Church of England.

    On that basis shouldn’t *all* of us as sinners be excluded from employment in the Church of England?

    May the God of all grace be with you and bless you.

    Susannah

  3. Hi Paul and Susannah – thanks for commenting.

    Let me first address Paul’s comments. I think you raise one of the misunderstandings in this area of the conservative approach. You write “Or could the inference, perish the thought, be that a Church might have to employ a gay verger! Nooooo! The end of the world is nigh!“. The difficuly of course is that the official position of the Church of England is to do with sexual behaviour, not orientation whereas the Equality Bill doesn’t (as yet, but given the content of one portion of the debate two weeks ago, perhaps still yet may) cover sexual behaviour in its strictures.

    So to answer your (slightly sarcastic) point, actually most conservatives should have no problem with employing someone who was gay as a verger (and if they did then they would have me to deal with!). The issue is whether the verger was engaged (or not) in sexual behaviour outside of marriage. Part of my concern then is that in opposing the way that the Equality Bill currently restricts the ability of Christian organisations to be Christian, we don’t end up with an amended Bill which communicates incorrectly what the actual position of the Churches is on this subject.

    And this brings me neatly onto Susannah’s point. Susannah, I’m presuming that you are a male to female transsexual? I have to be totally open and honest with you (and my other readers) at this point and admit that I am currently engaged in a rethink on this issue of transgenderism. When we lost our second son to a chromosomal disorder (in his case Trisomy 18 – Edwards Syndrome), I spent quite a bit of time exploring issues around chromosomal disfunction and other gender issues. I’m still in the middle of that exploration, but at the moment my position can be summarised as follows:

    • If we lived in a perfect, Edenic, un-fallen world then issues of Transgenderism wouldn’t occur. That is to say, I am convinced that transgenderism is a result of the Fall.
    • However, if transgenderism is simply one variant expression of the brokeness of all humanity, we cannot (as you rightly point out) make its experience in and of itself as disbar to ministry of any kind. We are in a sense driven back to the behaviour / orientation distinction in the issue of homosexuality.
    • My current issue therefore is what “behaviour” in the life of those who have transgender issues is sinful and what isn’t. For homosexuality I think we have clear Scriptural guidelines on sexual expression. For those with transgender issues we do not.
    • My key current concern is whether in assuming that the displayed sex of a person (i.e. that which they appear to be biologically) is the “correct” sex, are we actually missing the truth of the situation for some people? For example, I assume Susannah that if you are a male to female transexual, your sex chromosomes are XY. A traditional conservative approach would be to argue that since you present as biologically male that is your true gender and any attempt to deny it is to embrace fallenness rather than to reject it.
    • However, might it actually be the case that your true gender is female and that the development of your sex chromosomes as XY is actually a result of the Fall (in the same way that my son having a third 18th chromosome was fallen, not “good”). If this is the case then helping you transit from male to female is actually a “good” thing rather than a “bad” or sinful thing.
    • At the same time, I am aware of a number of cases where those who have presented with very clear sex/gender self-divergences have, through bringing areas of emotional and relational brokeness to God in prayer and allowing him to heal them, have seen their self-perceived gender realign with their biological sex.

    I’m not decided yet on this issue, but I am in a position where I am not prepared to condemn those who have transited sex to their self-understood gender. Certainly, I cannot see the experience of transgenderism itself as a disbar to employment in a church, though I can understand why some churches would be hesitant to employ someone who has actually transited.

    I’d be happy to hear some feedback on this from others.

    • Thank you for your considered response to my comment, Peter.

      I should like to distinguish gender from sexuality here.

      I seek, fallibly, to live in Jesus Christ and I believe that each christian has to try to die to self and follow the way of the cross.

      In my own life, I am celibate and in this context feel I am set apart for Jesus Christ. This brings me great happiness and joy.

      I really don’t have sexual desires and longings. I love people’s friendship, I enjoy embrace in kindness, but what really excites me and brings me joy is the sense and awareness of being called, with others, to be the bride of Christ.

      I personally, experientially and considering some (limited) evidence, would agree with the point you raise as a possibility: that transsexual psychology may sometimes be as much an effect of the fall as a baby born with leukaemia.

      I tend to believe that for some transsexual people, the structure and development of their brains as foetuses failed to follow the developmental pattern of their sex organs.

      Hence many transsexual accounts of childhood identification with gender opposite their physical sex appearance, childhood dressing in clothes of the opposite sex, confusion, and – of course – huge amounts of secret guilt.

      If I could *not* have been transsexual, I would have been so very very happy. That for me would indeed have been edenic. On the other hand, I dream female, think and feel female, and following transition I have found profound psychological happiness and peace, living as a female simply trying to lead my otherwise ordinary life, and trying fallibly to live my life as a Christian.

      I *do* recognise that people of huge integrity may disagree with transsexualism, based on convictions and faith. That is where any legislation requires subtlety and charity *both* ways.

      However, I think it would be really sad and rather shameful if I was marginalised or “hidden” from public view by my local church, or not afforded roles in the life of the Church.

      The other side of that, though, is that I feel I share a responsibility to act charitably and to avoid divisions and controversy.

      I am aware of judgment and as sinners we each pass through a fire of judgment in that baptism that is the way of the cross. As a sinful woman, like all other sinful men or women, it befits me to exercise humility as well as freedom and I hope God will give me the grace (all undeserved) to roll up my sleeves, get on with practical love and care, and ‘do’ the christian life.

      Thank you for your thoughtful response, and I do pray that God’s grace would be with you and your family – and that God would be with you as you, too, pass through the way of the cross. If you would like to discuss any aspects of these things offline and out of public view, I should be happy to engage in dialogue.

      Meanwhile, may Jesus be glorified, and may we each seek our honour solely in His Honour and great mercy.

      Susannah

  4. Thank you for your responses Peter and I am sorry for my sarcasm – it was a way of clearly making my point. I really don’t think the sky will fall in here.

    I realise the distinction between orientation and behaviour. I agree that should apply to priests and those engaged in ministry. But I don’t think it should apply to administrators, vergers etc who are not engaged in ministry through preaching, prayer,leading bible studies etc. Would we ask a “straight” job applicant for such roles whether they are having an affair outside of marriage? I very much doubt it. So why should we ask a similar question to a gay applicant?

    I’d also invite your view on this. Where does the Bishop of Hereford/John Reaney case sit against all this? Surely that has already established that an active gay applicant for an ancillary post cannot be discriminated against, has it not?

    Or am I once again falling into my old habit of over-simlifying the situation?

    It’s good to find someone on the web so knowledgeable in this area.

    By the way, can I offer my belated sympathies on the loss of your son? We lost our son through meningitis aged 16 months. I also had a friend who had a baby with Edwards Syndrome. Truly heart-rending. I can imagine how it has indeed led you to rethink some things.

    WIth best wishes and many thanks for your engagement
    Paul

    • Hi Paul,

      I produced some lengthy comment on Reaney when the case happened. In summary, I think it was right for Priddis to require of Reaney a commitment to chastity. Where Priddis went wrong, in my opinion, is that he didn’t accept Reaney’s assurance.

      FWIW, I have no problem with asking *all* applicants for a position working for a church whether they are prepared to uphold the church’s teaching. Since the church’s teaching is to do with sexual behaviour, not orientation, the orientation of the person being asked the question is (and should remain) irrelevant to the issue of employment. Sexual behaviour is the question, not orientation.

  5. I think the law does not differentiate between orientation and behaviour, or rather it sees that to treat a gay person differently on the basis of sexual behaviour which arises from their sexuality IS discrimination.

    To me this seems perfectly reasonable. I think to say to someone “you cannot be discriminated against because you are gay” is of limited value if you add the proviso, ” you CAN be discriminated against for expressing that sexuality in a relationship.” A comment I read in one Hansard report was something along the lines that “that is what most gay people do, they have gay sex.”

    I think to expect the law to say that gay people can be discriminated against for being in a relationship, in this day and age, when gay sex is legal and same sex relationships are legitimised through civil partnerships, is crazy.

    Moreover, most heterosexual people would not have their private lives scrutinised before being allowed to be a church receptionist and there are many divorced and remarried priests despite scriptural injunctions against divorce. There are also many gay people both lay and in holy orders. In some dioceses they can be open and are accepted by their bishops, in others they live in fear and secrecy. There is little consistency across the Church in the way people are treated and I think the law is right to ask for “proportionality” as each case should be looked at on its merits.

    I think it is fair enough for the Church to expect certain standards of behaviour. In the case of a heterosexual person, that should be faithfulness in marriage or celibacy, in the case of a gay person, I believe that should be faithfulness within a civil partnership or celibacy. In the case of the remarried, I think each case should be carefully considered. As for a single person in a sexual relationship outside of marriage, I think they should marry but I am not sure I would want them to be excluded just on the basis that they are not – or summarily sacked if such a situation was suddenly discovered! ( would anyone?)What if that situation was complex and the person themself was going through anguish within it? What sort of “christian” response would it be to just want to see them removed from that job or role?

    I honestly think people harbour worse sins than sexual ones, there aren’t litmus tests for whether people are selfish, greedy, manipulative,self righteous are there?

    I long for the day when gay priests can be openly in relationships and gay people can be welcomed and encouraged in faithful relationships. At the moment, the Church can “officially” be a cold, place and in some places this is the reality for LGBT people and not just those who are sexually active by the way ( I’ve been in one of those.) In other places there is the reality of churches which offer enormous love and warmth and try not to be abusive or discriminatory (I am now in one of those churches, thanks be to God!)

  6. Well said Sue!

    Thanks for your answer, Peter.

    It’s slightly off the point, but I’d just like to quote one of my heroes, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I would emphasise that this is not in response to you Peter or anything you have said, and my earlier coming about the sky falling in was not stimulated by your website but by a ridiculously alarmist email I received from David Skinner and a terrifying video I saw which was presented by Andrea Minichiello-Williams of CCFON. Here’s the Desmond Tutu quote:

    “Our world is facing problems – poverty, HIV and Aids – a devastating pandemic, and conflict. God must be weeping looking at some of the atrocities that we commit against one another. In the face of all of that, our Church, especially the Anglican Church, at this time is almost obsessed with questions of human sexuality.”

  7. Sue – thanks for your comments which I find to be some of the most helpful and sensible stuff written on this issue in a long time on a conservative Christian blog site.

    Personally when Paul writes, “the issue is whether the verger was engaged (or not) in sexual behaviour outside of marriage”, I find it to be very disingenous. Clearly the traditional christian teaching says that ‘sex is only for marriage’ – but, of course, (christian) marriage is ONLY appropriate for heterosexual people. I agree entirely that christian thinking needs to address the appropriate context for gay sex and that to be fair and equitable this needs to be (only) in a loving and commited relationship akin to marriage, even if it isn’t called that (frankly I don’t care either way), such as a CP. What really should a gay person be expected to do if they don’t have the ‘gift of celibacy’ and have the same needs as the rest of us in respect to intimacy? Why should they be expected to take the road of self-denial without the opportunity of forming a committed and loving, exclusive relationship?

    To say that this is simply ruled out by scripture is really a nonsense. Scripture just doesn’t address the question of ‘by nature’ homosexuality any more than it does issues of transgender which Peter seems to be thinking through very practically and sensitively. I look forward to seeing where this thinking takes his views on homosexuality.

    • Can I challenge you by suggesting that saying “the appropriate context for gay sex and that to be fair and equitable this needs to be (only) in a loving and commited relationship akin to marriage” is also being disingenuous since Scripture so abundantly clearly argues that any kind of homosexual activity is sinful, even within a loving and committed relationship. Your argument in the light of the clear argument I make in those links is akin to supporting incest within “a loving and committed relationship”, since clearly the scriptural references condemning incest don’t address such modern understandings.

      • Perhaps one of the problems is that scripture simply doesn’t address modern understandings in so many cases. Scripture is not used as the basis for the law of the land. Moreover, Scripture itself is interpreted differently by different Christians, some seeing it as inerrant, others interpreting it in context and the light of modern understanding, some traditions seeing it as all important, others emphasising other aspects of faith.

        • Following in from what Sue says, I think we are all honest enough to acknowledge that the Anglican/Episcopal communion is riven by this very issue.

          If the bible is literal or inerrant in the sense that edicts against homosexual acts are to be universalised for all communities in all times, then I personally have to say that I think the bible *does* rule out gay sex. I think the tone and (uncorrected) edicts against gay sex are themselves compelling, and the model of sex as something procreative done within marriage is also a compelling default that appears to exclude the option of *any* other sexual intercourse outside of marriage.

          On the other hand, we all know very well that many Christians believe that to be handled with integrity the Bible needs to be read in context, and seen as the ‘making sense’ by fallible human beings in the context of their knowledge and culture at the time – so, for example, very many Christians would reject the idea of Adam and Eve as ancestorless origins of the human species, or what they’d call the ‘myth’ of Noah’s Ark. To these often very committed Christians, the bible is actually ‘honoured’ more when it is read with that kind of intelligent critical analysis.

          We all know these routines!

          What I’d like to say is that, for those christians who believe the latter, that does not mean they see their approach as a charter for hedonism. For any Christian, faith will involve self-sacrifice and trying with integrity to follow the way of the cross.

          No serious Christian is advocating ‘anything goes’ and more liberal Christians (to use a label) can live as sacrificially as anyone else, in service, and love, and the call to “be baptised with the baptism I am baptised in” meaning the cross.

          For a Christian there is no other way.

          We probably will not square the circle of these alternative ways of handling the bible but, that being the case, we are still all challenged to die to self and live sacrifically with the love of Christ.

          It’s not just a question of ‘liberal’ Christians wanting carte blanche to lead hedonistic lifestyles. Liberal Christians are as sincere about honouring the primary command to love as any other Christian. But we have in Christianity today this almost fork in the road, and two differing sets of premisses about how the Bible should be read, and either that leads to division, or we have to respect one another and say, yes, well we differ, but in the end, we are One in Christ, and if we sacrifice our lives to live in Christ, and love, and serve, that is our best hope of true unity and true Christianity.

          With love,
          Susannah

      • Evening Peter and all,

        Peter, at the risk of repetition could I challenge you by suggesting that your argument in the 2 ‘Sexuality and slavery’ posts you linked Andrew to, isn’t as cut and dried as you imply above? You concluded your discussion of malakoi by saying, “While it is most likely that the word has some sexual connotation (given its position), what that specific sexual act is is less clear”.

        And on the thread relating to arsenokoitai you did acknowledge that Rabbi Steven Greenberg’s reading which I quoted, is “the best argument against arsenokoites prohibting all male-male sex that I’ve heard”.

        So as before I suggest it’s arguable that there are reasonable doubts about the traditional prohibition – and that those doubts are grounded in a close reading of Scripture.

        in friendship, Blair

  8. “Personally when Paul writes, “the issue is whether the verger was engaged (or not) in sexual behaviour outside of marriage”,”

    Just for the record, I did not write that sentence you quote. Peter did.

    • Yep, posted a correction to that effect but doesn’t seem to have made it through.

      Just getting my Peter and Paul mixed up at the begining of the post – sorry!

  9. Hi Andrew,

    Thank you for saying you found my comments the most sensible stuff written on this issue on a conservative blog site. It is only fair to point out that I am NOT a conservative Christian but a member of Inclusive Church and some of its partner organisations. I come on this site because I am interested in the issue and to challenge some conservative attitudes [but they still love me very much:)]

    I agree that the no sex outside of Christian marriage = no discrimination and fair-to-everyone is disingenuous and I don’t see how the law can possibly work from that premise.

  10. Peter said: “Scripture so abundantly clearly argues that any kind of homosexual activity is sinful, even within a loving and committed relationship.”

    Well I simply don’t agree – but know that you don’t agree with me either. The arguments about the interpretation of the relevant scriptures will continue to rage about this – I’m more interested in the practical ethics.

    I couldn’t argue for incest within the context of a loving and committed relationship because it is wrong for all sorts of rational practical reasons. I can’t find similar arguments against gay sex in loving and committed relationships.

    In the end, as Susannah says, it is down to our different approaches to scripture. I see it more as an inspired, yet still human and potentially fallible, witness to the actions of a loving God. Even if the Bible clearly outlawed any gay sex I would put that down to human fallibility and follow the spirit rather than the letter.

    Actually, though, I’m not that liberal and I’m not convinced by the arguments, even Peter’s, for the conservative interpretations on this matter.

  11. andrew:

    What are your practical, rational objections to committed, loving, incestuous relationships?

    It is difficult to prove that incest is wrong *in principle*, if your benchmark for an ethical sexual relationship is one that is “committed, loving, monogamous”.

    I am not being facetious; I would like to know.

    • I agree that it’s hard to prove it ‘in principle’ but I’d make the arguments along the lines of:

      1. deep seated taboo leading to widespread moral repugnance;
      2. wider genetic diversification a good thing for the human gene pool;
      3. the probablity of abuse through manipulation and blackmail when sexual relationships take place ‘in the family’.

      Anyway that’s three reasons rather than simply a ‘God or scripture says no’ argument and three more than I can think of with reference to gay sex.

      Furthermore in discouraging incest we are not condeming people to a lifetime of being alone. There is a strong possibility that they can look forward to a fulfilling relationship outside of the close family.

      Despite that I’d find it hard to get morally upset about two relatives engaging in a consensual sexual relationship – I think its not a good thing for the above reasons and shouldn’t be recognised or encouraged by society. OTOH I don’t think that such people should be persecuted either.

  12. Peter wrote, “I have no problem with asking *all* applicants for a position working for a church whether they are prepared to uphold the church’s teaching.”

    I think this is the point. Not a person’s orientation, and not even their behaviour (except of course on the matter of scandal), but what they believe and propagate. We all have sinful orientations of some sort or another. We all behave in sinful ways and then repent or hope to repent. But what makes us Christians is our beliefs.

    I think a religious organization should have the freedom to hire people who conform to its beliefs. A Hindu temple should not be forced to hire a Christian. A Christian church should not be forced to hire someone who does not believe in some of its tenets.

    • I don’t agree – should a Christian Church be able to insist, for example, on a Christian plumber or window cleaner?

      I think the dividing line concerning behaviour is perfectly acceptable so long as the church applies the same tests to everyone equitably. Expecting people to have sex only in a committed and loving relationship called marriage is fine – but there is the problem. What the Church says to gays IS about orientation not just behaviour because marriage (in the traditional sense of a committed, exclusive realationship between a man and a woman) just isn’t available or appropriate for gay people.

      So the Church says we’ll employ you but only if you agree with the traditional teaching that gay people should remain celibate despite the fact that many gay and straight people inside the churches are arguing in favour of a change now widely accepted by our society. That is discrimination because it only says to ‘straight’ people that we won’t employ them if they have sex outside of marriage (and actually rarely does anything about that apart from with clergy).

      So to avoid the charge of discrimination we should find something akin to marriage for gay people. That’s not about sanctioning the whole ‘gay scene’ as it is often misrepresented in the conservative christian media. Predatory, abusive and promiscous sexual behaviour is not being supported regardless of sexuality.

  13. The narrow passing of these ammendments make the churches look like uncaring and unchanging dinosaurs heading for extinction. I’m not proud to associate with this lot at the moment.

    We’ve strained at a gnat and swallowed a camel!

    Thank God there are some Christians out there letting it be known that not all of us agree with denying the rights and equities of some people in our society merely for the sake of our ‘precious’ faith.

    • andrew:

      If believing in religious freedom for Christians in a historically Christian country makes me a dinosaur, then count me in with the T-Rexes.

      Just for the record, I’m not quite sure there’s any need for the mockery over the word “precious”.

      • No mockery intended at all, sorry. You will note that it is ‘our’ faith I’m talking about.

        I’m very proud of my own historic christian faith and hold it dear – but I don’t elevate it so high that I wish to abuse my religious freedoms as an excuse to deny the freedoms of others.

        If the churches wish to be able to discriminate about sexual behaviour and morality, which I think is entirely appropriate, then they must concede that christian gay people can establish acceptable committed relationships akin to marriage, even if they don’t wish to call them that.

        Anything else is unacceptable discrimination and an unjustified abuse of religious freedoms that should be against the law.

        • andrew:

          I am not sure what your third paragraph means. Are you saying that Christian religious freedom is dependent upon the church recognising the existence of civil partnerships? Or upon the church actually conducting civil partnership ceremonies even if congregations do not wish to do so? Because neither of those sound like my definition of religious freedom.

          I would also like to know how exactly the church’s exercising their freedom to employ people who agree with Christian teaching will deny the “freedoms of others”. What particular freedoms are these?

          • No I’m not saying that Christian religious freedoom is dependent on anything, although I think the golden rule is a good guide here. If you wish to enjoy tolerance then you really should display it. If you display intolerance then you should hardly be surprised if society starts to be intolerant back. I think the issues of sexuality and gender are areas where society has come to a more liberal view than the church and society will get increasingly less and less inclined to tolerate the church’s intolerance.

            However, all I’m saying here is that if the church is to have a behaviour test for employment (and many organisations expect that, even non-religious ones) then to avoid the charge of discrimination it should be equitably applied regardless of sexuality. Hence the church having standards which reject predatory or promiscuous sexual behaviour is acceptable to society but not approving of homosexual people enjoying the comforts of sex in recognised legal relationships akin to marriage is not at all understood – even if they won’t (yet) force us to do the right thing. The church is trying to have its cake and eat it – and society recognises the injustice even if we generally don’t. That’s the freedom which is being denied to others – freedom from prejudice and injustice. As I’ve already claimed this IS about orientation not simply about behaviour. If you deny this then offer an unprejudiced way that homosexuals can pass the same behaviour test as everyone else.

            I have no problem with the church having the freedom to employ people who agree with christian teaching – except that this is difficult to apply in detail and specifically in contentious areas such as the approach to sexuality. In particular why is it that it is still acceptable for employees to have quite liberal views about important matters of
            doctrine but in the area of sexual behaviour an unfair and inequitable requirement is being required of GBLT applicants?

            Incidentally whilst I wouldn’t force the issue on unwilling groups my definition of religious freedom certainly does include provinces, possibly even congregations, being able to conduct blessings of CPs if they wish to do so.

  14. Never mind, things are changing and have changed, many grassroot believers are actually very tolerant and accepting, they have gay colleagues and children who have come out over the past decade or two. Church hierarchy is increasingly conservative though, I think – and cautious of being seen any other way.
    You could always join Inclusive Church or Changing Attitude, Andrew?

    • Yes I could and have thought often about doing so – I’m probably more Fulcrum material though, despite my views on this particular matter.

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