Christian Counsellor Shown The Boot, & About Bloody Time Too

Posted: April 29, 2010 in Christianity, Equality, Homosexuality, Human Rights, Religion
Tags: , , , , , ,

Today saw a major victory for common sense and about bloody time. Gary McFarlane was told in no uncertain terms that he could not appeal any further in his fight to have his sacking overturned.

Gary is a Christian who, not surprisingly, thinks it’s evil to be gay. He was a counsellor for Relate until he was sacked for refusing to counsel gay couples. Relate has a pledge where they promise to provide equal access to their services regardless of sexuality, a pledge Gary had previously agreed to. He was also bound by the terms of his employment contract which stated he had to treat all clients equally. This, Gary wasn’t prepared to do.

Gary believed he was a special case, that he was exempt from the laws the rest of us are bound by. He thought he was so special that he should be allowed to discriminate against gay people for no other reason than he’d decided he didn’t agree with their behaviour. He tried to argue that to force him to counsel gay couples would be to discriminate against him because of his religion, he went on to say that to sack him for refusing to comply was to sack him because of his religion and therefore unfair.

Gary and his legal team misunderstood the law however. The judge found that Relate would have acted in the same way had a non-Christian member of staff wished to discriminate in the way Gary did, and thus it wasn’t discrimination. Lord Justice Laws explained to the court that in a free and equal society we must offer 2 levels of religious protection: firstly the protection to choose a religion and secondly that no particular religious view is given preferential treatment. He pointed out to Gary that while the law rightly provides the protection to believe in a particular religion it cannot be used to protect the ‘content’ of a particular religious belief:

So it is that the law must firmly safeguard the right to hold and express religious belief; equally firmly, it must eschew any protection of such a belief’s content in the name only of its religious credentials. Both principles are necessary conditions of a free and rational regime

Gary McFarlane is a bigoted Christian who thinks that because he chooses to base his life on a fictional text from thousands of years ago he should have the right to ignore discrimination laws. I’m thankful the court has ruled that the rights of innocent gay people are more important than the rights of someone who’s made a personal choice to believe bollocks.

Advertisements
Comments
  1. Oh dear, it was all going so well until the last paragraph! Gary McFarlane is a bigoted Christian who thinks that because he chooses to base his life on a fictional text from thousands of years ago he should have the right to ignore discrimination laws. I’m thankful the court has ruled that the rights of innocent gay people are more important than the rights of someone who’s made a personal choice to believe bollocks.

    It is perfectly possible to argue against the errors of Gary McFarlane without recourse to such a tendentious and casually offensive diatribe. I have done so myself here. Frankly, whilst we have on the one side fundamentalist Christians whose understanding of their own religion is far from perfect screaming hysterically that gays are evil perverts, perfectly balanced on the other by atheists abandoning reason in favour of gratuitous insult, then we’ll continue to create lots of heat, but very little light and even less progress.

    • Thank you for your comment that it was going well until the last paragraph, I am awfully sorry that the conclusion of this post left you feeling unsatisfied.

      Whether or not this post is offensive is a subjective issue. Given that you are a Christian I am not surprised you took it as offensive. If I were to try and run this blog without causing offence to Christians I have no doubt I would not succeed. It doesn’t take a lot to cause offence to the religious, usually just telling them they’re wrong is enough. Your comment provides me with further proof of this.

      You may wish to believe I have abandoned reason but I have yet to meet a Christian with the ability to reason. In fact reason alone pretty much causes all the main religions to fall apart. Reason is the ability of the mind to think freely based on truth and fact, it is wholly incompatible with any religion humans have invented.

      I called Gary a bigot because he is “a person who has strong, unreasonable beliefs and who thinks that anyone who does not have the same beliefs is wrong”. It is a fact that he bases his life on the Bible and it is also blindingly obvious that, whilst some aspects of the Bible describe historical events, the overwhelming majority of it is fictional. It can hardly be said that Gary is prepared to follow discrimination laws so I stand by my comment that “Gary McFarlane is a bigoted Christian who thinks that because he chooses to base his life on a fictional text from thousands of years ago he should have the right to ignore discrimination laws”.

      You speak of creating “lots of heat, but very little light and even less progress.” Maybe you are unaware of the sheer amount of light that has already been created and which continues to be denied by the religious. We live in a time in history where our understanding of the the planet has never been so vast but yet the religious teach their kids that what they learn at school is rubbish and that we came from Adam and Eve (or whatever other fairy-tale they believe in). The human race is continually trying to make progress and is held back by a huge chain around its ankle called religion.

      We have abandoned the horrendous morals of religion and created our own system based on observable truths but yet the religious continue to demand we entertain their prejudices. Society has recognised that gay people don’t choose to be gay and should be allowed the same freedoms as everyone else but yet the religious either says “we will not comply!” or “we don’t want to comply, but we will because we have to”.

      Whilst it could be said that you do not expect special treatment for your religious views your strange position that Christians should continue to break laws they don’t agree with but just face the consequences if they go to court does nothing but hamper the “progress” you yourself talk about. You make it clear you don’t think there is anything “illegitimate or dishonourable about those religious people who protest against laws they cannot in conscience accept” but this entirely misses the point.

      In our western society we create laws for the protection of freedom and equality and they are not created to cause damage. Anybody who thinks, for example, they can somehow argue that it is acceptable to discriminate and penalise gay people just because they cannot “in conscience” accept that those people are just being who they are, is to me totally dishonourable.

      Religion only ever seems to conflict with the law when we create a law to fix the inequality religion brought about in the first place.

      • Actually, I’m not personally remotely offended: that does not make your mode of expression any less offensive. Terms like “bollocks” aren’t part of a considered argument, they are simply puerile name-calling. This, I hasten to add, is not because you have used a “rude” word and outraged my sensibilities – it’s because I’m genuinely interested in how a society can deal with difference. Shouting at each other across intellectual barricades doesn’t strike me as likely to be a very useful method.

        I don’t know whether or not you think me capable of reason, but I would claim that I have attempted to engage with the undeniable conflict that exists between the law and the views of some citizens, and to apply reason to that engagement. I believe I am a living refutation of your blanket assertion that it is impossible to be both Christian and capable of reason. I’d be interested in your counter-arguments to those that I’ve advanced: I have to say I’m less interested in your arguments against positions that I don’t hold. I realise it makes the issues more complicated for you, but whether you like it or not you are debating with a Christian who is not a creationist; who does not believe that gay people are bad, or that gay sex is wrong or perverted. Indeed, I doubt I believe even one tenth of the things you want to accuse me of believing, but that won’t become apparent unless you listen to what I’m saying rather than fulminate against your own version of what you assume I believe. Even when you acknowledge what I’ve actually put forward you can hardly bring yourself to admit it – you write that “it could (my emphasis) be said that you do not expect special treatment for your religious views”: what else could possibly be said since that is exactly what I’ve argued?

        My disappointment in your article’s final paragraph (and I repeat that I agree with everything else you wrote), and even more in your response to my comment, is that it feels exactly like trying to argue with a Jehovah’s Witness. They have their immutable position, and they’re not budging, nor even listening, to what I might be saying to them.

        As an example. You wrote that “in our western society we create laws for the protection of freedom and equality and they are not created to cause damage” as if that were a self-evident, or at least evidence-based, dictum that can’t be legitimately argued with. Oh, really? That would include Section 28, would it? That would include laws which allow the incarceration of the children of asylum-seekers, would it? Your position that Christians as a category can be dismissed as bigoted, irrational fools feels horribly similar in structure to the disgraceful position, taken I admit (with shame) by some of my fellow travellers, that all gays are perverted freaks. All I’m asking for in this exchange is a little more subtlety, an acknowledgement that life and society are complex and full of contradiction, and the dignity of being engaged with on my merits and not as a grotesque stereotype.

  2. It seems that you think there is a certain code by which I should operate or a way in which I should speak. I do not accept that this is so. Perhaps if I worked for a newspaper I wouldn’t have said something that may be taken as “puerile name-calling”, but I wasn’t aware I was under an obligation to do so on MY blog. Whilst I accept that this may open me up for criticism I refer to my earlier point, this will happen however I negatively comment on religion so it is not something I am worried about.

    I applaud your interest in helping society “deal with difference” and if this is your aim then I hope you succeed. However, whilst I would love to see the world united, I am aware of the realities of this virtually unachievable task, don’t feel compelled to take on the task, and thus I am not concerned with avoiding the use of language such as “bollocks” for the reasons you have given.

    I said I have yet to meet a Christian who can properly reason. It would be foolish of me to state that simply because you are a Christian you are totally incapable of reasoning and the fact that you have chosen to reject the nonsensical parts of Christianity demonstrates that you can reason to an extent. Perhaps, with hindsight, I should have worded my statement differently and said that I have yet to meet a Christian who can reason fully. In my opinion it is not possible to reach the conclusion that Christianity has any basis in truth when reason is applied and it is for this reason I believe your ability to reason is limited. Clearly you will disagree with this.

    Your rejection of creation, the homophobic views of most Christians, and the other unmentioned things that you hint at not believing provide, in my opinion, yet more proof that the Bible has no basis in truth. It proves that the Bible is not the unchanging word of God, as believed by most Christians and as stated in the Bible itself, but is in fact the works of man, based on the limited knowledge available at the time of writing. It is for this reason that modern ‘liberal’ Christians such as yourself drop the parts they don’t like and desperately try to cling on to the other parts. In my opinion this undermines any credibility attributed to the Bible.

    With regard to my comment that “it could be said that you do not expect special treatment for your religious views” my use of the word “could” was probably ill-considered. I was attempting to acknowledge that you are different to most Christians in that respect and with hindsight should have stated this more clearly.

    I will refute that my position is “immutable”. I base my position on what I see in the world and the evidence before me. If the evidence were to change and demonstrate to me that my position was incorrect I would be more than willing to change it. I have yet to witness a single shred of evidence to suggest to me my position is incorrect. You talk about “not budging, nor even listening, to what I might be saying”, does this mean you are attempting to make me “budge”? You have yet to say anything convincing that would make me inclined to “budge”.

    It will always be possible to cite examples of laws which may appear to be unfair to some. I agree with you that section 28 was abhorrent and was a legacy of Thatcher. This has now been overturned and quite rightly so. I admit my statement regarding laws was a generalisation, but one which generally is true. As with anything there will always be exceptions to the rule, but I don’t believe the exceptions detract from the realities of the majority.

    You have misundersood my comments regarding bigotry. I stated that I believed Gary McFarlane to be a bigot because HE holds “unreasonable beliefs” and thinks everyone else is wrong regarding those unreasonable beliefs. At no point did I say all Christians were bigots. When I said “It is a fact that he bases his life on the Bible and it is also blindingly obvious that, whilst some aspects of the Bible describe historical events, the overwhelming majority of it is fictional. It can hardly be said that Gary is prepared to follow discrimination laws so I stand by my comment” I was defending the part of my earlier statement where I said Gary “thinks that because he chooses to base his life on a fictional text from thousands of years ago he should have the right to ignore discrimination laws”.

    You ask that I display “a little more subtlety” in this exchange but I am under no obligation to go about my life in a subtle way. This exchange was initiated by yourself so I don’t accept your insistence that I deal with you in a particular way which is to your liking. You are free to uninvolve yourself from this at any point should you not like the way I speak. I do acknowledge that “life and society are complex and full of contradiction” but I don’t see how that changes anything. I apologise if you feel I have “stereotyped” you and I recognise that you are an exeption to the majority of Christians in that you have rejected parts of Christian theology.

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for what has, so far, been a very interesting debate.

    • Thanks for taking the trouble to respond. By questioning the usefulness of arguing through the subtle means of using the word “bollocks” I was not intending to suggest at all that there was a “certain code by which [you] should operate or a way in which [you] should speak”. You speak however you want to, and if I want to ask questions about it I can, as indeed I have. You are under no obligation whatever to take any notice, nor indeed even to bother to reply. I’m grateful however that you have, as I began this response by saying. Equally, my request about “a little more subtlety” was no more than that: a request, and certainly not an insistence!

      I suspect it’s very galling to find that one’s chosen whipping boys do not all play by the rules and conform to the view of them that you wish to promulgate, and I realise that I’m a pain in the arse in that respect. I’m used to being in the “Catch 22” wherein I am either a mediaeval fantasist because of literal belief in every precept of my faith, or else a liberal picker and chooser because I don’t have that literal belief. If you’re remotely interested in knowing more of how I try to square that circle you could read what I wrote here but by making that suggestion I’m not insisting that you do so!! In this context all I’d say is that I have no sense of “desperately try[ing] to cling on to the other parts” and it seems odd to me that anyone should suggest that to examine something critically is necessarily to undermine it. I only make these last comments because you seem interested in why I accept some elements of Christianity and reject others, but I’m honestly not trying to draw you into a debate the rights and wrongs of it.

      You rightly say that it was I who initiated this exchange, and perhaps I’d never have done so if I’d read your article on hijacked freedom first. There’s no hint of argument by bombastic insult in that piece, and it’s a well-argued and thoughtful exposition in which I wouldn’t want to see a single word changed. I think it is eminently possible for people with even such diametrically opposed world views as ours to engage thoughtfully and respectfully on topics that are important and significant for the proper and healthy conduct of our shared society.

      In that spirit I hope you won’t object to the fact that I’ve included your blog in my own blog’s blogroll. Too many blogs, but you know what I mean!

  3. Having read your post on faith & belief I have no problem in admitting we are probably much closer in some of our opinions than I first suspected. I guess that is a lesson learned for me and I will happily admit that here.

    The only reason I think that to ‘pick and choose’ somewhat undermines Christianity is because I have trouble accepting the truth of the Bible when so much of it is utter rubbish and not true. The Bible raises more questions than it answers in my opinion and that is why I personally don’t trust any part of it. Obviously we all have our own reasoning process and I guess that’s what makes for such a diverse world.

    I will look forward to reading your future posts and I will say when I read yours it won’t be with the expectation of finding total crap as I expect to find on most other ‘Christian’ blogs.

    Thanks, I am more than grateful for any blogroll entry as surely we’re all in this to get more traffic? I will return the favour when I sit down to do some blog ‘housekeeping’ tomorrow.

    • Thank you so much for your gracious response, and for taking the trouble to read about some of my thinking. I acknowledge again that you were, and are, under no obligation to take me even remotely seriously, but I’m glad that having done so you didn’t find it a total waste of your time!

      It’s a sad truth that the vast majority of us spend most of our time searching out the dubious self-authentication that we imagine comes from only ever talking with people who agree with us. So I am not saying that in some odd way, “deep down”, you and I have agreed all along. That is, to use the expressive word that started all this, utter bollocks. But it probably is true, as you pointed out, that we have more in common than we might have begun by assuming.

      One thing that I’ve already taken from our exchange is that I need to “come out” as it were more explicitly about what my understanding of faith is, and perhaps more importantly, what it isn’t, and I’ll be blogging about that soon. I hope you’ll take a look. Of one thing I can assure you, it won’t be an attempt to convert anyone but rather to demonstrate that although I might well be wrong, I’m not an irrational tosspot!

      As I’ve written elsewhere, my main interest is in questioning what I take to be the facile and unconsidered approach to life that I detect in so many of my fellows. That critique runs right across the atheist-faith divide, and it is indeed ironic that many of the challenges to faith that come from atheists are exactly the challenges that I also want to make. And that, in truth, was what prompted me to respond to your article in the way that I did. I want to make common cause with those, like yourself, who are prepared to examine life and follow that examination wherever it might lead, no matter how fundamentally different are the conclusions that we come to. I guess it was selfish to use your blog as the platform for making that point, and for that I apologise.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s