Archive for the ‘Human Rights’ Category

This week’s news, that the homophobic couple who refused a gay couple entry to their hotel have lost their court case, is a victory for common sense. In 2011 the law is ruler. Not religion; not an ancient superstition; not the ideas of our ancestors; the law! I am so thankful that our lawmakers have created provisions to protect people like the gay couple in question.

At the heart of this case is a very simple question: should the rights of gay people be more important than those of the religious? In short, my opinion is that YES they should be. Basing your life on an ancient book is clearly a choice whereas sexuality is a natural part of who we are.  I know the religious try and claim that their religion is part of “who they are” but there’s no escaping the fact that they have chosen to follow it. If I choose to follow the ways of witchcraft do I have special rights? Of course not. Religion is extra special apparently.

The fact remains that this Christian couple have chosen to use their home as a hotel and invite the public in. In doing so they surrender their right to pick and choose who they let in and under what circumstances.  Nobody is forcing them to allow things they don’t agree with to occur in their home. They are more than free to stop using their home as a hotel should they not be able to do so without compromising their dark age beliefs.

It’s great this has happened in the UK for in most other countries the church still has an iron grip on the judiciary and the religious would have probably won. Before moaning about how they are nearing financial ruin, perhaps these narrow-minded bigots should consider stopping being homophobes and take a look how stupid their defence is: “Excuse me Mr Judge, but I broke the law because the book told me to!”

Idiots

Some of you reading this will find this funny. Some of you will not. Those of you who find it funny will have never been on the receiving end, that I can confidently guarantee.

We live in a society where the majority of people hold the belief that the right to not be victimised and persecuted for something you have no control over is a basic human right.

We’ve abolished slavery because every human has the right to be treated fairly. We (on the whole) have rid our society of the disease of homophobia, although sadly we still have a long way to go. The same can be said for racism. Most people would not be able to convincingly argue that a particular person is more superior than another because of their race or sexual orientation. It strikes most people as grossly unfair to persecute or verbally abuse someone because they’re from a different country, or because they’re attracted to the same sex.

In much of the west liberalism is taking over as the political ideology of choice. The belief that we are all free to be ourselves providing we don’t harm anyone is a belief almost everybody I know shares.

Unfortunately, however, it seems there is one thing that remains on the list of “acceptable” persecutions: having red hair.

To those who have no experience of this it may seem slightly trivial. Indeed I will hold my hands up and admit I was once in this camp. Surely those with red (or “ginger”) hair can’t experience the feelings of rejection that ethnic minorities or homosexuals have experienced? Sadly, though, they do.

My partner has red hair and I love it. It’s one of the things that stood out to me when I first saw her. Throughout her entire school life she was bullied for it. Bullied for no other reason than she had red hair. At this point some of you will be thinking “kids are cruel” or “kids will bully people over anything” and this would be true except it’s not only kids that do it.

Even to this day when walking down the street she gets abuse shouted at her. If the abuse was racially motivated it’d be a crime and the perpetrators could be arrested. If it was sexuality motivated the law protects her too. In fact, there have been times when this abuse has been thrown in the presence of a police officer; did they do anything? Of course not. Obviously had she been called a racist remark the cuffs would have been out. But because it’s only her hair colour it doesn’t matter and she should apparently just ‘get over’ it.

This attitude is common place in society. Many of those who wouldn’t laugh at a racist joke will laugh at a “ginger” joke. Mainstream media, whilst afraid to air racist or homophobic comedy, has no qualms about airing jokes about redheads.

So it raises the question: why is it different? Why, when society has moved on so much do we still think it’s OK to laugh, ridicule and persecute someone simply because of the colour of their hair? What is the logical difference between calling a gay person names and calling a redhead names?

If you ask me there is no difference and it’s not OK.

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.

Recently there has been a lot of chatter in the news about the age old issue of religious discrimination. This week a Christian relationship counsellor is in court after losing his job for refusing to counsel gay couples. He is claiming it is discriminating to force him to give advice in contradiction to his beliefs. And not long ago a Christian nurse lost her case when she tried to claim she was being discriminated against after she was forced to remove her cross from her neck. The court decided the cross wasn’t “essential” to her faith and therefore she couldn’t wear it as jewellery is banned. She claimed that she’d worn it for years and there’d been no problem.

It may seem ludicrously bureaucratic to some to force a change now if it has caused no problems. But it’s important to remember that the no jewellery rule was created to combat the spread of bacteria and MRSA. Therefore a ban should include all jewellery, full stop.

On the surface this looks like yet another religious person wanting special treatment. But this issue is a little bit more complicated. Christians are not the only ones wanting to wear jewellery. Sikhs wear bangles, bangles incidentally, which are still permitted. These bangles are obviously on wrists where they pose a much greater risk of spreading disease than a cross around a neck.

Exceptions are not only being made for Sikhs though. Muslim women are resisting new rules requiring people to be bare sleeved from the elbow down. Again this is aimed at curbing the spread of bugs and allows hands and arms to be kept much cleaner. Sleeves are a big potential breeding ground for bacteria. The Muslim defence is that women must not show their arms and they reel out their usual ‘modesty’ rubbish. We’ve even gone to the length of buying disposable sleeve covers to keep the complainers happy. Doctors have resigned and medical students are quitting, all because they’re being asked to show their arms.

This is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard. We have a hygiene standard aimed at making our hospitals as safe as possible, but we give some people special privileges because they think if they show their arms, or remove some rings of metal, they’ll go to hell. Not only that but we’ll even charge the taxpayer the bill for indulging their ridiculous fantasy.

Whilst making these exceptions for Sikhs and Muslims we’ll refuse to budge on the rules for Christians who want to hide a small cross under their clothes. I can understand the frustration of Christians who feel they are being singled out. It certainly poses questions about underlying motives in the justice system. I fear the system has become petrified of appearing racist; so makes such stupid rulings regarding cases involving ‘Eastern’ religions; while sticking to the rules when dealing with ‘Western’ religions. Why do so many of the religious fight for equality but happily accept a little special treatment if it’s offered? We’re heading into the territory of discriminating against the non-religious to keep the religious happy.

However, singling out the Christians is not the main issue here. We shouldn’t be allowing anybody to flout the rules. This country needs a backbone. Hygiene is the number one priority in our hospitals and it needs to stay number one. Keeping the religious happy should not be a higher priority and clearly it is.

Those who wish to work in a profession which asks things of them that their religion doesn’t allow need to ask which is more important: their job, or their religion. A Muslim woman who must cover her body could not be, for example, a lifeguard. She would have to accept that she couldn’t do this job because it requires that she remove her veil. A Muslim man could not insist on being allowed to wear his traditional dress and be a fireman. Neither could a Sikh refuse to wear breathing apparatus because he’d have to remove his turban. He’d have to accept that he’d have to sacrifice his religious ‘rules’ in order to be a fireman. This silly idea that we’re doing something horrific if we impose an occupational standard and ask a Muslim to bare her arms needs to end. Are we genuinely saying that if an aspect of a religious person’s job conflicts with their religion the rules should always be bent, otherwise we’re discriminating against them? And do we really think that we can operate every organisation, work place, school etc in harmony with every single religion? Especially when EVERY single religious ‘rule’ relies on the interpretation of a human being and so is always different.

Nobody is being discriminated against by the NHS. No religion was purposefully targeted in a bid to persecute and penalise its followers. It simply happened that a new rule change conflicted with their personal beliefs. This should not be grounds to grant special privileges.

The liberal world we now live in has come full circle. We created the concept of freedom and liberty and granted people the freedom to believe whatever religion they wanted. This is an important freedom to have and prevents government persecuting the religious. Despite its intended purpose this freedom has been hijacked by the religious. They have turned it into a weapon to fight a war they have started themselves. It is a war against the modern world and a fight against common sense. Instead of using it to prevent discrimination they are using it to halt any change which conflicts with their religion, insisting on the right to veto such changes. In doing so it is actually the non-religious who are being discriminated against. We are being held hostage by the religious who are slowly turning the country into a religious state.

Whilst freedom of religion is a vitally important freedom to possess, we need to forget this new found idea that religious ‘customs’ can never be infringed.

I read a story today that cheered me up a lot. Shawn Hole was on a tour with his Christian mates and took it upon himself to engage in a spot of street preaching. Whilst doing this he was asked by a gay member of the public what his views on homosexuality were. “Homosexuals are deserving of the wrath of God – and so are all other sinners – and they are going to a place called hell” was his response.

He was then arrested, taken away in a police van, kept overnight in a cell and charged with breaching the peace and “uttering homophobic remarks” that were “aggravated by religious prejudice”. He plead guilty.

On the one hand this is a slight overreaction on the part of the police. All this idiot did was have a conversation with someone about his retarded religious opinion. Plus, there is an argument to be made for how it is offensive to say gay people are going to a fictional place. His views do prove his complete lack of sanity, but I think freedom of speech is important, more important than trying to silence every mentally ill person who preaches nonsense. It’s important we don’t tell people what they can and can’t say. Nobody has the right to not be offended. Everyone does, however, have the right to freedom of speech. Only when they step into the realm of inciting people to commit crime and violence should we stop them.

On the other hand, it serves him right! Lets remember that while the specific words he used on this occasion may not have been that offensive, he clearly thinks that just because someone fancies the same sex they are deserving of an eternity in a horrible place. Regardless of the fact that place doesn’t exist, he still thinks it does. So yeah, he wasn’t offensive in what he said this time, but his attitude towards gay people IS offensive. The fact he thinks he has the right to come the the UK and preach to us on the street makes him deserving of anything he gets. While we do have some street preachers in the UK, generally as a culture, we object to people pushing their religion in our faces. We don’t need Americans like Shawn Hole coming to the UK and trying to ‘save’ us. He’d be much better off trying to fix the hell-on-earth that is the United States Of America. They need his help much more than we do. We have, in astonishing numbers, woken up to reality in the UK and don’t welcome homophobes like this.

I could not be happier that this idiot spent a night in the cells and is a thousand quid worse off. Using religion as an excuse for being homophobic is a pathetic excuse. An excuse which doesn’t wash anymore. Religious racism is not tolerated, this is no different.

When will people realise that just because they decided to believe in a religion full of hatred, it doesn’t give them the absolute right to be as hateful as possible. While we shouldn’t physically stop Sean Holes from saying what he wants it should be made known that his ancient beliefs are not tolerated anymore.

Fuck off back to America. We don’t want your intolerance here.

On 19th March I wrote this article, asking whether; given that Sikhs are currently arguing their case for being allowed to carry swords to work, should we allow Jedis to carry lightsabers too?

It has been picked up by SikhPhilosophy.net who have done me a wonderful favour by reproducing the entire article in a forum post. This kind act has generated me extra traffic over the past few days which is much appreciated.

It’s funny to me how they failed to see the sarcasm in my article, and I did chuckle at their response:

I would like to inform SPN membership that this article is the result of auto-posting by a news service.

It was not posted by a real human being among our membership. Obviously someone did write this article, which I personally find to be snide and derisive.

It makes light of matters of faith and constitutionally protected expressions of faith and speech, not to mention being derisive of Sikhism as practiced and adhered to by many of the panth.

It sets up a straw man argument by using terms such as “armed to the teeth.” Wearing a kirpan is hardly that.

So please do not think this article in any way represents the views of SPN leadership or any critical mass of its membership.

Thank you,
Narayanjot Kaur

So there you have it. I’m “derisive and snide”. Well, in response to that I guess I am pretty snide about kids using religion as an excuse to carry knives. It’s a ridiculous idea and anybody who argues in favour of it deserves to be ridiculed.

As the wonderfully funny Hardeep Singh Kohli points out in a recent Guardian article the kirpan is a remnant of a time when Sikhs actually had a need for a dagger because they were in genuine danger. There is no conflict with the teachings of Sikhism to wear a small dagger necklace or badge. There is no requirement for an actual size, bona fide dagger. So this ridiculous argument that we’re discriminating by refusing to allow such weapons doesn’t really stand up.

Just because a person makes a personal choice that they would like to wear a dagger, then tries to claim they HAVE to because of their religion, is not sufficient grounds to allow armed children.

A young atheist is banned from carrying a dagger to college . To make an exception for a Sikh, based on nothing more than that Sikhs personal interpretation of an ancient superstition, is more discriminatory than maintaining one rule for all.

I’m glad Hardeep Singh Kohli sees sense and gives us proof that Narayanjot Kaur from sikhphilosophy.net doesn’t speak for all Sikhs.

I just wanted to offer my opinion on the recent appointment of Mary Douglas Glasspool, the openly lesbian bishop, in the US.

A decision like this was always going to cause issues and it’s no surprise it has. People fear a split in the church which, if it happens, can only be a good thing. If this causes those churches who are prepared to move into the 21st century to separate and leave behind the bigots of the ‘established’ church then great!

Over here in the UK the Archdickhead Of Canterbury Rowan Williams hid behind his ‘office’ who spoke on his behalf saying it would have “important implications” for the church.

Who knows what will happen. I just hope we see more gay clergy members appointed, because this will force the white, middle class, conservative bible bashers to raise their consciousness and face up to the FACT that some people are gay. Maybe a transvestite vicar would help too, although I reckon we’d have to wait a while for that 😀