Posts Tagged ‘NHS’

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.