In the UK we had a important day in law this week. A senior judge (called Laws, no less!) ruled that a dismissed marriage guidance counselor could not appeal against the upholding of his dismissal by a previous hearing.
The counselor (I’m sure you can guess what’s coming) refused to offer part of his contracted services to gay couples, on the grounds that it interfered with his Christian faith. He agreed to meet gay couples in undirected counseling (sitting and listening), but not to provide directed counseling (giving advice). He was rightly sacked because providing that service was part of his job.
Now this caused a kick-off in the Anglican church. If you’re joining us from elsewhere in the world, you may be amazed to know that the Anglican church gets 26, or just under 5% of the seats in the upper house of our parliament, free, unelected, by virtue of being ‘Lords Spiritual’. This same democratically obscene institution chose to cry foul at the judgment because, they claimed, it showed that Christianity is under attack in the UK, and the legal system is biased against Christian principles and values. If their arrogant self-entitlement weren’t so horrific it would be funny.
And so it was I happened to tune into a radio broadcast in which former bishop, and born Pakistani, Nazir Ali, was trying to defend this view. Fresh from his arrest in Germany on a typographical misdemeanor (where a polizist read his name on a poster as “Nazi Rali”). He made the point that the UK, and the whole of the west, based its 21st century ethics on Judeo-Christian moral principles. And that, therefore, Christians have some kind of higher moral authority in the country, and should be allowed to follow their ‘conscience’ in fostering discrimination.
At no point did anyone ask him, exactly how it was that the best humanistic morality of our state is based on Christianity. Why it was that every humanistic ethical innovation of the last 500 years has been opposed by the institutional church. Or who gets to decide which bits of Christian morality are cherry picked to be the ones we should all follow and which ones are best kept under the rug. Lord Justice Laws was apposite in remarking that the problem with religious morality is that it is highly subjective, devoid of basis in evidence, and irrational (in the sense of not being rationally based, not in the pejorative sense, I assume). I started reading through the universal declaration of human rights, and it is significant that many of the articles are countered by historically normative Christian exegesis and practice. Of those that aren’t I couldn’t find any that I could clearly trace back to a Judeo-Christian origin.
Neither did anyone ask Nazir-Ali if he supported the rights of racist doctors to deny treatment to patients who their conscience tells them are not true UK citizens. Or if atheist adoption workers should allow their conscience to prevent them from placing children with Christian parents, given the indoctrination they will receive in that environment.
No. It is quite clear to me that Nazir-Ali and his fellows don’t want a legal system based on conscience. They want their personal favorite discrimination to be institutionally protected. Given that he must have faced a significant amount of racism in his career, this is just appalling.
In the words of our prime minister this week, it is time to call out this segment of the Anglican church for what they are: bigots.