In Which An Anglican Ex-Bishop Makes an Ass of Himself

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.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “In Which An Anglican Ex-Bishop Makes an Ass of Himself

  1. imarriedaxtian

    “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”

  2. I personally feel this problem is artificially complicated.

    I agree:

    (1) The Church of England is bigoted.

    (2) It is silly and embarrassing that England still has clergy as unelected legislators. It is an abomination.

    (3) But I wonder how far the government should go with insisting what type of customers a private business MUST provide services for.
    (a) can a bartender refuse to serve drunks
    (b) can restaurants turn people who don’t follow their dress codes
    (c) can a design company refuse to print swastika posters or posters of the Queen making obscene gestures.
    (d) can private school take only certain IQ or certain Sex

    I am not sure how far they should go — I find this a hard question. And if you say the counselor was a government counselor, then I will ask should the government be into counseling? If so, with 1, 2 and 3 the whole question is too artificial.

  3. Ian

    Thanks Sabio.

    Yes, two clarifications are needed.

    This was an individual employee, and his contract told him to perform this service. He refused. When sacked he took it to tribunal for unfair dismissal on the grounds of his employer not respecting his religion. This tribunal rejected his claim. He then took his case to the senior court, asking for permission to go back to tribunal and appeal. This is the case that was heard this week. The judge refused to send it back to tribunal. It is significant because tribunal rulings don’t have nearly the same force of precedent as a high court ruling.

    It is not the case that he was a individual counselor choosing his clients, nor that he ran the organization and set its ethos. It wasn’t a case about whether he should be *allowed* to make those choices. But that he shouldn’t have protection under the law when his employer fired him for refusing to work.

    Secondly, indirectly he was employed on government money. He worked for the National Counseling Service, which is indirectly part of our National Health Care service. Thus his employer had statutory rights to also provide universal service. Not that this is an important feature of the case. The key feature is that the Judge ruled that he couldn’t use the defense that he was being discriminated against on the grounds of his religion.

    And it is exactly that claim (that he was the victim of anti-Christian bias in the judiciary) that the bishop was propounding.

  4. Ian

    I should probably also add that the previous Archbishop of Canterbury tried to raise the stakes in an equally asinine way by threatening that continued anti-Christian bias in the judiciary would lead to civil unrest.

    He demanded that a special panel of ‘religiously-sensitive’ Judges be appointed to hear such cases. I.e. a separate theological judiciary within the main judiciary.

  5. Yep, if that is the case, then I agree, fire his Christian ass !

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