Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Christians 'are denied human rights by our courts,' claim British bishop and top judge
An Anglican bishop and Britain’s former top judge yesterday launched an impassioned defence of the rights of Christians in an increasingly secular society. The Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, said judges wrongly discriminate against people of faith because they are ignorant of religious beliefs.
He said failure to support the beliefs of Christians and other religious people could drive them from their jobs and blamed the Human Rights Act for allowing them to be victimised.
The bishop was backed by ex-Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf, who said the courts had gone ‘too far’ in restricting the rights of Christians in the workplace. He said it was ‘about time the tide turned’.
The two were speaking at the end of a year in which Christian relationship counsellor Gary McFarlane lost his appeal against dismissal after he refused to give sex therapy to a homosexual couple, and nurse Shirley Chaplin lost a discrimination case after she was moved to a back office job because she wore a crucifix.
During the General Election campaign, David Cameron promised to abolish the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights, which would spell out rights and responsibilities based on British traditions. But that promise has been watered down by the Coalition agreement, which promises only to set up a commission to ‘investigate the creation of a British Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights’.
Yesterday the bishop said he ‘generally welcomed’ the Human Rights Act but said it was being used without reference to religious sensibilities. He said: ‘There is growing up something of an imbalance in the legal position with regard to the freedom of Christians and people of other faiths to pursue the calling of their faith in public life, in public service. One major context is obviously the Human Rights Act.’
He condemned the treatment of Mr McFarlane, who was sacked by Relate after refusing to give sex therapy to a gay couple because it contradicted his religious beliefs. The bishop said: ‘We have had a statement from a senior judge this year that matters of Christian belief were only matters of opinion and the law couldn’t possibly take countenance of them in coming to decisions about the rights and wrongs of particular behaviour in the workplace.’
He argued it was not an option for Christians to keep their faith private. ‘Anybody who is part of the religious community believes that you don’t just hold views, you live them. Manifesting your faith is part of having it and not part of some optional bolt-on.’
He said in the McFarlane case, ‘judgment seemed to be following contemporary society, which seems to think that secularist views are statements of the obvious and religious views are notions in the mind. That is the culture in which we are living. The judges ought to be religiously literate.’ He also accused Parliament of having behaved ‘quite tyrannically’ over the treatment of Catholic adoption societies, which were told they would have to accept gay and non Christian staff.
Lord Woolf said the bishop’s complaints did have ‘a grounding in the facts’ and added: ‘I think it’s a very good thing that you voice those concerns because the tide goes in and the tide goes out in these areas and sometimes it’s about time the tide turned a bit and started to go back. We may have gone too far.
‘The law must be above any sectional interest even if it is an interest of a faith but at the same time it must be aware of the proper concerns of that faith. ‘The law should be developed in ways that, wherever practicable, it allows that faith to be preserved and protected.’
My father got to work even when the sea froze... then came 50 years of 'progress'
Peter Hitchens comments from Britain
Actually I didn’t much like the Fifties, which I remember as bleak and chilly and smelling of damp raincoats, stale tobacco, suet pudding and cabbage. Not to mention the chilblains.
It is the fate of those who don’t much like the present to be told all the time that they are yearning for some bit of the past, when they’re not. Even so, as I try not to laugh too loud at the pretensions of the supposedly advanced modern world, I cannot help being fairly sure that the past 50 years or so have not been a matter of unmixed progress.
I remember winters when the sea at the end of our road actually turned to ice, winters when the milk on the doorstep froze into a sort of dairy rocket, with the foil top perched on the solidified cream, winters when our garden was full of gigantic snowballs for weeks on end.
And as far as I can recall, my father still went off to his work each day and so did everyone else. The trains and buses continued to run, the roads and pavements were swiftly cleared of ice and snow.
In that Britain of town clerks, rural district councils, bus conductors with peaked caps station masters, the Gas Board, unreformed county boundaries, yards, feet, inches, pounds and ounces, we somehow managed to be far more efficient than we are in the days of chief executives, Metropolitan Authorities, Network Rail, centimetres and kilograms.
And I think more and more that we have mistaken newness, modernity and packaging for reality.
Yes, of course, the narrow, shabby restrained country of 50 years ago had its drawbacks. What is interesting is how many of them we have managed to retain in our frenzy of change – the deep and wasteful class divisions, the bad diet and general poor health, the neglect of the old, the grim cities – though now they are grim in a different, more modern way.
Our supposed progress, by contrast, is often a shallow matter of possessions, plastic and paint, accompanied by a shocking level of incompetence and defeatism, which afflict us when we face any sort of challenge – from foot-and-mouth disease to a few inches of snow.
At Christmas, in some strange but powerful way, the past lives in our minds as at no other time. Perhaps those of us who still remember it should recognise honestly during this moving and reflective season that in our haste for change and modernisation, we have lost at least as much as we have gained.
Follies of a feminized society
I get labeled a misogynist all the time. But I'm simply pointing out that men and women are different. Or at least they used to be.
We’ve done away with gender roles. As a culture we decided the smaller the chasm between male and female, the more evolved our society would be. But there’s a reason you have yours and we have ours. We’re different, and that’s a good thing. Why is it that the same people who beat the celebrate-differences drum when it comes to cultures refuse to acknowledge the biggest cultural difference on the planet? Men and women. I guarantee you Japanese men, German men, and black men have a hell of a lot more in common than your average dude and chick. Let’s face it. Women are better with the kids when they get a boo-boo, but when it comes time to disarm the roadside bomb, that’s where the fellas come in.
I have a theory that I think will put things into perspective. Look at society as a giant X. Women on one bottom leg, men on the other bottom leg. The date: 1950. Women cooked, cleaned, took care of the kids, and mended torn dungarees. Men provided, fixed the car, patched the roof, and warded off intruders with a baseball bat. Then the sixties arrived. Each gender moved a little higher up the leg of the X. Women stopped shaving their armpits and men grew their hair out. Women started going to work and men started taking their car to the mechanic. Now we get into the eighties. Figure we’re about halfway up the X leg before the cross. Men start applying mousse and eyeliner, women are more worried about having rock-hard abs than they are about their kids.
Now the nineties. School districts are being sued for girls’ rights to play on the boys’ football team, and being a woman trapped inside of a man’s body is as real a medical diagnosis as Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
In the 2000s, we officially hit the intersection of the X. Men are “metrosexuals” getting mani-pedis while their wives drive a jeep to their job as an NFL sideline reporter. If you go to a store today you can find unisex fragrances. This idea would have never worked in the fifties. Women’s perfume came in a glass slipper and smelled like baby powder and lilacs; men’s cologne came in a ship or a football and smelled like a pine cone.
I grew up in the seventies with a steady diet of “the reason girls play with dolls and boys play with trains is because of the Man’s homophobic agenda.” Bulldust! My son loves trains. All boys love trains. They can’t help it, it’s in their blood. It’s amazing that the train wasn’t invented earlier, considering that young boys have been around for millions of years. It’s heroin for them— they go berserk for it. If you put a boy alone in a room with some Thomas the Tank Engine toys and some Barbies and don’t say a word, I guarantee that he’ll go right for the trains.
What the hell were my mom and her angry hippie friends thinking? And why haven’t they apologized?
The Pope challenges the Left
It is a nice question as to whether a true or a false accusation provokes more outrage in the accused. So when, a few days before the Pope’s late visit to this island, Cardinal Kasper said that arriving at Heathrow was like arriving in a Third World country, he was much excoriated by those who hate Cardinals as a matter of principle, and was immediately accused of racism, the accusation against which no defence is known.
Quite apart from the fact that the term Third World corresponds to no racial category, the all too swift resort to the accusation always puts me in mind of Lear’s remark in Act IV:
Why dost thou lash that whore?
Strip thine own back.
Thou hotly lusts to use her in that kind
For which thou whip’st her.
In other words, the accusation of racism is often but a smokescreen for the accuser’s own doubts.
It is obvious to all who know Heathrow that the Cardinal’s remarks about our largest airport could have been interpreted in another way than racist: that its disorganisation, its atmosphere of always being on the verge of chaos or collapse to be brought about by one more passenger, its over-crowdedness, its sheer physical messiness, brings to mind the urbanisation of the Third World. Has anyone ever heard of people choosing to fly through Heathrow when an alternative presented itself, just because they liked the experience of Terminal Three? The very idea is absurd; the question answers itself; and while the tendency or ability to muddle through might be an admirable one in some circumstances, it certainly is not in the design of airports.
In other words, Cardinal Kasper’s terrible crime was to be right, to draw attention to an unpleasant aspect of our reality from which we would rather avert our attention because we cannot face the effort, and no doubt the expense, that would be required to change it.
A great deal of the hostility to the Pope’s visit was likewise caused by his having been right, at least in some things, such as the insufficiency of consumerist materialism as a basis for a satisfactory existence. There are few human types less attractive, surely, than failed materialists, which is what the British, or at least so many of them, now are. They consume without discrimination what they have not earned: which is why many of them are so grotesquely fat as well as so deeply indebted. Indeed, there is scarcely any kind of debt or deficit to which we as a nation have not resorted in order to continue (at least for a time) on our vulgar and degraded way. A nation that behaves thus is quite without honour or self-respect, collective or individual. All this Benedict XVI has seen with a perfectly clear eye; and if what George Orwell once wrote, that we have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men, we might even call the Pope the George Orwell of our time.
Gratitude is seldom the reward of those who see an unwelcome truth more clearly than others; quite the reverse. But Benedict’s ‘crime,’ apart from being German, goes much further than his failure (or worse his refusal) to screen out the unpleasant consequences of consumerist materialism from his vision, which it is the duty of all right-thinking people. He lays down a ethical challenge to our utilitarian ways of thinking; in other words, he is a heretic to be excommunicated from the Church of Righteous Liberalism.
In pointing out some of the fallacies, oversimplifications, dangers and empirically unfortunate results of contemporary rationalist utopianism, the Pope is potentially provocative of the kind of spiritual crisis that John Stuart Mill recounts in his Autobiography. When he was twenty, Mill, who had hitherto been trained as a kind of calculating machine for the felicific calculus, asked himself a question, with (for him) devastating results:
Suppose that all your objects in life were realized; that all the changes in institutions and opinions which you are looking forward to, could be erected this very instant: would this be a great joy and happiness to you?’ And an irrepressible self-consciousness answered ‘No!’At this my heart sank within me; the whole foundation on which my life was constructed fell down. All my happiness was to have been founded in the continued pursuit of this end. The end had ceased to charm, and how could there ever again be any interest in the means? I seemed to have nothing left to live for.
In other words, Benedict XVI presents not a challenge to this or that piece of social policy, but to a whole Weltanschauung. And hell hath no fury like a questionable Weltanschauung questioned.
Here it is necessary for me to declare an interest, or rather lack of one. Just as one cannot write of the question of tobacco-control without declaring that one owns no shares in a tobacco company, so I must declare that I am not a Catholic, that I am not religious, that I am not therefore an apologist for the curia or anyone else. I am, in fact, not a systematic thinker at all, lacking the capacity or patience for it. And I disagree with the Pope on many things, but I do not therefore hate him.
The quite extravagant expressions of antagonism towards him — such, for example, as that consideration be given to arresting him for crimes against humanity — seem to me to bespeak a very odd, almost paranoid, state of mind. And while I hesitate always to use Freudian concepts, surely the idea of projection, the attribution to others of discreditable inclinations, thoughts or behaviour that one has oneself had or indulged in, is appropriate here.
As everyone knows, the Catholic Church has been embroiled in a scandal about the sexual abuse of children by priests and the religious. It is the Pope’s supposed complaisance towards and responsibility for child abuse that has led people like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins to call for his arrest for crimes against humanity, under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction for such crimes. No one would say that the church has acted always with appropriate expedition in dealing with the problem.
But the problem is not only, or even mainly, that of the church, quite the contrary. It is universally accepted that step-fathers, for example, are many times more likely to commit both physical and sexual abuse against children than biological fathers; and since step-fatherhood has now become a very much more common relationship than it once was, thanks to the social reforms of the last fifty years or so, it is likely that the great majority of child abuse that occurs in this country is committed by them. Moreover, it is a matter of common knowledge that many mothers connive at such abuse because they wish to retain the favours of the step-fathers.
It follows from this that, if the Pope should be arrested for crimes against humanity, so should the following categories:
* Divorcees with children
* Single mothers
* Feminists and all other proponents of lax marriage and easy divorce, including journalists
* All legislators who have eased divorce laws and all government ministers who have either failed to support marriage by fiscal means or have actually weakened it by those means
* All judges and other lawyers who have administered easy divorce laws instead of having refused to do so
* All social workers and social security officials who have sought advantages for or administered payments to non-widowed single parents and no doubt many others.
I hope I need not say that I am not in favour of the arrest and trial of perhaps forty per cent of the population between the ages of twenty-five and sixty, or that I expect secular social ‘liberals’ either to arrest themselves or each other, but that they should does seem to follow from the argument of at least a few of their representatives. Indeed, the very resort of some liberals to the language of arrest shows how, not very far beneath a veneer of libertarianism, lies an authoritarianism that makes Benedict XVI look very liberal indeed. They want arguments to be settled by arrest: in other words, who can arrest whom, assuming that they will always be the ones to wield the handcuffs.
As is well known, Professor Dawkins has suggested that a religious upbringing should in itself be considered a form of child abuse, because in his view it is a form of child abuse; but he then drew back from the obvious inference that such an upbringing should be illegal. Of course, there are degrees of child abuse as of every other crime; but if a religious upbringing is not so abusive as to merit legal sanction, is it properly to be called child abuse at all, given the current connotations of that expression?
Given that so intelligent a man as Professor Dawkins, and others like him, were so clearly illogical on the matter of the Pope’s visit, are we not entitled to suspect a deep emotional confusion within them: for example, one caused by a robust and unaccustomed challenge to a brittle Weltanschauung?
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.