Richard Lucas (Letters, 19 January) accuses me of an extreme black-and-white approach to the cases of the registrar and the sex counsellor dismissed for refusing to deal with gay customers. I don’t think it extreme for an organisation to expect staff to work to their contracts, and if this is black-and-white thinking, how is it less reasonable than the plaintiffs’ black-and-white moral perspectives on marriage and sex, in which heterosexual and homosexual couplings are sharply distinguished? If black-and-white thinking is bad, what are we to make of Christian notions of Heaven and Hell?
To present the plaintiffs’ dismissals in the most sinister light, Lucas borrows a term from the world of religious bigotry and suggests they were seen as heretics deserving the harshest punishment. I shouldn’t need to point out that there are significant differences between burning people for even private expression of religious belief and sacking employees for not serving customers. Lillian Ladele and Gary McFarlane discriminated against customers as the services they were asked to provide for homosexuals were essentially no different from the ones they already happily provided to heterosexuals. Even when civil partnerships arrived, the type of work Ms Ladele was contracted to perform did not change; she merely got a new class of customer.
Disapproval of homosexuality is not, as Richard Lucas (Letters, 17 January) assumes “Christian”. It is based on Jewish scriptures and was not mentioned by Jesus or his disciples, only by Paul. Few “Christians” accept his ignorant, bigoted views of women, so why should they agree with his ideas on homosexuals? Most Muslims oppose homosexuality as did the Nazis. Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and other autocrats rail against them. Mr Lucas thinks “mainstream” Christians have similar views without saying what he means by the term.
Even if this is the case, it does not mean they are right. For centuries “mainstream Christians” supported racism, slavery, misogyny, genocide, capital punishment, child abuse and so on, claiming to base their views on the Bible. What is presented as “morality” is often naked prejudice, based on ignorance and fear. Calling it Christian, Islamic etc, does not make it OK.
West Graham Street
Robert Canning (Letters, 18 January) seems to express his approval of the European Court of Human Rights ruling that Islington Council was entitled to dismiss Lillian Ladele because of her objection to conducting civil partnerships. He fails to mention the fact that Miss Ladele had been in post long before the introduction of civil partnerships and, therefore, that such a requirement was not part of her original job description.
Also, Mr Canning considers that it would be hypocritical for Miss Ladele to accept the notion of her remaining in a job situation where her colleagues would be expected to officiate at same-sex unions. I understand that, in England at least, most teachers are expected to lead a certain number of events per year of religious worship but that atheist teachers are permitted to opt out of this duty, presumably on the assumption that other staff
members will be available “to fill in for the objector”. Is this not a more equitable type of arrangement, where local staff numbers allow, for both of these situations – one that respects the rights of all concerned without requiring a ruling that one right should trump another.
If the governments in Edinburgh and London press ahead with their plans to redefine marriage, hundreds of thousands of mainly public sector workers could potentially be thrown out of their jobs unless they agree to endorse gay marriage.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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