The Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) has welcomed the recent legal ruling against a Relationship Councillor who was dismissed for refusing to work with Lesbian or Gay couples.
This follows earlier rulings against a Christian registrar who demanded the right to refuse to perform Civil Partnership ceremonies, and a Christian nurse who wished to wear a crucifix in defiance of a ban against jewellery.
A backlash, led by such influential figures as former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has demanded that religious believers be granted special exemptions from performing duties that are not in keeping with their religious beliefs, and even recommended the establishment of special courts which are more attuned to religious views.
Humanism argues for freedom of belief and religion but against the granting of special privileges to any belief system, especially when this is used to justify discrimination against others. In contrast, some religious leaders seem to believe that gay people should be the only group in society against which it is legitimate to discriminate
GALHA Chair Adam Knowles commented:
“While we have learned not to be surprised by a religious backlash against this brave, clear and fair legal ruling, we did not expect to see the same hoary old fallacy being pedalled that if people with religious beliefs are not allowed to discriminate then they are somehow themselves the victim of discrimination. Making the would-be victimiser out to be the victim is a move beloved of bullies through the ages.”
“Religious leaders should also be careful what they ask for. It never seems to occur to them that the same “logic” could be used to justify discrimination against them. If the religious conscience demands, for example, a refusal to serve gay people, then what is to stop someone with sincere anti-religious beliefs demanding the right to remain in their job while refusing to deal with, say Anglicans or Catholics or Moslems? Their conscience could be just as deeply felt, and just as rational.”
“At best you will end up with a deeply divided society, with parallel institutions and arrangements to cater for people with different beliefs. At worst you elevate certain “religious” beliefs above the conscience and the rights of the rest of the population. And since even Lord Carey is presumably not suggesting that any religious belief, however extreme or eccentric should be entitled to special respect or consideration, you then face the nightmarish task of determining which religions are “respectable”, and which are not. The whole notion is a logical nonsense.”
“Humanists in contrast believe in one society, governed by one set of rules, but with freedom of opinion and expression for all. Of course this means that sometimes a religious believer, or a humanist for that matter may be asked to do something in their job that goes strongly against their conscience.
“In that case, the honourable, dignified recourse is to argue your case, and if you lose to resign. This is a tough rule, but fair to all.
“The current law protects the religious and the non-religious alike. By yet again demanding special privileges the religious lobby only further undermine their case.
“Their persistence, against all common sense, and all sense of fairness is a warning that this is a struggle that will continue.”