Friday, February 08, 2008

before we get to Sharia Law...

...I want to talk about this article in which a gay man has won a £47,000 payout after not being offered a job as a church youthworker. It might not surprise you to know that this has really annoyed me.

Quoting from the article,

"In his evidence to the original tribunal, Bishop Priddis said anyone in a sexual relationship outside marriage would have been rejected."

As it says further down, this is the crux of the matter, not sexual orientation. On this basis, the fuss made by Stonewall was misguided, and thanks to their campaigning (and doubtless the media portrayal) we have an incident which makes the church appear homophobic, when it wasn't.

Now, you might or might not agree with the idea that anyone in a sexual relationship outside marriage would have been rejected. But it's part of the teaching of the church, and as I've said before, I feel that it's important that leaders do their best to be exemplary. No-one is perfect, but as people so often cry "Christians should practise what they preach".*

Again, you might or might not agree with that. But remember that other faiths - Judaism and Islam included - have similar, if not more stringent rules and ideals and you should be careful what you say before you single out Christians.

In this case I am also appalled by the large payout. Given that the issue never appeared to be sexual orientation in the first place, I think that to have sued a charitable organisation** for a large five figure sum was absolutely wicked. It certainly doesn't fit with the characteristics one would expect from a church youth-worker...


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*No-one ever asks Christians to practise what they preach "but only when it suits me".

**It should be noted that in many cases, church youth-workers do far more than "church" work and often contribute greatly to the wider, secular, community.

5 comments:

Adam said...

It seems to me like a pretty clear-cut case of discrimination based on sexual orientation, considering that John Reaney wasn't in a sexual relationship outside of marriage and did not intend to enter one. (See many of the other BBC news reports about this case to verify this.) Would the bishop have rejected an unmarried heterosexual man in the same position?

Many Christians like to claim that there is a clear distinction between sexual orientation and practice, and claims not to be homophobic because it rejects practice but not orientation. This case shows just how false that claim sometimes is...

Gareth P said...

I think it's interesting that the church line of saying they weren't discriminating based on sexual orientation (which for the record i don't believe) but becasue this person may or may not be having sex outside of marrige. The fact is thats still discrimination and under UK law no form of discrimination is allowed. Imagine the add - "Church Youth worker - only married applicants" is hardly and different from "Church youth worker - only white applicants" - discrimination is discrimination is discrimination. The fact is the church couldn't even insist upon only christian applicants as you're certainly NOT allowed to refuse to give someone a job based upon their religion. As you said JP "like it or lump it" (my mum always used to say that too - coincidence?) that's the law.

JP said...

OK, so I've only read the BBC report, but the implication in the article is that he was in a sexual relationship and that this - and not his sexual orientation - was the reason.

If that wasn't the case, then yes, in this instance the claim of rejecting practise but not orientation is slightly unfounded. There are many Christians, however, like me, who would have no issue with a celibate gay person in such a role (and who would equally take issue with a straight, unmarried but not celibate applicant).

I can accept that some are likely to find the notion that "straight people can get around the celibacy issue by being married, whereas gay people can't" difficult. The Biblical teaching, and that stuck to by the Christian church over the years is that God intended sex to be enjoyed between one man and one woman, and although some will struggle with that, that is the underlying principle I'm going to stick to here.

Considering Gareth's point about discrimination, it needs to be borne in mind that there is also an issue of suitability for the job. Is it discrimination, for example, that I can't apply to be a driver for Eddie Stobart simply because I don't hold an HGV license? I would argue that to be suitable for a leadership role in the church (or any other organisation, for that matter) you must be prepared to adhere to and uphold its teaching, ideals and principles.

I'd also like to note again that other faiths and religious groups have similar, and often more stringent, rules. To quote from Wikipedia's article on 'Homosexuality and Islam',

"Homosexuality is a crime and forbidden in most Islamic countries, like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Iran, etc. In some relatively secular or multi-religious Islamic countries, this is not the case, Albania and Turkey being examples."

Should Stonewall not be sticking to their principles across the board and making a fuss about this?

Would anyone be outraged if I was refused a job in a Mosque for not being prepared to follow Islamic teaching?

dave said...

JP You intelligent man you, your arguments are getting more silly by the day, it's scary watching you dissolve.

The HGV argument, classic.

The Islam argument, they're nastier than us! Hey I might believe in God but at least I don't bomb people! You're cracking me up here.

All that matters here is Gareth P's comment:

"Discrimination is discrimination is discrimination."

JP said...

Dave, Dave, Dave.

"Discrimination is discrimination is discrimination" doesn't apply to everything regardless.

As I said, if you're looking to employ someone there is an issue of suitability for the job. Skin colour does not affect anyone's suitability to do anything, and so to employ someone (or not) on that basis would be discrimination.

Conversely, my HGV example might have been unoriginal, but it makes the point.

So let's consider the issue in hand of working for the church. Sexual Orientation does not affect your ability to do a job, and so on that basis it would have been discrimination if he was celibate and that was the reason given.

On the other hand, part of the job would have been to "uphold the teaching of the church", and to live a life of example. We've touched on the "sex issue" here for obvious reasons (noting, don't forget, that the teaching also applies to straight people), but upholding the teaching of the church encompasses many things with which not everyone will be comfortable.

Anyone who feels that to comply as such is not for them should not apply in the first place. Is it discrimination to sack someone from a City job for refusing to adhere to the corporate lifestyle and dress code?

"The Islam argument, they're nastier than us! Hey I might believe in God but at least I don't bomb people!" - I'm glad I made you laugh. It's one of the services I like to provide for free in this Corner of the Blogosphere.

When you've finished laughing however, you might want to note that I wasn't making excuses for what I believe by comparing myself with others. I was merely making the point that people are often vocally critical of Christians, whilst not being similarly critical of others.

At this point I could ask if that in itself could be viewed as discrimination? Or is life not as black and white as you thought it was after all?