To hear many Christian apologists, one might think that it was their religion that championed such enlightenment values as equality and freedom to the fore of Western civilization. That’s a lie. Christianity has had to be dragged kicking and screaming away from its righteous and pious grasp on political power and beaten into submission by law to take its place in the modern secular liberal democracy. But the fight is not yet over.
From Britain comes this appeal by the Rt Revd Michael Scott-Joynt, Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Michael Langrish, Bishop of Exeter and Chair of the Church Legislation Advisory Service, and Rt Revd Peter Forester, Bishop of Chester. Note that they are all men. This appeal is regarding the Equity Bill that threatens to subject the Church of England to – gasp – the same kind of equality ‘enforced’ on businesses and public services. Shocking, I know. Let’s read how these men phrase their concerns regarding the secular value of equality their faith supposedly champions:
“This Monday, as Peers meet to consider the Government’s Equality Bill, they will be asked to vote on an issue of great importance to Christians and all people of faith. At stake is how we, as a liberal democracy based on Christian values, strike the right balance between the rights and responsibilities of different groups to be protected from harassment and unfair discrimination and the rights of churches and religious organisations to appoint and employ people consistently with their guiding doctrine and ethos.
“The Christian Churches, alongside many other faiths, support the Equality Bill’s wider aims in promoting fairness in society and improving redress for those who have suffered unjust treatment.”
“However, unless the present drafting of the Bill is changed, churches and other faiths will find themselves more vulnerable to legal challenge than under the current law.
Note how these religious men assume that the secular liberal democracy is based not on secular values and secular law, which is the truth, but on this ill-defined notion of ‘Christian values’. The truth is already being twisted here. Then they ask that we recognize that individual equality should be submerged in favour of rights and freedoms for ‘groups’, a set of rights for these groups that are in need of ‘balance,’ which is code for special rights for special groups like…. oh, I don’t know, maybe churches because they are very special and deserve exemption from anything as dirty and mundane as a level legal playing field. Something as dirty and mundane as equal legal rights is properly viewed to be harassment and discrimination! In the minds of these men, not being granted special dispensation to maintain discriminatory practices is… wait for it… discrimination! But let’s be clear, they reassure us, this church is all for promoting fairness and equality… in a ‘wider’ sense… so wide, in fact, that churches and other special interest groups under the banner of religious belief can avoid the equality law altogether so that they can continue unimpeded to discriminate all they want, exempt from prosecution under secular law.
I think it’s time to get ready for more kicking and screaming because these biased, bigoted, bullying, and chauvinistic theologies are not going to ‘champion’ any advancement in secular law that promotes equality and respect of individuals; they will do as they have always done and fight such progress tooth and nail.