Questionable Motives

April 30, 2010

Faith-based sexual ethics: special sensitivity or outright bigotry?

Let’s ask a British judge.

The case brought to us by the Guardian and indented by us:

A marriage guidance counsellor’s bid to challenge his sacking for refusing to give sex therapy to homosexuals has led to a serious clash between the Christian lobby and the judiciary.

I can understand why a christian marriage guidance counselor  would not want to give sex therapy to homosexuals. Gay sex is so… so… icky, not to mention an act worthy of death according to certain writings dictated by an all loving creator.

In a powerful dismissal of the application to appeal, Lord Justice Laws said legislation to protect views held purely on religious grounds could not be justified. He said it was an irrational idea “but it is also divisive, capricious and arbitrary“.

Oh my. That’s hardly an appropriately apologetic position to take before dealing with actions based on religious intolerance. The nerve! What’s a good christian to do? Call in the theological Big Guns for support:

The former archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey had sent a statement to a judge hearing the appeal application by Gary McFarlane. The senior church figure called for a special panel of judges with a “proven sensitivity and understanding of religious issues” to hear the case.

Yes, let us stack the court with judicial religious supporters. Then we’ll be see what an unbiased judiciary appropriately sensitive might look like in action.

I can’t help but wonder who might determine what the qualifications of “proven sensitivity’ should be? Perhaps religious Big Guns themselves? What a grand (and sensitive, not to mention almost unbiased) idea.

Lord Carey said recent court decisions involving Christians had used “dangerous” reasoning and this could lead to civil unrest.

Oh yes, very dangerous indeed… to those who wish to establish religious favouritism by the State. But hey, if the threat of religious violence works so well for Muslims, then isn’t it high time we see the same tactic by christians? It’s all about results in service to the lord… the supernatural one, that is, and not the judicial one. Not that violence has to actually be done, mind you… just the threat to help the judiciary to be a little more… sensitive.

Lord Justice Laws’s ruling said: “We do not live in a society where all the people share uniform religious beliefs. The precepts of any one religion – any belief system – cannot, by force of their religious origins, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of any other. If they did, those out in the cold would be less than citizens and our constitution would be on the way to a theocracy, which is of necessity autocratic.

The law of a theocracy is dictated without option to the people, not made by their judges and governments. The individual conscience is free to accept such dictated law, but the state, if its people are to be free, has the burdensome duty of thinking for itself.”

What a remarkably clear and cogent argument. We cannot reduce the freedom of all citizens by using the state (through its laws) to make any one religious belief system ‘louder’ in a citizen’s life than any other.

Can we get this guy on the US Supreme Court? No? Oh well. He probably wouldn’t pass the religious test so heavily favoured by US senators in the vetting process anyway (shhh… not supposed to tell anyone about that).

Lord Carey said: “The description of religious faith in relation to sexual ethics as ‘discriminatory’ is crude and illuminates a lack of sensitivity to religious belief.

Well, it may seem crude and insensitive to a supporter who thinks sexual ethics is a branch of religious belief, but to the rest of us it’s still discrimination. If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then calling it a duck isn’t really a question of sensitivity; it’s a question of accuracy and honesty.

The comparison of a Christian, in effect, with a ‘bigot’ (ie, a person with an irrational dislike to homosexuals) begs further questions. It is further evidence of a disparaging attitude to the Christian faith and its values.

Well, it begs no questions but may raise some.

Funny, isn’t it, how challenging a religiously inspired notion in the public domain is so easily characterized by religious supporters as some kind of attack – in this case a disparaging one – against religious belief in general rather than what it actually is: a legitimate public response to the threat against equal rights and freedoms of all from a religiously inspired  and biased imposition.

That any religion thinks itself justified to rule on what is and is not sexually ethical is itself merely an assumption of colossal arrogance and the obvious foundation for religious bigotry in this matter. Sure, anyone can have an opinion on the matter, but something more is required to elevate that opinion to a position of rule. Claiming favouritism by god may curry support from the devout for those religious leaders who would enunciate these rules on god’s behalf (He who always seems unable to speak for himself in these matters, somewhat surprisingly), but the assumption that religious leaders have any greater expertise than others offers us no reasonable justification of the unfounded claim. The medical expertise, the biological expertise, the social and philosophical expertise on sexual ethics may offer us some meaningful insight into the ethics of sex, but an Iron Age religious belief set unfettered by any need to justify and validate its assumptions? I don’t think so. Asserting as Lord Carey does that the belief set deserves special dispensation and sensitivity to have its rule on what is and is not sexually ethical be enforced by secular law in order to avoid violence by its adherents if that rule is denied, is a rationalization of the worst kind: it reveals a very disparaging attitude to the civil rights of all and does violence to reasoning itself.

That’s why faith-based sexual ethics is outright bigotry.

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1 Comment »

  1. What amazes me is the oxymoron of beliefs here – on one hand we clearly have someone that believes that they should be doing something to help people who have emotional or relationship problems – either to benefit society or to be a better person. On the other hand clearly have this is someone who can not help others because they hold bigoted views against certain groups in society. The fact that this had to go to court just shows how faith really is blind to the basics of reason.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — May 1, 2010 @ 5:40 am | Reply


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