The Times is going to start charging for use of its website shortly; so I took the decision to go elsewhere for my web news. The Telegraph site (I'm sorry, I know it's desperately pro-Tory) is pretty good - lots of comment stuff, very artsy, reasonably good sports, surprising amount of faith news. And today there is an article, and a link to a letter, that at first seems totally reasonable - and then just wrong to me.
It's here. have a read & come back to me. The letter, if you click that link, is a way down that page & headed "jobs bar for Christians".
The idea is this: various people have either gone or been taken to court to uphold their right to their beliefs in the workplace. One was sacked for wearing a crucifix. One for offering to pray for a sick student. There is a couple in trouble for not wanting gays in their home - which is a B&B. A registrar wouldn't conduct civil partnership ceremonies. A relationship counsellor has his day before the appeals today because he won't give counselling to a homosexual couple.
OK. Here's my opinion for all its non-legal value.
No-one should get into trouble anywhere for wearing a cross. Or a crescent. Or any religious symbol - unless they are doing so simply and obviously to antagonise somebody else. But things of value are to be valued in an open society, even if we have different values. Likewise, offering to pray is not a threat but a kindness; at most, if someone has been offended, the teacher's job was not compromised or halted, and a quite word about making sure appropriate things were offered in appropriate places should have been all the repremand required.
The B&B. Is it a home or a business? And in the hospitality trade, should a Christian go into business with an attitude that some people are worth welcoming into your home and others should be judged and left at the door? Jesus welcomed approaches from prostitutes - not cos he wanted their trade coming his way, but cos he valued them as people. I feel something of this is missing in this tale.
I'm afraid I have no sympathy with the registrar at all. I'm a wedding registrar, and if people satisfy all the rules, I have to marry them. I do get folk coming my way that I think are probably unsuitable - and it really doesn't matter. It's not "Marcus Green" marrying them, it's the Vicar of St Catherine's. It's me in my professional role. The registrar who won't conduct civil ceremonies is confusing themselves with their job and ought to do their job or get a different one - and it's nothing to do with their faith.
Besides which, not liking gay partnerships and wearing a cross or praying for people are different issues. A cross is essential in Christian belief, if inessential in apparel. Prayer for others is commanded of us. Discrimmination against people because of their sexual practice is a modern fad which I hope the church gets over, the quicker the better. People are people. Allowing this kind of stuff to go past as distinctive Christian behaviour without stopping and going, "hang on a minute - " is about as ungodly as we get.
And I feel pretty similar about the relationship counsellor. If there are people in need and you are paid to help them, you do your best for the person in front of you no matter what your personal feelings are. They need help. It's your job. If you can help, help. If not - well, if you don't know what to do, suggest someone else. But don't say "God hates you so I'm not going to help". That's untrue, ungodly and the worst kind of lazy ethical thinking which we are suddenly not only allowing but it seems sanctifying in the church.
These things are not the same. It's time we weren't caught up in the moment but rather stopped it. Now.