How we left the Church behind…

I feel a bit sorry for the Catholic Church. I’m not a organized religion man myself, in fact I would call myself an agnostic. However the pace of societal change seems to have outstripped there dogmatic approach to the world. The current row over gay adoption is an example of this. They are effectively blackmailing the government to grant their adoption agencies exemption from new laws banning discrimination against same-sex couples. Whatever your view on this I think its safe to say that long gone are the days when the church wielded the sort of power to demand this. Yet it leads to a bigger issue of their Catholic rights and beliefs. One wonders how far the government would push the issue if the central beliefs of different religions were involved….

36 thoughts on “How we left the Church behind…

  1. The central beliefs of all the monotheistic religions are the same on this issue. Sadly, the scriptures of all are unanimous in declaring homosexuality a sin. There are many reasons why I can’t belong to those religions. That’s just one of them.

    A religion can’t “keep pace with societal change” unless it’s not true, so the religious have something of a problem. By definition, they think their laws come from God, who is not notably fashion-conscious.

    As long as non-religious adoption agencies make children available to gay couples, why would any reasonably-libertarian conservative feel the need to compel Church-run organisations to do the same, let alone to call their position on the subject “blackmail?” How are gay couples inconvenienced? Why would they even want to deal with Catholic or Muslim agencies?

    If laws are forcing people to act contrary to their consciences, surely there is cause to reflect on the need for the law? Our main societal problem is with increasing numbers of people who are alienated and unwilling to comply with laws. Why add millions of law-abiding religious people to that category?

    If you wonder why I am posting here, I am a former BUCA chairman and was curious to see how my successors (a couple of decades on) view things.

  2. Tom, good to see you commenting here!

    As far as I am concernced the most important thing has to be the welfare of the child. If there is the option that a child can be adopted by a gay couple, and it is certain that they can provide a stable home for the adoptee, then there should be no exemptions for Catholic adoption agencies, none at all. The welfare of Children who have no parents is not something that should be compromised by the Catholic Church. I’m afraid they shouldn’t be allowed to stand in the way of Child welfare.

  3. I beg to differ from Tom as to whether scripture is at all clear on the issue of homosexuality. in fact, the much quoted reference in Leviticus contains injuctions against all sorts of behaviour we consider prefectly normal today – growing wheat and corn next to each other, for example. All these ‘sins’ are to be punished with stoning, apparently. Notably, Christ fails to make any mention of homosexuality in any of His teachings.

    As to the rights and wrongs of the Church’s objections, it seems to me that they are being more than little disingenuous in pleading ‘religious liberty’ and ‘freedom of thought’. Catholics and anyone else, are entitled to believe whatever they want about homosexuality. The new law only prohibits discrimination when services are offered. So, for example, a ‘Catholic Coffee Shop’ couldn’t refuse to serve a gay couple. Likewise, a Catholic adoption agency couldn’t refuse to offer its service to a gay couple.

    Is this really so controversial? We have long had laws that prohibit those who offer services from discriminating in offering those services on the grounds of race. The days of ‘No blacks’ signs in pubs or on tenant adverts are, thankfully, long gone. I see no reason why this should not now be the case with gay people. It is intolerable that gay people be refused a cup of coffee in a cafe, or a room in a B&B or, indeed, the services of an adoption aganecy, because of their sexuality. If the church is unable to offer a servce without discriminating, then stop offering it. If you don’t want gays or blacks or whomever in your home, don’t open it as a B&B.

    As to the rights and wrongs of ‘gay adoption’, the whole issue has become shrouded in rhetoric. The law of this country is absolutely clear that a child’s welfare is the only consideration in any adoption case. In reality, this means that only exceptionally hard to adopt children are placed with gay carers – very often children with profoundly complex needs who would otherwise spend their days in some ghastly children’s home. Precisely the sort of children’s home, in fact, that the Catholic Church has such a lamentably poor record of running.

  4. To be clear, I personally have no problem with gay couples adopting children. But then I am not religious. Nor am I theologian enough to debate whether Christian doctrine is clear or not. Suffice it to say, the various monotheistic churches are taking a consistent line.

    Given that secular agencies exist which will organise adoptions by gay couples, why compel religious agencies to act against their consciences? Is your view at all affected by the fact that the families who give children up to Catholic (or Muslim or other religious) agencies for adoption probably have their own views on the subject, as expressed by that choice?

    How do we maintain a tolerant society where people of many different convictions “rub along” if a particular view is imposed? What subjects do modern conservatives consider to be a matter for individual conscience?

    I certainly agree that it’s far better for children to be adopted than stay in state or church care. I think you may find that the politically-correct restrictions imposed by leftist social services employees are a greater obstacle to getting children adopted than this particular issue. Nor, if you think about it, are gay couples very likely ever to have applied to Catholic or Muslim agencies! Therefore this new law will not improve childrens prospects of adoption and the “best interests of the child” line is at best mistaken and and worst disingenuous.

    A Catholic magistrate has resigned rather than be compelled to make adoption orders contrary to his conscience. If you draw a Venn diagram of all the groups whose beliefs (otherwise in line with ours) intersect on this point you may find that you will exclude large portions of the population from charitable and public service with any connection to child welfare, thus cementing the hold of the left in those areas.

    Whether or not New Labour is clever enough to have planned this, it will benefit by excluding many with strong non-Socialist consciences from social service, public service and charitable work, giving vulnerable members of society the impression that only good Socialists care about them.

  5. I’m not sure that acting according to your conscience is an excuse for discrimination. More widely, we do not allow individuals to exempt themselves from the law because their conscience dictates otherwise.

    Further, I don’t think we can hide behind tolerance. We don’t extend tolerance by tolerating criminality. There are many areas where people exercise their individual conscience, but not so they can pick and choose which discrimination laws to abide by.

    Neither can you excuse the Catholic Church from discrimination laws on the basis that ‘gay couples are not very likely to apply to Catholic or Muslim agencies’. That’s not a good enough reason, seeing as while gay couples may well be unlikely to use Catholic or Muslim agencies, some just might want to.

    You either have an anti-discrimination law or you don’t. Exempting groups because they might not like it can’t be a serious option.

  6. I agree with Tom.

    There are agencies which will place children with gay couples for adoption, so why do all have to?

    As for the coffee shop example, a Catholic coffee shop would have no problem serving coffee to a gay or straight couple, married or not.

    Why do we need everyone to be the same?

    AS for the welfare of the child argument, firstly has anyone carried out studies on outcomes for gay, co habiting and married couples to see which ones work best? I doubt it so we don’t know.

    However even if we did, the fact is that gay people can and do adopt (well they do since the very recent change in the law) from those that are able to help them. Each adoption agency tends to specialise in who it deals with. If they are specialist then making them all the same seems silly.

    Lastly, the Catholic church is not blackmailing the government any more than the government is coercing them.

    Oh, Daniel “I’m not sure that acting according to your conscience is an excuse for discrimination. More widely, we do not allow individuals to exempt themselves from the law because their conscience dictates otherwise.”

    *cough* we do. For example Siehks don’t have to wear motorcycle helmets, Jews and Muslims can have their meat slaughtered according to religious practice, rather than according to animal welfare legislation.

    I also have this on my blog:

  7. Mr White… you either have anti-discrimination laws or you don’t. It is completely intolerable that the Church should be able to opt out. You simply abide, or alternatively you don’t get yourself into a position where you feel you have to break the law. *cough*

  8. We clearly do need laws prohibiting discrmination, whether it be laws prohibiting paying women less; or against discrimination against black or gay people, for example. The libertarian argument against these laws, whilst superficially attractive, founders on the rocks of reality: Britain is undoubtedly a more civilised and harmonious country since the passing of the race and sex equality laws 30 years ago.

    The religious liberty argument requires close examination. The proposed change in the law does not impact on freedom of religion or expression at all. Catholics are free to believe that homosexuals are condemned to hell and to say so if they wish. What they ought not to be free to do is to offer a non-religious service, in this case adoption, and then restrict the ambit of those to whom the service is offered.

    This law has nothing whatever to do with the debate about gay adoption. It does not affect the basis upon which decisions regarding the adopting of children are based. Those considerations are clearly set out in the Children Act and the recent Adoption Act.

    The Catholic Magistrate who has, apparently, recently resigned, clearly has no knowledge of the criteria which he or she ought to have been applying in adoption cases. In essence, a particular couple would only be recommended to be adoptive parents if placement with them was thought to be in the best interests of a particular child. If this magistrate wants to add the ryder to that test: “best interests of the child, except where that might mean placement with a gay couple” then, good riddance to them as he or she is unfit to do the job.

    Daniel is, if I may say so, quite right to say that ‘religious belief’ ought to be no excuse under the law for exemption from anti-discrimination legislation. Who, aferall, is to be the arbiter of what constitues legitimate religious belief? Some Afrikaans churches justified apartheid by reference to scripture. Is racial discrimination to be justified by reliance upon religion? If one accepts the principle of anti-discrimination legislation then, I’m afraid, these laws have to be absolute or they don’t work at all.

  9. Daniel, you say that we need these laws but you do not say why, Gareth says that we need all sorts of laws against discrimination. Well we have quite a few.

    The question is do we NEED more, and if so what perceived ill is it supposed to cure, and how many people will it affect?

  10. Gareth, as someone who was there 30 years ago, I disagree. The forerunners of the BNP were never so strong or taken as seriously as that party is now. Laws against discrimination have created resentments that neither existed widely, nor had any significant impact on life chances.

    If racism was such a problem in Britain 30 years ago, how come Indian and Chinese Brits are now on average better educated and better paid? Did British racists distinguish between citizens of Pakistani and Indian origin as they were growing up? Did they feel more warmly towards those of Chinese rather than West Indian descent?

    The victim culture such legislation has created tends to infantilise “protected” groups, making them look to Mummy – the State – whenever they perceive a problem and providing a dangerously convenient excuse for all failures. It is dangerous even to ask why Indian Brits are (on average) so successful and Pakistani Brits are (on average) such failures. There is an important question to be answered which we dare not even ask because it’s (shock, horror) “racist”.

    Conservatives should surely want all citizens to have the best chance to stand on their own feet and be all they can be, taking responsibility for their own successes and failures.

    As more and more “victim groups” claim protection, the State grows larger and larger. After all everyone is in a minority in some aspect of their lives. Labour has already brought the State payroll back to 1978 levels, but this time without any productive elements at all. At least in 1978 some State employees were making bad cars or bad steel, now they just make trouble and cost. My current firm employs many dozens of people just to deal with the State’s employment, anti-discrimination and tax bureaucracies. The public payroll is bigger than you think if you count those people as working for the State. Trust me, that’s whaat they do. They are certainly of no earthly use to me or my customers; I count all their employment costs as tax. To my customers, of course, they are just additional cost.

    Equality before the law is the best we can reasonably hope for. Every “minority of one” should be treated fairly by the law. How individuals treat each other (short of physical harm) is a matter for them. Please don’t fall for Labour’s lie that the world is better thanks to their anti-discrimination laws. That way lies madness – and ideological defeat.

    Reading the posts here, I am now really curious to know what modern student Conservatives think differentiates them from Labour. Like them, you seem to think more in terms of warring interests between collectives, than of competing exercise of individual discretion. I don’t mean to be rude, but what makes you Conservatives at all?

  11. I’m sorry Tom, but I profoundly disagree with you that anti-discrimination laws have made the position of ethnic minorities worse, or that the laws were unecessary.

    Black people in Britain in the 1950’s, ’60’s and ’70’s faced real, not imagined discrimination. They had worse housing than their white compatriots; were offered worse and lower paid jobs and, on a daily basis, were the victims of low level abuse/discrimination. We know now that the police, for example, did not police the cities of this country in a colour blind way. The Scarman enquiry was, afterall, accepted even by Mrs Thatcher’s government.

    This is not to say that the pendulum has not swung too far and that those who see ‘institutional racism’ behind every door are, to some extent, self-serving and riding the gravy-train.

    I hoenstly don’ think that the real prejudice that black people suffered in that era can be dismissed as being part of the ‘victim culture’. And I certainly don’t see myself as being quasi-socialist for accepting the need for laws to regulate discriminatory behaviour.

    The idea that Conservatives are libertarians prepared to leave all individuals to the mercy of the market and their own wits is, of course, a very recent one. There is a much longer tradition of Conservatives legislating to abate the worst excesses of the market of human behaviour, be it the slave trade; child labour; to introduce urban sanitation; introducing compulsory education etc. etc. I don’t see any great difficulty then with being both a tory and wishing to lose the law to protect minorities from discrimination, if it is proportionate to do so.

  12. Gareth, I note the phrase “If it is propotionate to do so”.

    Do gay men and women feel so discriminated against that it is proportionate? And if so where is the evidence?

    Then, is it proportionate to force people (or rather try) to do something against their will?

  13. Gareth, You have set up a cheap parody of my views as a straw man to knock down. You clearly have a future in politics!

    You need to question your sources when forming views as to what has changed socially in the last 30 years. If the Government hired a group of people to protect redheads against discrimination, I guarantee they would produce regular reports to show that they are failing in their mission for lack of legal powers and resources.

    I was not paying much attention in the 50’s and 60’s, but I was very much there in the 70’s. I don’t recognise the Britain you describe. I grew up in working class areas where what football team you supported was more important than any class or ethnic issues. The only purveyor of class and racial hatred in those communities was the Labour Party. They did it to solidify their vote and create a demand for Big Government.

    Unsurprisingly (I didn’t meet any conservatives until University) I fell for it myself and was an active Communist – suspended from school for my revolutionary activities – before seeing the ideological light.

    Sadly, Mrs Thatcher’s government did not come about at the end of the 70’s because of a sea-change in British thought. Academia was as left-wing as ever. Ask your older lecturers who were there. It happened because the national credit ran out, the IMF sent in the bailiffs, there were unburied bodies in the streets and it became apparent to the meanest intellect that Labour’s only idea was to tax, borrow and spend the proceeds corruptly wherever it might buy them votes. No change there.

    After an initial stage in which their own members (particularly trade unionists) were the most virulent racists, Labour figured out that building fear of race hatred among immigrant communities would serve the same political objective as building fear of class hatred. Soon they saw that as the traditional working class declined, they could cobble together a coalition of victim groups which would provide them with a new supply of useful fools. They may even have worked out that destroying selective education would destroy social mobility and hold some of their traditional voters in place while they built their new coalition.

    No improvements in community relations over the last 30 years are demonstrably attributable to law. No-one learns to respect anyone or anything by being punished for not doing so. If the laws were the cause of the perceived changes, every ethnic minority group would have improved its economic and educational position. As it is, citizens of Chinese and Indian origin are doing better than the white population, on average, while other ethnic groups are doing worse. [“Racism” alert – I am about to speculate why]

    The conservative traditions of family values, self-reliance and taking education seriously to be found in the Chinese and Indian communities led (and still lead) to strong family pressure on their young people to strive. That is why they have steadily established themselves successfuly in British society at all levels. That is why employers have hired and promoted them without regard to their ethnicity and why, when they have established businesses, they have had no problem in finding and retaining customers, suppliers and staff. They have earned the respect they now enjoy as British citizens and it is frankly demeaning to say it was not earned, but imposed by law.

    Such values could be transmitted to all children, regardless of class or race, in our state schools but we would currently rather demonise our ancestors and denounce our nation’s historic values. Why? Ask yourself the most useful question of all – “cui bono?”

    Unfortunately, my speculation cannot be tested because political correctness (formerly known as orthodoxy, intolerance or prejudice) means that an academic who dared to research the matter would be howled down and fired. On the other hand, any academic who wants government funding to produce evidence in support of orthodoxy will be buried in cash.

    If you think in terms of conflicting interest groups and collectives, you have lost sight of the basics of conservatism which is about individuals in families and a State (however large or small you think it should be and conservative opinion varies) that supports their right to live their lives as they think best. Laws should be colour blind, religion blind, class blind, sex-blind and interest-group blind. In other words, they should seek to do justice to any given individual who may encounter them.

    I realise that basic statement of the conservaive credo has become controversial. If that was my generation’s fault, I can only apologise. Until it becomes uncontroversial again, I respectfully suggest that you will not be living in a free society and your remaining liberties will be steadily eroded.

  14. The person who equated being homosexual with being black is surely not serious. Black people are born that way,homosexuals are not. To seek to conflate colour of skin with moral behaviour is a form of specious legerdemain.

    Why do homosexuals want access to children? The link between homosexuality and paedophilia is established. To ask catholics to hand children over to homosexuals is tantamaount to asking them to hand over children to King Herod. (It out-Herods Herod.)

    This is what happens when we let the homosexual genie out of the closet. Just more pushing of the envelope. Bring back clause 28…

  15. They are effectively blackmailing the government to grant their adoption agencies exemption from new laws banning discrimination against same-sex couples.

    How do you work that out? Rightly or wrongly, the Catholic church regards it as always being in the best interests of the child to be brought up either by two parents, one of either sex, or, in some cases, by a single parent. Note that it’s not saying that it’s necessarily a bad thing for the child to be brought by a gay couple; just that a more traditional structure is, given the choice, the better of the two options.

    Anyway, rightly or wrongly, that’s the Church’s view — not that of an individual cardinal but of the Roman Catholic Church. The government says, ‘We can only do business with you on the basis you’ll consider applications from gay couples.’ The Church says, ‘Sorry, but that’s asking us to act, in our view, against the best interests of the children, and that’s not something we’re prepared to do. We can’t work with you on those terms and, if those are to be the terms, we have no choice but to close the agencies’.

    How is acting according to your principles ‘blackmail’?

  16. I don’t think that gays should be barred from guesthouses or the adoption process, but I am wholly against this law. It’s a sledgehammer to crack a nut and whilst I’m not necessarily prepared to equate the likely impact with race legislation, I don’t think it will reduce homophobia, quite the reverse.

    Although Gareth states that the law does not impact on religious freedom or expression at all, I think he is wrong. To begin with key clauses are victim-based.

    Amongst other things, the loosely worded act outlaws conduct related to sexuality that “creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”.

    Any complainant can (and will) report crimes anywhere on the back of this clause and we know how seriously police take hate crimes. The limits of the law will be tested and religious freedom will suffer. Similarly no environment where heterosexual union is promoted will be able to brush aside the new legal environment.

    When one looks at the root causes of homophobic violence, I believe that this law will act as a stimulus. I hope I’m proven wrong.

  17. “Britain is undoubtedly a more civilised and harmonious country since the passing of the race and sex equality laws 30 years ago.” said Gareth.

    “Gareth, as someone who was there 30 years ago, I disagree. ” said Tom.

    “I’m sorry Tom, but I profoundly disagree with you that anti-discrimination laws have made the position of ethnic minorities worse” said Gareth.

    But that wasn’t what Tom said, Gareth. He disagreed with you that we are more civilised and harmonious than 30 years ago. I think he’s right.

    I must admit I can’t see much in the way of conservatism in the Conservative Forum, but I can see where David Cameron gets his support from.

    Two teensy pointettes. One is that the culture and law of the UK was based on Christianity until very recent times. (Just) within living memory, for example, a divorce or a conviction for a homosexual offence could wreck a public career.

    We’ve jettisoned all that since 1960-odd. Historically this is highly unusual – most societies since history began have been religiously based.

    The question is – is this secular, materialist society the wave of the future, of is it a historical oddity due to be sharply and painfully corrected ?

    The second point is related. To see it you’ll have to go here

  18. … continued

    The second point is related. A materialist society will look at the poorest and assume them to be the least successful. But if the poorest do not share this assumption, they may be content to be labelled thus when grants and funding is being handed out, while in no way internalising the view of the materialists. A case in point being the Muslim community, who according to Keith Ajegbo’s ‘Britishness’ pdf will in 10 years time comprise 15% of the workforce. In places like Bradford the Muslim population will have tripled between 1980 and 2010 – and half of it will be under 18. We saw in the recent Lozells disturbances that power on the streets has passed from the Afro-Caribbean community (who, for example, controlled the streets in the Handsworth riots of 20 years back) to the Muslim one. From a non-materialist perspective (or even the materialist perspective of Josef Stalin), this looks like an extremely successful community – and one whose success shows no sign of diminishing.

    In the pained Government inquiries which followed July 7, much coverage was devoted to the lack of participation in the workforce of women of Bengali and Pakistani heritage, which was seen as adding to cultural seperation. This seemed to me to miss the point entirely. Those women were working alright – raising children – without creches or nurseries – the way we used to do.

    The trees do not grow up to the sky. The past is not necessarily a guide to the future – but it’s the best guide we’ve got. On current UK trends, the secular state is a short-lived phenomenon of transition.

  19. You either have an anti-discrimination law or you don’t. Exempting groups because they might not like it can’t be a serious option.

    Why do we make thought a crime. There is no reason why we should have anti discrimination laws at all. The are a gross invasion of our liberty. The real problems of discrimination, Violence & threatening behaviour, is anyway illegal.

    I personally do not believe that any more than a handful of companies or organisations would actually actively discriminate if these laws did not exist. Yet they cost us billions to maintain, destroying who knows how many jobs, and as we can now see, set a precedent for government control of our thoughts.

    They also reverse the burden of proof, thus damaging a legal system that has guaranteed rights to all of us in the best possible way.

  20. Tom,

    I have some sympathy for your view but respectfully reject your analysis of the past. I ought to have made clear that I post on here as a guest rather than a BUCF member. I’m afraid my university days were long ago.

    Praguetory – your argument is one that has been put to many minorities many, many times in the past – ‘keep your head down, don’t make a fuss, and you’ll be ok’. Unfortunately, that has seldom been sound advice. The evidence suggests that only when minorities demand equality do they get it. The quiescent continue to suffer discrimination. In any event, why SHOULD gay people, or anyone else for that matter, suffer discrimination in silence, however minor, just so as not to stir the passions of homophobes?

  21. Adding ‘phobe’ at the end of words denotes nothing other than stupidity and ignorance of the person doing it. It is so mindless and cretinous…

    The church is more powerful than anytime in history: The church of Political Correctness. It’s dogmas and mantras are far more rigid and hidebound than any traditional church. Woe betide anyone who dares to question all the leftist shibboleths. They are practically excommunicated,ostracised,sent to Birmingham or Coventry,villified, drummed off campuses,arrested,locked up, interrogated, treated as heretics It has rotted the brain of the nation and the universities seem to be the prime source of the rot. Independence of thought RIP and with it freedom and liberty. Morons!

  22. Gareth – I think you have misrepresented my arguments.

    Specifically, my concern is that what will stoke homophobia will be at school level when kids are crowbarred into discussing their sexuality at school (to do otherwise as part of sex education will be unlawful). I’m not going to take a Pontius Pilate approach. I would not vote for this legislation as it stands. I’m open to solutions that do something to reduce homophobia and reduce the high level of self-harm amongst homosexuals. This isn’t it.

  23. I was 9 in 1976 so I can’t really tell if we are more civilised and harmonious than we were then.

    I think it’s certainly the case that we are *not* more civilised and harmonious than we were ten years ago, notwithstanding the passage of all sorts of fresh anti-discrimination legislation, such as the Race Relations (Amendment) Act, or reversing the burden of proof in such cases, not to mention New Labour’s obsession with “institutional racism.”

  24. I agree Sean in repsect of the ludicrously titled ‘institutional racism’ – as I have indicated above. I don’t agree though as to the general effects of the 1970’s legislation which was necessary and has been, on the whole, helpful.

    ‘niconolclast’ seems to be labouring under the misapprehension that the suffix ‘phobe’ is a new invention when, in fact, it has been accepted usage for centuries. I suspect he dislikes the word because it would so frequently applicable to himself. Perhaps, as a numbskullphobe, I am prejudiced against him though.

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