Friday, April 30, 2010

UK: Landmark ruling leaves Christians with no right to conscientious objection

Below are some selected quotes from some selected articles on the Gary McFarlane case.

Gary McFarlane: the counsellor whose case led to warnings of 'civil unrest'
By John Bingham, Telegraph, 30 April 2010

When Gary McFarlane, 48, a father of two from Bristol, began working for Relate, the counselling organisation, in 2003, he did not allow his traditional evangelical Christian beliefs stop him from giving advice to homosexual couples.

It was only three years later, when he qualified as a psychosexual therapist – a role which required him to give intimate sexual advice to couples – that he raised concerns about a potential clash between his work and his moral views.

Sacked Christian counsellor Gary McFarlane's appeal bid dismissed
By Stephen Howard, Press Association, 29 April 2010

A marriage guidance counsellor's bid to challenge in the courts his sacking for refusing to give sex therapy to homosexuals led to a serious clash between Christians and the judiciary today.

In a powerful dismissal of the application to appeal, Lord Justice Laws said legislation for the protection of views held purely on religious grounds cannot be justified.

The judge's ruling continued: "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. [. . .]

". . . the conferment of any legal protection of preference upon a particular substantive moral position on the ground only that it is espoused by the adherents of a particular faith, however long its tradition, however long its culture, is deeply unprincipled."

He said this would mean that laws would be imposed not to advance the general good on objective grounds but to give effect to the force of subjective opinion since faith, other than to the believer, was subjective.

"It may of course be true; but the ascertainment of such a truth lies beyond the means by which laws are made in a reasonable society

"Therefore it lies only in the heart of the believer, who is alone bound by it. No-one else is or can be so bound, unless by his own free choice he accepts its claims."

Christian sex therapist Gary McFarlane loses appeal bid
BBC 29 April 2010

Gary McFarlane, 48, from Bristol, was sacked by Relate Avon in 2008. He claimed the service had refused to accommodate his Christian beliefs.

Lord Justice Laws said legislation for the protection of views held purely on religious grounds cannot be justified.

He said it was irrational and "also divisive, capricious and arbitrary".


Mr McFarlane said after the hearing that the decision not to let him appeal against the ruling left him "disappointed and upset".

"I have the ability to provide counselling services to same-sex couples," he said.
"However, because of my Christian beliefs and principles, there should be allowances taken into account whereby individuals like me can actually avoid having to contradict their very strongly-held Christian principles."
[. . .]
Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, said: "Mr McFarlane simply wanted his religious beliefs to be accommodated by his employer, which, in the specific facts of the case, was not unreasonable.

"It seems that a religious bar to office has been created, whereby a Christian who wishes to act on their Christian beliefs on marriage will no longer be able to work in a great number of environments."

Judge rules Christians have NO special rights as he throws out case of sex therapist who refused to work with gay couples
By Steve Doughty, Daily Mail, 30 April 2010

A senior judge ruled yesterday that Christian beliefs have no place in the law and no right to protection by the courts.

Lord Justice Laws said that Britain would become a religious dictatorship if the views of a single faith were given a priority over others in legal matters.

In a landmark case, the appeal judge told relationship guidance counsellor Gary McFarlane, a Christian, that he had no right to refuse to give sex therapy to gay couples.

And the judge delivered a scathing criticism of former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, who spoke up for Christians who try to follow their beliefs. . .

The Appeal Court judgment is a resounding rebuff for Christian workers who had hoped to persuade employers that they should be allowed to exercise their religious rights by not recognising the legitimacy of homosexual partnerships or by wearing crosses with work uniforms.

And it means that gay equality legislation, however controversial, will in future take precedence over individual conscience.

. . . former Bishop of Rochester the Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali, said the judgment allowed no room for people to act according to their conscience.

He told the BBC: 'I think if we reach a stage where there was a kind of tyranny of legislation without conscience it would be a very sorry stage.'

(The above article includes a very interesting profile of Lord Justice Laws, described as a "legal 'activist'', as well as a section entitled: "Does the law really treat all faiths equally? Other Christians have run into trouble with the courts or their employers when they stood up for their beliefs, but some Muslims have fared better. . .")

Gary McFarlane: judge's assault on 'irrational' religious freedom claims in sex therapist case
A senior judge has launched a dramatic assault on religious faith, dismissing it as “subjective” with no basis in fact.
By John Bingham, Telegraph, 30 Apr 2010

Last night there were warnings that the judgment could enshrine the “persecution” of Christians in modern Britain and sideline religion in public life.

Lord Justice Laws ruled that while everyone had the right to hold religious beliefs, those beliefs themselves had no standing under the law.

Mr McFarlane said that his treatment was “without a doubt” an example of Christians being persecuted in modern Britain.

“This is a sad day for our society which I believe is on a slippery slope in terms of balancing competing interests,” he said.

“I represent the Christian faith but I suggest that all other faiths will be concerned about this judgment.”

Last night Lord Carey described the ruling as “deeply worrying”, continuing a move by the courts to “downgrade” the right of religious people to express their faith.

“The judgement heralds a ‘secular’ state rather than a ‘neutral’ one,” he said.

“And while with one hand the ruling seeks to protect the right of religious believers to hold and express their faith, with the other it takes away those same rights.”

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, said that the ruling had “driven a coach and horses” through the ancient ties between Christianity and British law.