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Comments

Michael McGowan

This is of course true, especially as illiberal liberals now seem to populate the upper reaches of all the major political parties. The finger-wagging hectoring New Puritanism is back with us, this time masquerading as "social justice". Those who know no history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.

David Boothroyd

Should a prisoner who has a religious belief be released sooner than an atheist prisoner, if everything else is equal?

Denis Cooper

Which prisoner, and which religious belief?

David Boothroyd

Well, I did say other things being equal. If you need to know, try a house burglar who has embraced protestant christianity (C of E).

Does it make a difference? I'm not trying to make it a trick question by saying the religion is "satanism" or some such joke.

Denis Cooper

Well, you do need to discriminate between different prisoners and between different faiths. There can be no general answer to your question.

For example, suppose a man was convicted of a series of serious assaults on women, and the judge imposed one of the new indefinite sentences, saying that he should not be released until he was no longer a danger to women.

While in prison he converts to one of two faiths:

a) A pagan religion which worships the Mother Goddess as the source of all life, and teaches that all females should be treated with the greatest respect.

b) Another faith which not only worships a male god figure, but also teaches that women are inferior to men and that it is acceptable to physically abuse them.

Clearly it would be legitimate to take this claimed religious conversion into account when deciding whether he could be released.

Kevin Sampson

Are there any Islamic adoption agencies in Britain, and will this ruling apply to them?

Andrew Lilico

If the prisoner's conversion to a faith means he has become less likely to re-offend, and more likely to successfully re-integrate into society, then, indeed conversion to a religion might (and already does) reduce prison terms. But I doubt many prisoners are actually atheists. Atheism tends to be an educated sophisticate's position. Indeed, my guess is that a conversion to Atheism may also reduce time spent in prison.

AlexW

Quick question: would it be legitimate for a Catholic employer to refuse employment to a gay man on the grounds of his religious opposition? Surely it is analagous to a situation where the person can simply "find" another employer? If he is legally obliged not to discriminate, does this interfere with his "inalienable rights"?

Repeat, replacing "Catholic" for "radical Islamist" and "gay man" for "any woman".

Arguing from an absolutist position is the surest way to absurdity.

Simon Newman

"Blair’s political edict is a repudiation of the cardinal principles of liberal democracy: freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of association."

I'd say the entire ten year term of this Labour government has been a repudiation of the cardinal principles of liberal democracy.

Kevin Sampson

"Another faith which not only worships a male god figure, but also teaches that women are inferior to men and that it is acceptable to physically abuse them."

Such as Islam? And before anyone starts shouting that Islam doesn't condone wife-beating, that depends on who you ask:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3645145.stm

Denis Cooper

AlexW, quite honestly I would not lose a moments sleep if Muslims had a legal exemption which allowed them to refuse to employ gay men. But as a general rule the more important the law the more difficult it becomes to justify exceptions on libertarian grounds. So personally I could not contemplate giving anybody an exemption from the law on incitement to murder, and it was totally unacceptable that some years ago the police in effect gave a Muslim an illegal exemption when he publicly called for the murder of a playwright: "Fatwa for 'gay Jesus' writer":

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/493436.stm

David Sergeant

If you put it another way round you are saying that, having produced a piece of legislation to make discrimination illegal, it is OK for an organisation to say we demand the right to discriminate. (It is worth pointing out that the CofE adoption people seem less agitated.) This isn't freedom, it goes against everyone being within the law - something we keep telling muslims.

I have little sympathy for the church leaders. In the 90s when the Conservative party was querying trends on homosexuals and unmarried mothers, the churches were in the front ranks of supporters of the left castigating the Conservative party, a major reason for Blair's success. The moral and interlectual cowardice of the church leaders is coming back to bite them

Sean Fear


David Sergeant. Your second paragraph is quite correct. But if they are beginning to see the error of their ways, then we should welcome them. After all, 44% of the voters went for Labour in 1997. If a large chunk of them have changed their minds, I'm willing to overlook their prior foolishness.

Denis Cooper

Everyone is still within the law, David, if the law itself allows exceptions to the general rules which it lays down. We've been through this before, eg about the emergency services being given a legal exemption from observing speed limits through Section 87 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984:

“No statutory provision imposing a speed limit on motor vehicles shall apply to any vehicle on an occasion when it is being used for fire brigade, ambulance or police purposes, if the observance of that provision would be likely to hinder the use of the vehicle for which it is being used on that occasion”

The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 is the law of the land and it applies in its entirety to everybody, including the drivers of emergency vehicles, but through this specific exception it allows them to break speed limits when necessary.

It would make life difficult if every law had to be written without any possibility of including exceptions to the general provisions. On that reasoning, we would either have no speed limits, and more of us would die on the roads, or we would insist that fire engines must observe the speed limits and more of us would die in fires because the fire brigade was too slow to arrive.

TomTom

Quick question: would it be legitimate for a Catholic employer to refuse employment to a gay man on the grounds of his religious opposition? Surely it is analagous to a situation where the person can simply "find" another employer? If he is legally obliged not to discriminate, does this interfere with his "inalienable rights"?

Should the State compel a Catholic to remove a crucifix from the wall of his office if an employee objects; or if he is a supplier to a publicly-funded body ?

TomTom

Should a Muslim employer tolerate an employee eating pork on the premises ?

This case did come up in Florida and the employee was sacked

Denis Cooper

Now militant homosexuals have established this new constitutional principle - "the law may not admit of any exceptions to its general provisions" - there will of course be wide ramifications. For example, all the rules and regulations and tax regimes which apply to large companies must also apply to small companies, including sole traders, without any exemptions. We cannot have one law for Megacorp and another for Smallco, can we?

Oliver McCarthy

What Mr Loconte says about prisons is interesting, but he would be wrong to blame the BBC entirely for its sidelining of religion. The BBC after all is merely a product of modern Britain, and modern Britain is itself just as much a product of the collapse of the C of E and the Catholic Church as well as it if of anything else.

Actually there's nothing new or puritanical about this so-called "New Puritanism". What we have here is a deep-seated and ancient desire to throw off the shackles of repressive traditional authority, especially that of the Catholic Church. Modern Socialism does not have its roots in "statism", much less in Christianity, so much as in Eighteenth Century anarchism. And in essence Tony Blair's action this week was simply a footnote to the English schism from the Catholic Church in the Sixteenth Century.

I don't know if Mr Boothroyd is being serious or if he's just being snide. My answer would be that it depends on the religion. But no serious person genuinely believes that the modern State is better at converting criminals from lives of crime than religious groups can be.

The only possible answer to AlexW's question is that a Catholic employer should be allowed to refuse to employ an employee on absolutely any grounds he likes, and that that can jolly well go for everyone else as well (gays included!). Could one of these freedom freaks or anti-discrimination drones really explain why gay hotels and night-clubs should be forced to accomodate heterosexual couples? For his part, Denis Cooper's wittering about exemptions from laws misses the point. There shouldn't be exemptions from any equality laws, because these equality laws should never have been passed in the first place. Similarly, Catholic doctors shouldn't be exempted from baby-killing laws because baby-killing should be illegal anyway. No exemptions should be necessary. (I don't know enough about corporate law to offer any opinion on what principles are at stake there, but at the time of writing I don't really see why laws governing big and small businesses are relevant here.)

And David Sergeant is quite right about church-leaders. They abandonned the Ten Commandments in favour of utilitarianism long before the Socialists came to power in 1997, and it's now much too late for them to turn around and tell the majority of Catholics who vote Labour (for example) that they didn't really mean it back in 1996 when the Catholic bishops openly ditched the Catholic Church's traditional social teachings and embraced Tony Blair.

Denis Cooper

Well try thinking a bit harder, Oliver, because if as a general principle there can't be any exceptions built into laws, as some have previously tried to argue in this particular case, then logically that same principle must apply to all laws.

David Sergeant

“No statutory provision imposing a speed limit on motor vehicles shall apply to any vehicle on an occasion when it is being used for fire brigade, ambulance or police purposes." 07.59

Dennis, is there not a diference between specifying vehicles and circumstances for an exception and a general exception of "religious belief". I can't claim my car is a police car when pulled up but I shudder to think of all the people potentially claiming religious beliefs.

Denis Cooper

There have been cases where people have claimed that they were using their car "for ambulance purposes" when they were rushing somebody to hospital in an emergency, but I'm not sure what the courts decided. The point is that the exception is built into the law, as are many other exceptions on all kinds of grounds because that would give the best compromise between having a law which had undesirable consequences in certain circumstances and having no law at all. Another example of allowing exceptions on religious grounds would be the taking of oaths by witnesses in court. At one time the witness would always be expected to swear an oath on the Bible, but as time went by the law was changed to allow exceptions for Jews, Muslims etc who would refuse to testify under oath if they had to swear on the Bible, for Quakers who refuse to swear oaths at all and later I suppose for atheists and agnostics. There's no doubt that Catholic adoption agencies COULD be given a legal exemption, and it would be routine work for the Parliamentary draftsmen to find a form of words defining that exception. The question is whether they SHOULD be given a legal exemption.

Denis Cooper

I've just seen an excellent letter from Bill Cash in the Telegraph, in which he points out that Section 81 of the Equality Act 2006

http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2006/60003--d.htm#81

makes explicit that

(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision about discrimination or harassment on grounds of sexual orientation ...

(3) The regulations may, in particular -

(e) provide for exceptions (whether or not of a kind similar to those provided for by Part 2 of this Act or any other enactment relating to discrimination or equality);

(f) make provision which applies generally or only in specified cases or circumstances;

(g) make different provision for different cases or circumstances; ...

And yet it is said that no exceptions could be made.

Chairm

Why would a same-sex twosome seek to adopt via a Catholic agency? or any agency which on principle and open policy would not place a child with a same-sex twosome?

And why would such a same-sex twosome not go to another agency, one which openly encourages same-sex twosomes to seek adoption?

Are other agencies with policies against same-sex adoption now also subject to the same threat of being pushed out of processing adoptions, if a same-sex twosome knocked on their doors? or is this really a pre-emptive strike against the Catholic agencies?

What stops this goverment from enacting a different solution: withhold public funding but permit the freedom of conscience of adoption agencies, rather than institute the false dichotomy of forcing anti-Catholic policies on Catholic agencies versus forcing Catholic agencies out of the good service they provide as acts of their faith.

This looks too much like favoring same-sex twosomes disproporitionately. Will there be quotas on all adoption agencies?

BnaaUK

There are exemptions built into this law, the equality act 2006 states that

(1) It is unlawful for a public authority exercising a function to do any act which constitutes discrimination.

It then goes on to state

(3) The prohibition in subsection (1) shall not apply to-

* (a) the House of Commons,
* (b) the House of Lords,
* (c) the authorities of either House of Parliament,
* (d) the Security Service,
* (e) the Secret Intelligence Service,
* (f) the Government Communications Headquarters, or
* (g) a part of the armed forces of the Crown which is, in accordance with a requirement of the Secretary of State, assisting the Government Communications Headquarters.

So really the only people who are now allowed to discriminate legally are the government and civil servants.

Of course if the Roman Catholic Church feels that they can't continue to operate adoption agencies, when they're forced to allow homosexuals to adopt, then they'll eventually have to close down any adoption agencies where ever the EU have the power to force their laws on its member states, and it'll be the kids who will loose out in the end.

BJ

Hi! I thought you and your readers might be interested in some post-Easter news about Pope Benedict XVI...
The Pope's car is being auctioned off to raise money for Habitat for Humanity:
www.buyacarvideos.com/popecar.htm
The bidding is already more than $200,000! Personally, I think this is a really fun and creative way to raise
money. The auction goes until April 14th if you and your readers want to check it out.

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