Secularism

Incoherent and divisive voice

If you’re looking for an example of the secular sectarianism that’s so offensive to Christina Odone et al, you could do a lot worse than the Government’s Sexual Orientation Regulations (SORs), which are due to come into force in Northern Ireland in the new year. The regulations state that “It is unlawful for any person concerned with the provision of goods, facilities or services to the public to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation against a person who seeks to obtain or use those goods, facilities or services”, thereby granting gay people the same right to goods and services that disabled people enjoy under the Disability Discrimination Act, that ethnic minorities enjoy under the Race Relations Act, and that religious groups enjoy under Section 46 of the Equality Act 2006.

So, everyone has equal protection, everyone’s equal, everyone’s happy? No, not everyone. In today’s Times was a full page advertisement by a group called “Coherent and Cohesive Voice”, who describe themselves as “a network of hundreds of Christian leaders in the UK respresenting hundreds of thousands of voters”. “SEX“, screams the top of the page in huge letters, before announcing that “the Labour Government are going to decide what is and isn’t acceptable, and then they are going to force their views onto you”. The views that the Labour Government are going to force onto you are listed as follows:

  • Force all schools to actively promote homosexual Civil Partnerships to children (from primary school age) to the same degree that they teach the importance of marriage
  • Force a printing shop run by a Christian to print fliers promoting gay sex
  • Force a family run B&B to let out a double room to a transsexual couple, even in the family think it is in the best interests of their children to refuse to allow such a situation in their own home
  • Make it illegal for a heterosexual policeman, fireman or member of the Armed Forces, to refuse to join a Gay Pride event promoting the homosexual way of life
  • This is every bit as muddled, confused and untrue as you might expect. Printers won’t be “forced” to print fliers promoting gay sex, or any other kind of sex; they’ll simply no longer be allowed to refuse to serve gay customers. The only mention of schools occurs in Section 9, which prohibits educational establishments from refusing to accept students on grounds of their sexual orientation. And section (7)(2)(a) states that anyone providing accomodation (such as a B&B) is exempt if “the relevant occupier resides, and intends to continue to reside, on the premises”.

    Googling the group’s name brings up this site, in comparison with which the advertisement in the Times is a model of sober restraint. “With these SORs, the Government are using the ideas of ‘equality’ and ‘anti-discrimination’ to trample over our right to religious freedom“, they claim. “The SORs will force us to accept Civil Partnership services (gay marriage) in our churches” (this isn’t true either, religious organisation are exempt under Section 16). “42million Christians are being discriminated against. It is Christianophobia!” “The Government will be making it illegal for us to be Christians“.

    So, alarmed by the extension of equal rights legislation which they already enjoy, Coherent and Cohesive Voice have put the most wildly inaccurate and overblown spin on the Regulations, while falsely claiming to represent all British Christians, despite being an obscure, unelected group who most people have never heard of, and whose views and campaigns have neither sought nor received a mandate from the people they purport to represent. Having appointed themselves as spokespeople for their religion, they’re now advancing into the political arena and attempting to shout down opposition by claiming “Christianophobia” and employing the language of those rights they seek to deny others.

    I think I’ve heard this one somewhere before.

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