Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Religious Freedom v Equal Rights

So, it seems to me these come into conflict a lot. The recent changes to make it legal for homosexual couples to 'marry' have annoyed a lot of Christians. (Other faiths too I'm sure, but as I don't really know much about that, I'll stick to my own beliefs, and I don't pretend to be representative of every single Christian). Now, I'm sure you can understand why, if you believe something is wrong, you wouldn't want to be involved in it. For example, if I say that I believe that having sex before marriage is wrong (and I do believe this), then I wouldn't want to be involved in giving contraceptive advice to teenagers. However, if I was a counsellor and suddenly my job description was changed so that I had to do so, I would naturally be a bit upset. I would ask to be excluded from such issues, and to concentrate on counselling people with other issues. Fair enough, I'm sure you'll agree, whether you think my belief that having sex before marriage is wrong or not. However, a few weeks ago, I became aware of a case where a Christian registrar, who asked not to perform Civil Partnerships as they went against her beliefs, was suspended and treated cruelly and accused of being homophobic. Today, I found out about another case, where a counsellor who refused to give advice on sexual problems to homosexual couples has been dismissed. He hadn't even refused to counsel them on relationship problems, but when it came to this, he felt he had to draw the line. And I might add, that I wouldn't feel comfortable giving advice on sexual problems to anyone, on the basis that I don't have experience in that side of things. Naturally, he wouldn't have experience in that area either. He spoke to his supervisors, who leaked details of the meeting to colleagues, damaging the relationships between them. Now, I don't think you can say that refusing to counsel same sex couples on having sex is discriminating against them, certainly not when you have religious reasons to do so. I could go on, but I won't. I think those examples are enough.
Anyway, what do you think? Should a person be forced to sacrifice their religious beliefs in order to make some pretence at equal rights? Is it not much better that those people are allowed to make a stand for what they believe is right, without being labelled homophobic? I might add, that they said nothing against the people involved. After all, God does not hate the sinner, but the sin. And if you view homosexual relationships as sinful (and I'm going to invite a lot of controversy by saying that I do think they're wrong and go against God's plan for the world), that does not mean you have to hate the people involved in it. On the contrary, Jesus called for us to love the unlovable, to care for those who would go against us, and in that vein, I don't believe it's fair to simply dismiss anyone on the grounds of their sexual orientation. I would protest against their practising it and encouraging others to do so, I would protest that we haven't yet seen the consequences for it, but I wouldn't out and out say 'you are evil for doing so'. They're not. This is a rather thorny issue, I'm sure you'll agree.
Just one little thought I'd like to leave you with. The guidelines laid out in the Bible are there for a reason. The reason behind no sex before marriage is because it should be something special, and if you look at what's happening now, with the increased spread of STDs, you can see that it does have detrimental effects upon people. The incredibly complicated guidelines laid out about what to do with mouldy things may not have made much sense then, but if you remember that they had no way of destroying mould, and that it would rapidly spread to contaminate everything, then it makes sense. So there you go. There's a good reason why the Bible condemns homosexuality, we just haven't stumbled onto it yet. Please respond, but please don't start slagging people off with generalisations. I'm not trying to offend anyone, I'm just stating my views. I am not homophobic (i.e. afraid of people who are homosexual, because that's what the word means, not that I disagree with it), I just don't think it's morally right.

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