Could it be they now believe that Christians (along with those of every other belief system) are entitled to protection from prosecution and harrassment for doing what they believe is biblical and right?
If so, it’s a shame that Trevor Phillips, head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, was “too busy” to take part in last year’s BBC programme about the very same subject.
And remember this is the same Trevor Phillips who called Christians “intolerant” earlier this year and said they were “more militant than Muslims” [I’ll remember that on the next anniversary of 9/11] – Christians, he said, don’t integrate into society; they are actually NOT disadvantaged or harrassed but merely go around finding things to complain about.
For many years, spiritualistic techniques have not only been permitted but funded and encouraged by the National Health Service, so if a cranky new-age therapist wants to wave a crystal over you and call it medicine he/she is free to do so. But trying offering to say a prayer for a patient and see the fur fly! Even if the patient gladly agreed to it, you are likely to be reported and lose your job.
How about your children? When teacher comes across little Aashna sharing her stories of the elephant god Ganesh he’s likely to be full of praise and do a special session for the whole class on the same subject the next day. But beware, if your little girl says she believes in Jesus you might end up being suspended from your job.
And so it goes. Case after case after case of Christians facing long-term stressful suspensions, discipliniary hearings, court cases, unemployment, media condemnation and harrassment just for doing the ordinary innocent things that people do – things that pass unnoticed for anybody else.
Indeed, we are forced to protect the religious rights of others. We have to provide prayer-rooms, special diets, allow police to wear turbans instead of helmets and so on. Many supermarkets now quietly make their meat sales Halal so Muslims are not offended. Carrying a ritual Hindu kirpan dagger is exempted from the laws against carrying weapons in public and many have been outraged at attempts to ban it. Even in jail your “faith requirements” need to be catered for, up to the point of allowing you to attend pagan rituals.
But if you display a small cross round your neck at work, or in your vehicle woe betide! Many are the examples of Christians being ordered to remove a cross, and facing the sack if they do not. One man suffered a very long period of discipliniary action simply for putting a palm cross on his dashboard when he drove the company van.
Yet in a major U-turn, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (who are under government pressure for wasting 60 million of taxpayers’ money and failing to do a good job) declared that judges should NOT have backed employers who pursued Christians for wearing crosses or for refusing to give sex therapy to gay couples.
“The way existing human rights and equality law has been interpreted by judges is insufficient to protect freedom of religion or belief” the commission said.
Just seven months ago it had championed the cause of gay partners Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy in their successful bid to sue Christian hoteliers who had refused them a double room. But yesterday the commission changed its tune.
Its lawyers have intervened to call for more leeway for Christians to express their beliefs and live by their consciences. This will be particularly important in four human rights test cases shortly to come before the judges of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg:
- Nadia Eweida, the BA check-in clerk who was told she could not wear a cross with her airline uniform
- Shirley Chaplin, a nurse removed from the wards of her Exeter hospital because she refused to stop wearing her crucifix.
- Lilian Ladele, a registrar removed from her job after she refused to conduct same-sex civil partnership ceremonies
- Gary McFarlane, a Relate counsellor who declined to give sex therapy to gay couples.
Miss Ladele was refused permission to take her case to the Supreme Court because judges said no important legal principles were at stake.
Mr McFarlane’s case was brushed aside by Appeal Court judge Lord Justice Laws, who said: ‘Law for the protection of a position held purely on religious grounds cannot therefore be justified. It is irrational – it is also divisive, capricious and arbitrary.’ [Try telling that to the victims of the concentration camps!]
Yesterday the commission said: “The courts have set the bar too high for someone to prove that they have been discriminated against because of their religion or belief; it is possible to accommodate expression of religion alongside the rights of people who are not religious, and the needs of businesses.”
The commission said it wanted to see a new legal principle of ‘reasonable accommodations’ to allow a religious believer and their employer to reach a compromise. It said that under this principle, a Jew who did not wish to work on Saturdays could be given his or her wish simply by a change to work rotas.
This would give religious believers similar legal status to disabled people, they said.
But legality and human rights committees apart, I don’t see this changing things much. It will take more than that to change public opinion.
It’s sadly true that society in general has much more sympathy for a disadvantaged homosexual or ‘victim’ of obesity than a Christian. (Currently an obese man is taking his demand for free surgery to the Court of Human Rights and will probably suceed, just like the criminals who want to be addressed as “mister” in jail, and to be allowed to vote, and be paid a salary for the work they do there.) The law might clamp down on hate-preaching that trains a child to seek the death and eradication of Jews, but when it comes to persecuting Christians nobody turns a hair. It’s even believed to be a good and necessary thing.
The years of lies pumped out by movies, books, TV, newspapers and every kind of media that portrays Christianity as an ignorant and violent myth have achieved their intended result: the public now views Christians with intolerance and suspicion shot through with antagonism. I doubt very much if an official pronouncement from any Government body will change anything.