There seems to be a growing view amongst some in various religious communities that asking them to comply with equalities legislation in the exercise of their job or public service, or asking that they not impose their religion on others, constitutes some form of discrimination.
I view this as absurd. It is absolutely not the purpose of anti-discrimination legislation to protect the right of groups to themselves engage in discrimination. This much is self-evident; anti discrimination legislation which tried to accommodate this would be an absurdity and constitute an unworkable collection of cascading self-contradiction. Just imagine:
You can’t discriminate against the gays unless you find them really, really icky, and really want to.
Because for some reason, this always seems to come back to some sort of obsession with homosexuality. Personally, I think thinking about gay sex as often as some of these people seem to is really unhealthy, and I say that as a homosexual person, but I digress.
There’s a new report out. It’s called Clearing the Ground and it’s published by “Christians in Parliament”, who are apparently “an official All-Party Parliamentary Group”. The report is described as a, “preliminary report into the freedom of Christians in the UK”, and is the result of the committee being “tasked with considering the question: Are Christians marginalised in the UK?”
Anyway, flicking through, as one does, one can find the following gem:
The Department of Health’s practical guide on religion and belief offers the following guidance:
“Members of some religions … are expected to preach and to try to convert other people. In a workplace environment this can cause many problems, as non-religious people and those from other religions or beliefs could feel harassed and intimidated by this behaviour… To avoid misunderstandings and complaints on this issue, it should be made clear to everyone from the first day of training and/or employment, and regularly restated, that such behaviour, notwithstanding religious beliefs, could be construed as harassment under the disciplinary and grievance procedures.”
Dr Richard Scott gave evidence to the inquiry which suggests that the implementation of this guidance is not always applied with consistency, and sometimes with greater restriction on religious belief than envisioned or permitted under the law. There is also a lack of logic in the guidance because someone who is prevented in the workplace from manifesting their belief, either through prayer or witnessing, may consider themselves harassed on account of their beliefs.
Let’s examine this. To my mind, the DoH’s guidance seems eminently sensible. If you’re working together in some sort of workplace, where your religion is incidental to the task at hand, asking your co-workers if they want to “talk about Jesus” or making a show of praying is likely to make people uncomfortable, and make them feel like you’re pushing your religion on them. In an entirely hypothetical situation where someone who is repeatedly singled out for being asked if they want to talk about Jesus, and happen to be the only out gay person in the office (I’m sure this never happens), they might reasonably feel harassed, and would likely consider taking the issue up with HR.
However, the response seems to be saying that this guideline doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pray overtly or engage in unwanted proselytisation in the workplace at all. It’s clear that myself and Dr Richard Scott are seeing this, apparently simple, guidance and coming to two completely different conclusions. Given that Dr Scott got into trouble with the GMC for proselytising to a vulnerable patient, this is perhaps not entirely surprising. Let’s look at what Dr Scott says again:
There is also a lack of logic in the guidance because someone who is prevented in the workplace from manifesting their belief, either through prayer or witnessing, may consider themselves harassed on account of their beliefs.
This looks like a clear case of wanting equalities law to treat religion as a special case, where it has carte-blanche to do unto others as it would not wish to be done unto itself.
Do these people simply not understand that equalities law applies to everybody? I’ll make this as simple as I can:
- I’m a gay woman (protected by equalities law).
- In private, I sometimes have sexyladytimes with my partners
- Note this is in private
- If I tell my co-workers in detail about my sexyladytimes, that is inappropriate, and I would expect disciplinary action for it.
- If I go round asking random women in my working environment if they want sexyladytimes with me, that is sexual harassment and I would expect to be subject to disciplinary action, and possibly arrested.
If I don’t get to force homosexuality on you, you don’t get to force religion on me. I have to wonder if people who think like Dr Scott really don’t understand this, or whether they understand it entirely, and are just raging hypocrites.