"Religion is a hypothesis about the world: the hypothesis that things are the way they are, at least in part, because of supernatural entities or forces acting on the natural world. And there's no good reason to treat it any differently from any other hypothesis. Which includes pointing out its flaws and inconsistencies, asking its adherents to back it up with solid evidence, making jokes about it when it's just being silly, offering arguments and evidence for our own competing hypotheses...and trying to persuade people out of it if we think it's mistaken. It's persuasion. It's the marketplace of ideas. Why should religion get a free ride"

Greta Christina

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Equality Commission gets it wrong!

After a series of eminently sensible court rulings which dismissed cases of religious discrimination, the Equality Commission has now said that judges have been interpreting equality laws too narrowly.
Among the cases involved are
Ms Eweida, a Pentecostal Christian, was sent home from work in 2006 after refusing to remove a necklace with a cross

Mrs Chaplin was moved to a desk job by Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust Hospital for similar reasons

Mr McFarlane, a Bristol counsellor, was sacked for refusing to give relationship advice to gay people

Ms Ladele was disciplined after she refused to conduct same-sex civil partnership ceremonies in north London
Some of which I have mentioned on this blog.
Admittedly some of the cases appear trivial, like insisting on wearing a cross when all other employees are forbidden to wear jewellery, whereas others are egregious, like refusing to council or conduct civil partnerships for gays.
This is not about equality, it is about religious privilage and the Equality and Human Rights Commission of all bodies should see that.
The most ridiculous justification comes from John Wadham, legal group director at the commission.
Our intervention in these cases would encourage judges to interpret the law more broadly and more clearly to the benefit of people who are religious and those who are not.
The idea of making reasonable adjustments to accommodate a person's needs has served disability discrimination law well for decades.
It seems reasonable that a similar concept could be adopted to allow someone to manifest their religious beliefs.
Making adjustments for someone with a disability is promoting equality. It allows people to participate on as near equal terms in employment and society as possible. Making religious accommodation is promoting inequality in that it is privileging some people to pick and choose their duties and obligations based on religious views.
Why is this so difficult for people to understand? Have we spent so long pussyfooting around religious sensibilities that we can’t see the consequences? Unless of course by equating religious belief with disability they are admitting that faith is disabling, in which case we should treat the religious exactly as the original judges in these cases ruled by helping them to function as rational fully competent members of society despite their handicap. Admitting defeat does not assist them to participate fully in society on equal terms, in the same way that not providing an access ramp marginalizes a wheelchair user.

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