Saturday, 21 August 2010

Registrars: Religious Martyrs or Bigoted Hypocrites?

This week's headline from the The Christian Institute "Two registrars subject to investigation over their beliefs" was particularly misleading. Nowhere in their article did I find evidence that they were being investigated for their beliefs. Rather, it seemed clear to me, these registrars were being investigated for their behaviour (or for manifesting their beliefs). Surprisingly the CI's own handbook, "Religious Liberty In The Workplace" states:
whilst the right to hold the belief is absolute, the right to manifest it is qualified, that is it can be constrained by matters such as the rights of others. It is a “balancing act”. page 7 
What I have never understood with registrars not being willing to perform civil partnerships as it is against there beliefs, is why they are willing to perform other services that are also against their beliefs.  As the CI also states in their "Religious Liberty In the Workplace" handbook:
... be aware that the more you acquiesce in requests contrary to your conscience, the more difficult it may be to convince anyone of the strength of your religious convictions. page 20
So how strong are these registrars' religious convictions? From the CI's article it appears these registrars only switched shifts to avoid civil partnerships. Yet, if they held consistently to their beliefs they should have also switched shifts to avoid:

  1. Performing a civil marriage where one person is a divorcee and has an ex-spouse who is still alive: But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 5:32I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery (Matthew 19:9)
  2. Performing a civil marriage where the parties are of different faiths: Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 2 Cor 6:14
  3. Performing a civil marriage where the wife-to-be is obviously pregnant: But if ... evidences of virginity are not found for the young woman, then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones... Deuteronomy 22:20-21
  4. Refuse to recognise a divorce that is not a result of marital unfaithfulness: “I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel. Malachi 2:16 and the verses from Matthew in 1 above.
  5. Registering the birth of a child born out of wedlock, e.g, there is no father on the birth certificate or the parents have difference surnames on the birth certificate: One of illegitimate birth shall not enter the congregation of the Lord. Deuteronomy 23:3

I would be more sympathetic to the fact that these registrars are being persecuted for their beliefs, if these registrars also did switch their shifts for the above. However they did not and therefore I have to conclude that these registrars are not acting on their beliefs; they are simply acting in a discriminatory manner that has no place in a secular and just society, let a lone in their roles as civil registrars. To single out just gay and lesbian couples is homophobic.

No empathetic tears should be shed for these registrars. In my opinion they are behaving as nothing more than bigoted hypocrites.

Quite rightly their employers should investigate their behaviour. When it comes to performing their roles as civil registrars, their employers have to ensure they follow the law and cannot make exceptions for personal belief.  If a registrar believes that mixed race marriage is against God's law (as I was taught in Apartheid South Africa), the registrar could also be exempted from registering these relationships. What other prejudices would then have to be tolerated under a thin defence of religious liberty or, personal or political belief?

As far as I know the CI has never dealt with the question as to why they champion these registrars as religious martyrs while at the same time their martyrs do no consistently act on their beliefs.  If they have, please let me know.

What We Say Behind People's Backs

The Christian Institute published an article, ‘Social anxiety’ skews same-sex marriage polls. In this they attempt to make out that society in general is against same-sex marriage and "political correctness" forces people into agreeing with it. I have another way of viewing the same set of data: when our responses are non-attributable or we can ignore someone else's common humanity,  it is easier for us to be prejudicial and discriminate; what we are prepared to say behind people's backs is less considerate of our true moral conscience.

I sincerely hope that people will experience 'social anxiety' when they are contemplating discriminatory thoughts or actions. This is not a bad thing as the CI wishes to make out.  After all, Christ did say :
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31
The discussion at the end of the article on the use of the word "homosexuality" vs. "gay and lesbian couples" was particularly poignant.  All to often people become fixated on the letters "sex" when the read or say the word "homosexual". The focus then is on a behaviour. Considering people as couples, brings one back to our common humanity and the shared emotions, rights and responsibilities of relationships, irrespective if they are 'mo or 'ro.
It is unfortunate that the CI chose to use the word "skews" in their headline. The word "influences" would show more journalistic neutrality.
Unfortunately these comments made on the CI's Facebook page got me banned.