Friday, June 12, 2009

Equality, the church and discrimination

From the London Guardian-

"Unjust discrimination is fundamentally wrong." So say the Roman Catholic bishops of England and Wales in evidence to parliament on the equality bill. But doesn't this terminology imply there might be another category of "just discrimination" which is slightly less awful, or even in some circumstances righteous?

Anglican and RC church representatives, giving evidence to a parliamentary committee on Tuesday, were very concerned that a new definition of "the purposes of an organised religion" would curtail their own existing right to discriminate against lay people for reasons other than religious belief. William Fittall of the Church of England told MPs:

A faith organisation is entitled to look at the totality of someone's life. The distinction that is drawn in most employment situations between private life and the workplace does not hold where people have a representational, pastoral or teaching role.
The position of a church youth worker was cited several times as an example of such a role, no doubt with the recent tribunal case of Reaney vs Hereford Diocesan Board of Finance in many people's minds.

But this is not just about sexual orientation. Existing equality regulations already give religious organisations a pass for various other reasons, including the circumstances in which a marriage came to an end, gender (female bishops are not compulsory) and marital status itself. Fittall said: "You might believe that some of our rules and disciplines are wrong, but our view is that that is a matter of religious liberty – a matter for the Church of England, Roman Catholics, the Jews or whoever."

"We are not seeking carte blanche, but if a religious organisation is employing someone in a role for which you have to be a member of that faith, it is reasonable that restrictions – whether they be on marital history or whatever – can be part of the requirements."

More here-

No comments: