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Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Why do you think Churches will be forced to accept gays?

It’s a common refrain from the liars and haters from the churches that gays are oppressing their religious freedom. Granting us basic rights will destroy their religious freedom because they will no longer be able to maintain their religious based bigotry. We’re oppressing them, truly we are. Our rights to exist and move through society will violate their dogma and that’s so terrible.

I was discussing this with Mother Janet Keefe, priest of my local Catholic Church. In particular we discussed how she was forced to marry a previously divorced Jewish couple and…

…except I wasn’t of course. Because Mother Janet Keefe doesn’t exist – because there is no Mother Janet Keefe – because female Catholic priests (at least of the more conventional Catholic church) do not actually exist. Nor are churches required to marry people who do not fit their religious definition of marriage – so a priest can’t be forced to marry someone of a different faith or marry people who don’t fit their moral code – like divorcees.

What is this? You mean that despite there being laws against sex discrimination in the UK since 1975, Churches can still discriminate against women when their dogma requires it – and despite there being laws against religious discrimination, Churches can still discriminate against other faiths if their dogma requires it? Even though the law allows divorcees to remarry, a church is not obliged to do so. My gods, who knew these stunning facts?!

So, it’s pretty much an established precedent that anti-discrimination laws end at the church doors. And that hasn’t changed in the last 25 years and isn’t likely to change in the foreseeable future. If it was we’d have female priests and imams, People of all faiths marrying in Cathedrals because they’re pretty pretty buildings and atheists snacking on communion wafers and sacramental wine. Let us be clear – no anti-discrimination or equality law in the past has FORCED churches to stop being prejudiced or to stop treating people as less. It has been 25 years and a plethora of faiths STILL treat women as second class citizens – gay rights laws aren’t going to force you to treat us like humans either.

And while we’re on the subject:

Hate crimes laws are to protect us from violence. They also apply across the board – if someone attacks you because you’re a cis-gendered heterosexual then the law will kick in then as well – of course that’s pretty damned unlikely to happen for which you should be eternally grateful – not whiney. While we may pretend otherwise, anti-GBLT hate crime is a severe and growing problem – we have a right to live without fear.

Hate speech does not apply to quoting your holy book of prejudiced dogma – albeit the words within it can be quite vicious. Anyone claiming this is, frankly, lying (guess that part of the holy book has been edited out?) Hate speech means spreading lies and hate about us, hate speech means inciting violence and attacks against us. While that may be very very restrictive to what you want to do, I question why your right of religion trumps my right to live?

Discrimination laws outside the church – in matters that don’t involve your dogma, why should your dogma apply? Why should your religious laws be imposed on the rest of society – be imposed on us that they harm? And think of the can of worms you’re opening – shops that exclude Jews? Or maybe Muslims? Or any non-Christian? An easy religious excuse for not hiring women or refusing to promote them? It’s not sexism – it’s right to religion! Except it blatantly, grossly, is.

By allowing a “religious exemption” to every job, every shop, every place of business then all anti-discrimination laws are gutted – race, religion, gender, ability – it all goes out the window. All it takes is one religious excuse (and religion has been used as an excuse for bigotry against ALL of these in the past) and the discrimination is allowed. That is not right. That goes against everything we stand for as a society – and this applies doubly to you providing services on behalf of the government – why should our tax payer money subsidise hatred against us? Why should we pay taxes for the services that are then denied to us?

You can have your faith – no-one is taking it from you and no law will force it to change – no matter how prejudiced, bigoted, backward and hateful it is. We will treat you as the haters you are, but the law will not force you to respect us as people (nor, it has to be said, am I required to RESPECT YOU if you don’t respect me – no matter whether your disrespect comes from a holy book or not).

But your right to religion – and the lies you tell about it – does not give you the right to make our lives hell. You have a right to your faith, we have a right to exist and be part of this world.