On Monday two High Court judges ruled that homosexual rights 'should take precedence' over the right not to be discriminated against on religious grounds, albeit under very limited circumstances. Eunice and Owen Johns had previously raised four of their own children and provided foster care for nearly 20 children, but were told by social workers that their belief that homosexuality is immoral meant they were not suitable to look after a child aged between five and eight. It is reported that the Equality and Human Rights Commission suggested that Eunice and Owen Johns could attend a 're-education' programme.
Once again the conflict is over homosexuality... If only the Church had more consistently spoken out in recent decades against other sources of immorality – the idolatry that pursues money or the interests of self above all else, for instance – and Christians took a consistent stance against all forms of sexual immorality – including the far more widespread pre-marital and extra-marital heterosexual forms – then perhaps it wouldn't be so easy for the freedom of conscience of believers to be ignored in the name of ‘equality and human rights’.
The judges rejected suggestions that the case involved 'a threat to religious liberty' but clearly defined religious freedom too narrowly (a helpful summary of the case has been published by the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship; they ask why the courts should draw a distinction between Christianity and Christian behaviour but not between homosexuality and homosexual behaviour). As we asserted in our recent Big Society report, the real focus should be freedom of conscience. Warning of this, the former Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali has previously observed, 'We welcome the idea of the "Big Society" and a freer society where people are enabled to work for their local communities. ... However, it is more and more important that in the delivery of what is needed by local communities, their beliefs and conscience are respected.'
If Christians who hold to normal, mainstream, Christian views on sexual ethics are unfit to foster small children, then it is a small step to maintain that Christians are equally unfit as parents and not to be trusted with the education of their children. We would then conclude that the broad spectrum of schools that are commonly classified together as faith schools should be discontinued, and Sunday School classes and home-schooling by believers be prevented.
Presumably humanists, who believe that having a relationship with God is irrational, would be equally unfit to foster or parent children and we should all be sent off together for re-education in the Equality and Human Rights Commission's gulags...
It would seem, as we concluded in our Cambridge Paper on equality, human rights and the new political absolutism, that 'a political programme which seeks the common good, divides authority and respects conscience has never been more important.'