Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/472/2032
Christian hierarchy attacks equal rights
WHILE SOCIALISTS were out last week campaigning against cuts in the NHS, the leaders of Britain's main Christian de-nominations were involved in a different kind of battle.
LGBT demo, photo Marc Vallee
They want to be given an exemption from laws due to be implemented this spring that will ban discrimination against Lesbians, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered people (LGBT) in the provision of services.
This includes allowing gay couples to adopt children. The top Catholic in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor said that his church would rather close down their adoption agencies than provide equal treatment.
The Anglican Archbishops of Canterbury and York supported their fellow prelate's demands as did other religious groups such as the Muslim Council of Britain and the Evangelical Alliance.
There should be no exemptions allowing discrimination by religious groups.
In any case, the religious organisations have different views on the matter. Catholic adoption agencies in America have allowed gay couples to adopt. They were supervised by a bishop who is now the Vatican's "doctrinal enforcer"! The Church of England's agency has allowed gay adoption for eight years.
The present campaign is clearly motivated by a desire to "take a stand" against LGBT rights generally. This endorsement of prejudice could lead to violent consequences by making anti-gay feeling appear to be an acceptable feature of society, even as "God's will". Many Christians will be worried about this and would want the church to place its efforts elsewhere. However, Bishops don't have to consult their followers before announcing the Church hierarchy's views.
Tony Blair, notorious for his strident claims to be Christian, and Ruth Kelly, minister responsible for the legislation and a devout catholic, were reportedly sympathetic to the bishops' demands. However, it seems that open threats of resignation by other ministers resulted in New Labour deciding against any exemption. Possibly a transitional period will be allowed so the Catholic church can shut down its adoption agencies.
The issue isn't settled north of the border, where the Scottish assembly has the final say.
Disgracefully, the Scottish Nationalist Party has supported the call by Scottish Catholic bishops who also want an exemption. This is a naked ploy to win catholic votes on a religious basis. It risks encouraging sectarianism. The SNP is playing a very dangerous game.
The whole affair is a warning of what will happen if charities and religious groups are allowed to take over elements of social and other public services, as is the policy of all the capitalist parties. The only way services can be accessible to everyone is to keep them in the public sector and let them be run democratically by their users and workers.
In The Socialist 1 February 2007:
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