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« Pantomime Politics | Main | So, Are We Equals? »

The Inequality of Beliefs

In a recent interview with the Church Times I said: “I get weary of UK Christians saying they are oppressed. What utter insulting nonsense! I have been with people who have had their children taken away and killed because they are Christians. That’s oppression.”

It is such crap – UK Christians saying they are persecuted when in fact they have a privileged position and are allowed by the State to actually practice discrimination against gay people and women. The UK Equality Act 2010, when speaking of the equality of belief, states: “Belief means any religious or philosophical belief and a reference to belief includes a reference to a lack of belief.” It is for sure an odd statement, but it does hold philosophical beliefs to be equal with religious beliefs. In practice this is, of course, not true.

Imagine Mr. Books is the chief executive of a large national bookstore chain called Books. It is his firm belief, given his experience and philosophy of life, that woman and gay people cannot be managers of local bookstores or chief executives in HQ. He  believes this because many years ago, before he was born, the founding father of Books started twelve bookstores all of which were managed by straight men. Each bookstore was very successful and the twelve grew to be twenty-four, the twenty-four to 124 and so on until there are some 1000 bookstores throughout the land. In all these bookstores the post of manager has always been held by straight men. All executive positions in HQ have always been held by straight men. It is both the philosophy of the company and Mr. Books personal experience and belief that women and gays cannot and should not hold the posts of manager and executive. He would argue that this is not a matter of equality. It is a matter of who is best suited for the post and is grounded in the experience of the founding. He bases this conclusoin on the fact that the founding twelve managers and subsequent executive were all straight men and that straight men are better suited to fulfil the mission of each individual bookstore and Books in general. History is, after all, on his side. Books succeeded and grew. And the conclusion that straight men are best suited for these particular posts is not simply a personal opinion of Mr. Books. Books philsopy has been establish over generations, the foundation of which were laid out in the founding father’s journals, which are preserved in the company museum. Books has a long and well established tradition. As chief executive of Books, Mr. Books therefore supports and implement the company policy that restricts women and gays from holding the position of manager or executive.

 All this is, of course, silly nonsense. Regardless of Mr. Books interpretation of history, his personal experiences and his philosophical belief system, regardless of the long tradition of Books and the semi-sacredness bestowed on the founding father’s journal by Books employees, the State would never let Mr. Books and the company formally and institutionally discriminate against women and gay people. It would be considered, and indeed is, against the law.

However, if Mr. Books were the chief executive of a national church and said that because Jesus was a man and because Jesus’ first twelve disciples were all men, women cannot hold certain positions within his church that would be OK. And because Mr. Books considered gay people to be an abomination based on his interpretation of an ancient text and therefore cannot hold certain posts in his church, again the State would say that is OK. The church would be allowed to practice faith-based discrimination against women and gays without legal consequences. The State would and does exempt Mr. Books and his church from the Equality Act 2010 and all other legislation that makes it a crime to discrimination against certain people, despite the fact that the value of equality underpins the essence of the secular state and despite the fact that men and women have fought, suffered and died for these values.

In the eyes of the State some beliefs are considered more “exceptional” then other beliefs. Religious people, of course, assume their beliefs are indeed exceptional, though the may forget the remarkable privilege they are given by the State and its citizens – the right to discriminate against the people the choosing. Obviously, religious belief is exceptional for the believer and thus the believer assumes the right of privilege and the right to practice faith-based discrimination. But to the nonbeliever discrimination is discrimination, and is insulting at the very least.

Copyright © 2012 Dale Rominger

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