I don’t completely understand this complaint:
A fierce Cabinet battle has broken out over gay rights after Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary, delayed plans that would penalise organisations – such as hotels – for denying their services to homosexuals.
Miss Kelly, a Roman Catholic and member of the Opus Dei sect, has clashed with Alan Johnson, her successor as Education Secretary, who is concerned that she is trying to water down the plans because of her religious beliefs.
Try rewriting that as, ‘is trying to alter those parts of the plans with which she doesn’t agree’ and it becomes somewhat less contentious, doesn’t it? The consultation document says in its introduction,
This consultation paper seeks views on specific points about the range of activities that should be covered by the Regulations, and on whether any exceptions should be provided from them to ensure that the protection provided is effective and appropriately targeted.
Among the questions asked are,
we propose to apply the prohibition on sexual orientation discrimination to organisations – including churches, a charities or other similar groups with a religious ethos – that are contracted by a public authority to deliver a service on its behalf.
Q12: Do you consider that an exemption should be provided from the regulations for some of the activities of religious organisations?
Q13: Do you agree that these exemptions should be restricted to activities that are primarily doctrinal? If there are any other activities that you consider should be covered by an exemption, what are they and why do you consider they need to be exempted?
Well, presumably they’ve received responses from several organisations with the reply ‘Yes’ to Question 12 and ‘No, we don’t think the exemptions should be thus restricted; here are the other activities we think should be exempted and this is why…’ to Question 13. Ms Kelly, having read the replies, thinks they’ve got a case and is trying to accommodate them. Isn’t that what consultation is supposed to be about?
If the accusation was that she was trying to scupper the plans completely because of she objects to them in principle, then I could see the force of the objection. But the fact that her religious beliefs would make her oppose the death penalty in almost all circumstances wouldn’t, to my mind, render her opposition to it invalid.
The Telegraph goes on to quote
Labour MP Chris Bryant, who is gay, [who] said: “Where organisations are working on behalf of the state, the only thing that should matter is the interests of the children. It would be an enormous mistake to provide exemptions for faith-based organisations.”
Presumably, though, if Ruth Kelly resigned tomorrow and Chris Bryant were asked to replace her (not likely after his role in the letter calling on Blair to quit, I agree), presumably people wouldn’t be objecting to his making a decision on the matter just because he’s known already to have strong and principled views on the subject.
Having said that, I’m not quite sure I follow the logic of this specific point, further on in the Telegraph’s account of the controversy:
Catholic adoption agencies fear they may be forced to allow gay couples to adopt.
At first I thought I could see the point; if you’re a Catholic adoption agency, presumably you want to place the children in good Catholic homes and presumably being an actively gay couple, no matter how suitable you might be as prospective parents in other respects, means you’re not really a good Catholic household. You might be Catholics, but the Church hardly approves of your domestic arrangements. However, I checked the FAQ of the adoption agency Catholic Caring Services and discover that
Do I have to be Catholic to apply to Catholic Caring Services?
No. Catholic Caring Services’ mission is to meet the needs of children. Children do not need to possess any credentials to qualify for our help other than their needs. So Catholic Caring Services welcomes enquiries from applicants from all backgrounds and religions, or people who do not hold any religious belief so long as their commitment is to provide a loving family home for a child.
What is important is that adopters are able to meet the spiritual, religious or cultural needs of any child placed with them.
Do I have to be married to apply to Catholic Caring Services?
No. Catholic Caring Services will welcome enquiries from single people and from unmarried couples who are in stable, long term relationships.
Well, hang on a minute, if they’re willing to entertain applications not only from atheists who’re living in sin but even from Protestants, then where’s the principled objection to gay couples?
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