The Telegraph reports today on the Bishops' sense of concern at the Equality legislation targetted at minority groups like Christians. I was rather impressed by one reader's thoughts. He sounds down to earth and a man of good will. Good will, essentially, is what makes the World go round, keeps people from killing people and protects groups from unjust discrimination and worse, persecution. The Equality legislation is divisive, punishing and sets up a model of society in which different groups are basically at each other's throats. In particular, it gives the Church little room for manouvre, stifles debate, suppresses freedom of religion and usurps conscience.
I am an atheist and also a homosexual - but I find aspects of this Bill terrifying (So do we!).
A doctor who does not wish to perform an abortion on the grounds of faith may refuse it (Yes, thank God!). Why may not a christian offer to pray for someone? The correct response, is either "That would be nice" or "Thank you, but that won't be necessary" - not legislation. (Sounds perfectly reasonable.)
The bishops have rightly said that christianity is more than an idea: it is a code for life. If they wish to do more than just HOLD their faith, but PRACTICE it too, then that should not be a crime. Yes they may say things against me, as a gay man, that I don't like - but I'm a great believer in the freedom of speech. Let them tell me I am "fallen" or "going to hell" (The destination of our immortal souls really depends on our behaviour, rather than our personalities. We all need conversion of heart.) or whatever. Nonsense is always nonsense and people recognise it as such. Give all the right to be heard and sense will prevail. (Or at the very least debate will be ignited.)
Of course all people should be regarded as equal under the law. But if church and state are REALLY separate, then let the church conduct internal matters in its own way. If they choose not have women or homosexuals as priests - which I personally regard as an unnecessary waste of more than half the available talent - then that is up to them. Let them sort it out. I believe the legislation needs to allow them to do this: after all, they're equal to us, aren't they? (Eureka!)
The conscience clause is vital. Without it this Bill is just another example of a corrupt government treating us as idiots incapable of thinking for ourselves.