Proving that the Lillian Ladele case was not an aberration or a curiosity and clearly was part of a wider strategy to use religious discrimination laws as a weapon (and gay people as the Achilles heel) to beat back secularism, we have this development:
“The blatant support for homosexual rights in Norfolk Police makes being a Christian officer extremely difficult. I am not undertaking this action lightly but I have to make a stand when things become so blatantly biased against me just because I hold a faith.”
So said Graham Cogman, a constable with the Norfolk Police, who is taking his case for “victimisation” to an industrial tribunal.
The trouble started when an email was circulating urging police officers to wear a ribbon marking Gay History Month. Mr Cogman responded with an email circular of his own quoting bible verses denouncing homosexuality.
According to The Telegraph, PC Cogman said reconciling his religious beliefs with his job was becoming more difficult because the force’s stance on homosexuality was at odds with his religious views.
Well too bad. Without wanting to rehash the (lengthy) arguments over the Lillian Ladele case last week, there is no reason why religious justifications for bigotry should be privileged over political, philosophical, or just plain puzzling reasons. And if we accept the plain logic of that, we may as well get ready for the return of racism, sexism and a host of other unpleasantness in the public sphere.
There is only one way to make the law logical and consistent and this is as follows.
The Public Sector must have a zero-tolerance of discrimination for any reason whatsoever. That is to say, no opt-outs, concessions or exemptions whatsoever. The public sector would include publicly traded companies, all organs of state and local government and public services such as the NHS, fire departments, the police, etc. In addition, any institution that was in receipt of public money would have to sign up to the same comprehensive equal opportunities commitments. That includes private schools who are subsidised by state funding.
The Private Sector – that is to say privately owned businesses and private individuals – can discriminate however they like. That, unfortunately, means a return of companies that won’t hire Jews, and boarding houses that won’t take black guests, and printers who won’t print gay magazines. People who want to discriminate – the BNP hotelier who wants a whites-only establishment, the Christian pharmacist who won’t dispense contraception, the Muslim sales rep who won’t shake hands, the whole lot of them can do so in the private sector. Want segregated swimming? Build your own pool! Public pools are for everyone, and so on…
It seems it is increasingly impossible for the government to manage comprehensive non-discrimination policies and make space for personal conscience and freedom of association. The only compromise I can think of is this separation of public and private spheres. Anyone have a better idea?