Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Stop playing religion with children’s lives

Those poor clergymen are being persecuted again by the nasty ho-mo-sexuals. I bet some of you ideologically crazed PC liberals thought this adoption stuff was about discrimination against gay people, didn’t you? How wrong you were.

The Archbishop of Westminster explains:

“… to oblige our agencies in law to consider adoption applications from homosexual couples as potential adoptive parents would require them to act against the principles of Catholic teaching.

“We believe it would be unreasonable, unnecessary and unjust discrimination against Catholics for the government to insist that if they wish to continue to work with local authorities, Catholic adoption agencies must act against the teaching of the Church and their own consciences by being obliged in law to provide such a service.”

It’s an interesting sort of discrimination that holds everyone to the same standard, isn’t it? But perhaps he thinks it’d be indirect discrimination, which while not directly targeting certain groups does have the effect of disadvantaging them.

So, for instance, if certain groups refused on ideological grounds to do business with black people, any laws that mandated equal treatment of all ethnicities would in effect be indirect discrimination against these racists and therefore wrong – you see?

Hold on a minute – it wouldn’t be wrong at all! It’s the racism that’s wrong!

So maybe it’s the homophobia (polite, genteel and sympathetic, to be sure, but very much there) inherent in these Catholic teachings that’s wrong, rather than the discrimination against homophobes?

If the Archbishop and his fellow opponents of gay adoption (not just the Catholics, to be fair) can demonstrate why it is that being in a same-sex relationship makes you an unfit parent, then that would be well worth listening to. But in the absence of such arguments that go beyond just waving the Bible around or blathering about the “essential complementarity of male and female”, the presumption has to be that being gay is OK – and therefore that discriminating against gay people isn’t OK.

Martin Newland gets the wrong end of the stick:

“In an age of rampant relativism, secular society cannot understand the notion of an objective moral absolute and its deep claims upon the religious individual.”

It would be rampant relativism indeed if we allowed homophobia within certain sections of society but not others. ‘But look, it’s me! I believe in ghosts! Can I bash the gays now please? I promise to do it while feeling very sorry for them.’ The desire to prevent discrimination on grounds of sexuality is motivated by deep morality rather than modern expedient offence-avoidance.

And the Telegraph is characteristically demented:

“A simple amendment to the regulations has been proposed to stop adherents of Christianity, Judaism and Islam being forced to ‘assist, encourage or facilitate homosexual practices’.”

Aside from the fact that this phrasing prompts images of god-fearing folk being rounded up by the police and marched down to Clapham Common at night to hand out free Vaseline and Viagra, it’s a ridiculous lie. The regulations don’t force anybody to do anything. What they do is to prevent people from discriminating.

The issue here is dishonest moral blackmail: what the Catholic adoption agencies are doing is, to their credit, largely good (helping needy children find loving homes) – but also partly bad (insisting that no gay couple can possibly provide a good home). The insistence that if they can’t do the bad bits then they’ll be ‘forced’ to stop doing the good bits as well is disingenuous responsibility-dodging: they’re free to start treating gay people decently if they want to.

As the Independent says (and everyone claims to agree with the first sentence):

“The welfare of the child is paramount in adoption. If parents can be found who offer a child in care a secure and loving home, then considerations of race, religion, or sexual orientation must not interfere. Gay couples have proved that they are the equal of heterosexual couples when it comes to parenting. Ministers must call the Catholic bishops' bluff - and stand their ground.”

Yes, everyone claims to agree with the first sentence. But some of them go on to play religion with these children’s lives, and then accuse their detractors this of playing politics.

[Update: more blogging on this from Andrew at B4L, Andrew at wongaBlog, Ophelia, Scribbles, Tom H, Neil H, Matt M and very probably a whole bunch of other people as well. Tuck in.]

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