Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Why do conservatives face both ways?

It interests me to hear that the Roman Catholic hierarchy in England wants its adoption agency to be exempted, on the grounds of conscience, from the provisions of the Equality Act which would disallow discrimination against homosexuals in the provision of goods and services. They are protesting against the application of the Act to the adoption agency run by their church. They say today that the agency will close because in all conscience it cannot accept the placement of children with homosexual couples as this is contrary to the tenets of its faith. I have a lot of sympathy for the Roman Catholic case here - not because I think homosexual couples should be discriminated against, nor do I think that they are unsuitable to adopt children; but because I believe that faith-based conscience should be respected and diversity of belief and practice in these matters tolerated. (It would be a different matter if the Roman Catholic church controlled all adoption agencies but there is a wide range of other agencies available to homosexual couples.)

But what interests me is the character of the conservative religious mindset in this issue. The Roman Catholic hierarchy and conservative Anglicans may not be the same groups of people but they have a similarly conservative and negative view of homosexuality in practice. But whilst the Roman Catholic hierarchy seeks exemption from secular equality law on the basis of conscience; there is no such "exemption" apparently granted by conservative Anglicans to the United States Episcopal Church which in all conscience wants to offer full equality of membership to homosexuals in its church community. Conservatives thus face two ways - exemption from laws for themselves on matters of conscience but no exemption on matters of conscience for those with whom they disagree. Didn't Jesus once say "Do unto others as you would have then do unto you" ?

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