The British Catholic Church compares gay marriage to slavery
// Leah Scheitel

“It’s easy to be an atheist in Britain,” said Oxford philosopher, Nigel Warburton. As Britain has become a more secular society in recent years, and according to a study conducted by the BBC, the UK is the third most secular country in the world, behind Russia and South Korea.

As church and state become more and more opposed, the Church of England feels threatened by the British government, and this polarization is only increasing as the UK plans to make gay marriages legal in the eyes of the state. Although the government has stated that this will have no impact on the church, people are angry.

The Catholic Church is speaking out, looking for supporters, and saying that it was their morals and beliefs that England was built upon. Many British Christians are making accusations that they are being discriminated against for their religious practices, and the secular society is infringing on their rights to practice their faith. While secularism has pushed religion to the side of everyday life, accusing employers and government of discrimination doesn’t help gain sympathy from the public.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, there have been numerous claims that people have been discriminated against for not being able to wear crosses at their workplaces. Nadia Eweida, who worked for British Airways, is looking for compensation after being sent home from work for wearing a silver cross in 2006.

Sarah Moore, Eweida’s lawyer said: “There is only one core issue, which is whether British Airways discriminated against the appellant on the grounds of her religion or belief when it prevented her from wearing visibly a small cross around her neck at work, which she wished to do as a means of expressing her Christian faith."

Eweida believes that this violation of her rights under Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.” In response to this, the British

Government has said that wearing a cross is not a “requirement of faith” for the Christian religion, and therefore Article 9 does not apply to these cases.

According to the Guardian, Moore and Eweida argued that people of Muslim and Sikh religions are allowed to wear Kara bangles and hijabs as a symbol of their faiths, but she, as a Christian, was asked to hide her cross necklace from sight.

Recently other claims of discrimination have come up. Childcare worker Celestine Mba says she is discriminated against for not wanting to work on Sundays and in another case, a family counselor was fired for refusing to give sexual therapy to a gay couple.

“They [Merton Council, her ex-employers] say they believe in diversity, but I don’t think they’ve been diverse enough,” Mba said to the Wimbledon-Guardian. “If they valued my faith or valued me as a person, they would have taken my faith into account and worked around it like they said from the beginning.”

These claims have enraged devout Christians in the UK. Andrea Williams, the director of the Christian Legal Centre, said, “In recent months, the courts have refused to recognize the wearing of a cross, belief in marriage between man and a woman, and Sundays as a day of worship as ‘core’ expression of the Christian faith. What’s next? Will the Courts overrule the Ten Commandments?”

An article written for the National Secular Society of the UK said, “As the cases became sillier and sillier, people began to see what was happening. The reason the cases were failing was because they were unreasonable and were claiming that Christians should have special rights in the workplace and in society at large. When these special rights were not granted by the courts, it was immediately claimed that ‘Christians have fewer rights than anybody else’.”

Christians having fewer rights seems like an odd claim when it is homosexuals who have been fighting for the right to marry in the eyes of the civil law for years. The right for gays to marry is not an oppression of Christians to practice their faith.

The UK Government has stated many times that the legalization of gay marriage is not an attack on the Church, and they will not be forced to perform ceremonies that violate their religious views.

“This is absolutely not about religious marriage,” said Equalities Minister, Lynn Featherstone, “It’s about civil marriage for people who love each other.”

In response to this, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the most senior Catholic in the UK, wrote for the Sunday Telegraph, stating, “Imagine for a moment that the Government had decided to legalize slavery but assured us that ‘no one will be forced to keep a slave.’ Would they justify dismantling a fundamental human right?” This is a brash comparison to make – love between two people of the same sex and the act of slavery are very different concepts.

If the Church of Britain is looking for support or sympathy, they are not going to get it by crying that their beliefs are being marginalized, or comparing the legalization of gay marriage to the legalization of slavery. These claims from the Church are making them look like bratty kids who didn’t get their way. If they want supporters, they need to show the public how good their faith can be, because right now, we’re only seeing the ugly side.

//Leah Scheitel, writer
//Graphics by Indervhir Jhudi

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