Iris and fundamentalism

The recent travails (largely self inflicted ) of Iris Robinson have brought to light the issue of how fundamentalist Christians interact with society especially when they are in positions of very considerable political power. As ever amongst such people there are many different analyses. I apologise for the biblical quotations in the second part of this piece but it is difficult to explain what people are arguing about without quoting relevant bits of Scripture. In addition my traditional defence: this is (as we have seen) part of Northern Ireland’s culture.The simplest strategy is that adopted by small groups such as the Exclusive Brethren: they withdraw themselves from all political and largely from civic life. I am no expert on the finer points of their theology but my understanding is that they feel that God’s law should be the guide for believers but is of little relevance to those outside their group. Certainly they seem to make no attempt to impose their views on anyone else. It is, however, noteworthy that some Exclusive Brethren in Australia have recently been involved in placing overtly political advertisements in newspapers.

The other Brethren groups seem to adopt a relatively similar position. John Darby essentially the founder of the Brethren movement (they object to the term denomination) was opposed to Christians having any role in politics as he felt that it would take them away from spending as much time on spiritual matters and also because it would involve them in having to compromise their religious beliefs. Most Brethren in Northern Ireland seem to adopt this position.

Groups such as the Independent Methodists are happy for their members to take part in politics (Nelson McCausland is a noted Indie preacher and theologian) but the church does not support the idea of a minister becoming a politician and remaining in the active ministry. A similar position has been adopted in the past by the Presbyterian Church with for example Rev. Martin Smyth who became an MP and ceased to be an active Presbyterian Minister in that he no longer had a congregation or specific functions within the church.

The Free Presbyterian Church is of course the one most noted for having active ministers who are also politicians; as I have noted before, however, that is a situation which is not popular with all members of the church and indeed the new moderator Rev. Ron Johnstone has been notable by his low media profile.

Of course much of the recent controversy has surrounded what a particular fundamentalist (Iris Robinson) believes. Her beliefs will be supported by many (as we have heard on the Nolan show) but by no means all fundamentalists. The concept of a modern society’s laws reflecting God’s Law is an interesting one.

Firstly one must note that the laws in the Old Testament were actually radically liberal for their time (over 3,000 years ago). The concept of “An eye for an eye” for example was actually designed to establish that the absolute maximum punishment for a given crime is proportionate to that crime. This prevented the idea of a powerful person killing a less powerful one for a minor offence. This episode which was contrary to what God had commanded shows that in such times excessive retribution was considered acceptable (though not to God): Genesis 4: 23-24 “And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt. If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.”

The next important consideration is whether or not the severe punishments referred to in the Old Testament were carried out. There seems to be no recording of a son being killed for bad behaviour (Deuteronomy 21:18-21) Adultery also seems to have not necessarily carried the Death Penalty. It is worth noting in the genealogy of our Lord that four women are mentioned. To mention women at all is remarkable in such documents from the time; the women themselves are even more remarkable. There is Thamar who “played the harlot” to get pregnant by her father in law Judah who would not give her, her husband’s brother as a husband as custom demanded. Then there is Rachab the harlot who helped Joshua and Caleb. Despite numerous attempts to say that she was an innkeeper / hotel owner: the Hebrew is very specific; she was a prostitute. Next is Ruth: a foreigner and finally Bathsheba who committed adultery with King David. As such these four women (all of them rather risky) are accepted in the lineage of our Lord. Some have suggested that this is a sign of God’s inclusively and certainly does not tally with stoning for adultery being frequently practiced. In addition the Children of Israel are repeatedly criticised throughout the Old Testament for failing God’s standards: these failures seem to mainly involve worshiping idols and most frequently of all exploiting the poor, rather than anything else.

Next we have the issue of which Old Testament Laws should be followed by Christians (even fundamentalists) today. Jesus specifically condoned picking grain and eating it on the Sabbath (Matthew 12: 1-8). There are also multiple episodes of him performing miracles on the Sabbath. He also gives examples where divorce is acceptable (Matthew 19:1-30) and of course refused to condemn a woman taken in adultery (John 8:1-11). In Acts 11: 6-9 Peter is told to kill and eat in a vision containing animals traditionally regarded as “unclean.” Paul suggests that the only thing a Christian should abstain from is meat with blood in it (a Brethren theologian I know suggests that this means that Christians should not eat black puddings but that is the only religious prohibition I have ever heard suggested).

The final and probably most important question is to what extent the “Law of God” should be applied to non believers. There is a school of thought that suggests that the Israelites are the forerunners of the Church and as the laws which applied to them apply (with the marked modifications made by the New Testament) only to Christians. As such the parts of the Bible which make demands which the non religious deem unacceptable are for believers only.

Of course much of what is “God’s Law” is also the sort of law one would expect even in a specifically secular democracy such as France or Turkey. Banning murder, theft, rape etc. is hardly controversial. In addition on the actual topic which inspired Mrs. Robinson’s latest remarks: opposing abortion is not solely the preserve of fundamentalist Protestants nor even that solely of people who believe in God. Analysing the possible positions of fundamentalists in positions of political power has unfortunately not been helped by the latest events and to be honest the Nolan Show is hardly a forum for calm debate of anything. The furore is such, however, that those politicians with a high level of theological and political understanding (such as Mr. McCausland) are unlikely to wish to publicly contribute. I suspect most or all of the DUP may now adopt something of a vow of silence on this subject for some time.

  • Go Iris!

    The more she speaks, the greater the wedge she drives between the DUP (and by extension all NI unionists) and the liberal western world. Much more of this and unionism will be politically untouchable for the overwhelming majority of people outside NI. She’s doing almost as good a job in that respect as Paisley did in his day.

    And people say the DUP are smart … ?!

    Her nearest ‘kin’, in the political sense, would appear to be Islamic fundamentalists in, for example, Iran or Saidi Arabia.

  • Rory

    “…a Brethren theologian I know suggests that this means that Christians should not eat black puddings”

    Begobs, I half suspected all along that them Cork fellas with their “Clonakilty Wrassler” were hardly christians at all.

    Mind you, Herself, who comes from a Brethren family doesn’t reckon to the black puddin’ at all, but I don’t mind as it means more for me.

  • Damian O’Loan

    Turgon,

    You’re missing the point. The role of a government is to be the legislature. Were this to be confused with the duty to “uphold God’s law” we would be using a Christian equivalent of Sharia, and the role of the government would be relegated below that of theologians, as is the case in Iran. Mrs Robinson seems to wish to be able to pronounce Christian fatwas.

    Fortunately, our governmental system is beyond the archaic conception of Mrs Robinson (though the confusion between Church and State in England is not altogether irrelevant). It appears, from your post, that you have not quite grasped how we have advanced. May I suggest you (re-)read Rousseau’s Social Contract, and Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws.

    Speculating on how close our current laws are to those of a select few, yet still contradictory, bible citations is irrelevant. Iris Robinson clearly does not understand her responsibilities as a Member of the Legislative Assembly, nor as a Member of Parliament. That is why she is not fit to hold either position. That no member of the DUP has clarified their conception of the role of government shames the party, and allows one to presume that they share her ignorance on such a fundamental matter.

  • Turgon

    Damian,

    I am deliberately not analysing the rights and wrongs of the role of government though I actually largely agree with you in that respect; I will leave that debate to others.

    My interest here is looking at the position of fundamentalists regarding politics and how they see their religion and politics interacting. In addition I am looking at the passages of the Bible which people frequently mention and suggesting that even amongst pretty fundamentalist people there is room for a number of analyses which are often a lot less draconian than people usually expect.

  • Garibaldy

    Damien,

    If you’re gonna throw around Montesquieu, perhaps you might want to rethink the sentence that the role of government is to be a legislature. What about the executive for example?

  • Damian O’Loan

    Turgon,

    Fair enough. I’d welcome the input of informed, religious people in the context of democracy. I think, though, that its more important to note that the wife of the First Minister and and MP appears to support conversion to theocracy.

  • Damian O’Loan

    Garibaldy,

    Yes, a three-pronged approach combining executive, legislative and judicial duties. But her role, in the NI context, is as Member of the Legislative Assembly, and her comment’s were on upholding “God’s law” – that’s why I focussed on that part. And in any case, the legislature and executive are never fully separated.

    It does raise questions, somewhat related to Reg Empey’s recent comments, on the capacity of the Assembly with regard to P&J;, if they don’t understand these concepts.

    Apologies Turgon, I realise this is off-topic.

  • Dr Strangelove

    Iris, Iris, Iris

  • Garibaldy

    It is laughable that she can make this statement. Then again, I’m reminded of John Bruton yapping about the need for a recognition of God/christianity in discussions around the proposed EU constitution.

    As for the capacity of the assembly. I trust the civil servants who draft the bills more than I do them.

  • Turgon

    Damian / Garibaldy,

    Off topic maybe but interesting and informative none the less.

  • Garibaldy

    I think Damien’s comment does raise interesting issues. About the way governments and society were rethought during the Enlightenment in an attempt to remove the poisonous role religion had played over the previous couple of centuries within European states and between them. This required a more humanist approach to ethics. I guess the justification of the law as the will of the people (as opposed to that of the king or of God) found its clearest expression in the French Revolution’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. Once there, we have a new philosophical basis for civic behaviour.

    If we take religion as serving the needs of society, it seems more reasonable that secular and religious ethics are so close together. It is important though to separate the two. I’m not sure though we need go as far as the French did recently in denying that woman citizenship for covering her face, though I have a hell of a lot of sympathy for the sentiment.

  • circles

    I’m just wondering now, as a lapsed pastafarian how fundamentalist pastafari beliefs are compatible with the political engagement in a modern democratic state.
    Piracy in all its forms would surely be legalised for both religious and environmental reasons (and rightly so). And lapsed though I am I really do believe that a copy of the I-really-rather-you-didn’t should be hung in every classroom and taught to all school children.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gospel_of_the_Flying_Spaghetti_Monster#The_Eight_.22I.27d_Really_Rather_You_Didn.27ts.22)

  • Damian O’Loan

    Turgon/Garibaldy,

    Thank you. It was pretty poor that the Nolan team didn’t manage, after a whole day to research, to come up with as much substance as the various points we’ve raised together.

    I await the DUP (and others’) rejection of theocracy for NI.

  • Garibaldy

    Of course the irony being that saying governmen should reflect God’s will, Iris is going against British constitutional traditional, which she claims to uphold. Oh well.

  • “all power is derived, UNDER God, from the people” :>

    There is a difference between the jurisdiction of the religious establishment, and the ability of the legislator to enact a reproduction of the laws of the bible as statute. If a government proceeds with such an action, it would be a change in the nature of the law rather than the nature of the offices of state, and would remain distinct from the offices of state (which incorporate the spiritual commission, church and state being one) and their function in Iran. I feel on this basis that the outrage levelled at Iris may be entirely wrong footed.

    Theocracy is diminutive slang to reflect the state dispensation of the theologians, Which Iris never called for.

    If we follow the reason of john jack, the law is mandated by the public will and the public subject to it.
    This could be consistent with Iris’s view if the population were in agreement with her. – leaving aside the contradiction with such a position with actual Christian beliefs on what is to be, or the contrary teachings of Christ on the relationship between the state and his flock – Of such a public mood we are not, and it is the role of the government and the legislature to uphold the law of the people, which may or may not be in accordance with the documents Iris purports to be of Divine origin.

    also, and this is where I personally get concerned,
    What Iris said is neither compatible with Christian law or Protestant tradition, which is that the law of the state should reflect the values of our faith but remain distinct from all ecclesiastical authority, which infact should not exist in a material sense, and be removed from responsibility to God – that responsibility begin limited to the purely personal and familiar. There is a famous story about a gold coin.

    As a dyed in the wool flute lovin’ bushmills drinkin’ Union Flag wavin’ Loyalist Fundamentalist, I feel that to take religion into governance would prove both your limitations and apostasy, it is to insult god, reveal your own pomposity and absurdity, and ruin both the dignity of faith and the cooperation of society. I believe this to be poignant for the Episcopalian* faiths.

    * (if that term can be used in a sense beyond Anglo-Catholicism to denote churches where there is human authority)

  • willis

    Turgon

    Thank you for a thoughtful and fair introduction to fundamentalism and theocracy. I would however argue that more light could be shone on the reasons why religious people believe what they do by looking at the history and politics of English speaking countries.

    In 1647 English puritains executed the King and set up a ‘Godly’ Republic. 13 years later they were inviting his son ( a man not unaquainted with the flesh) to be the next King. Not much of an achievement for a Theocracy.

  • THATS WHAT YOU GET FOR TRYING TO HAVE A JAPANESE N

    having said that, Iris clearly t’ain’t the brightest spark in the DUP bonfire. unless this is a devious gambit to get the old house back on side with a little flattery, knowing full well that outside our little world, those who object will object to US anyway, and those who approve of US will continue to approve US besides this, or perhaps even a little more with some…….perhaps the DUP are not so dumb as it pleases some to imagine.

    what does God say about gagging orders ?

  • Belfast Gonzo

    I wouldn’t get too worried about Iris – clearly she’s in breach of God’s law on a number of matters.

    For example, she wears mixed clothing (as forbidden in Leviticus 19), fails to wear modest clothing and wears flashy jewelry (as forbidden by 1 Timothy 2) is greedy (according to her own expenses claims), doesn’t submit to men’s opinion (on the Nolan show), doesn’t remain quiet (more Timothy) and, as a quarrelsome wife, can only be compared to the annoyance of a constant dripping on a rainy day (Proverbs 27:15).

    Evil Iris is, according to her own logic, going to burn in the flames of Hell forever.

  • Turgon

    willis,

    Thank you for that. Theocracy is probably not really what Iris was advocating (I suspect she has little real idea what she was advocating). Theocracy does seem to be a completely flawed method of government. The Isrealites were ruled partly by “judges” who seem to have been relatively secular figures prior to the establishment of kings in Isreal.

    As you say Cromwell’s attempts at a state founded on Christian principles were flawed and whilst it may seem insulting to say in an Irish context Cromwell was forced to compromise a great deal. The major generals and attempts to stop dancing were abandoned.

    Coming back to the Bible: much of Jesus’s criticism of the Pharasees seems to have centred on their semi political pervertion of the Jewish faith and the gross corruption it seems to have involved. The Taliban’s attempt at a muslim theocracy also seems to have involved gross corruption and hypocrisy.

    Overall theocracy seemes pretty stunningly flawed and on the odd occassions when the maddest of fundamentalists try to argue that democracy is not God’s will and that we should have a theocracy a quick does of whataboutery pointing out the previous attempts is probably needed.

    As I say I doubt Iris was advocating anything terribly intellectually coherent.

  • WerthersDerivative

    I think that this article is mostly about a complete non-issue. Fundamentalist Christians do not seek to apply Old Testamnet Mosaic law. Mosaic law was a covenant between God and THE JEWS, before Jesus death Gentiles came under Noahide law (ask any orthodox Rabbi and he’ll tell you this is still the position) which is quite different. Even at that the New Testament clearly indicates that Jesus’ sacrifice bound a new covenant (indeed that was the very point of it) and that those laws were not applicable to Christians in any judicial or ceremonial sense, even Jewish converts. Even ones that are not so morally troubling in the modern world like pork prohibition. This is not a matter of controversy at all, and should not be portrayed as such. It is literally the view of 99% of Christians for 99% of Christian history, whether Roman, Middle Ages or Modern. Even when witches and heretics were being burnt alive the church never saw any obligation to uphold Mosaic Laws. For example homosexuality being a capital crime in medieval England had nothing directly to do with it being listed as such under Mosaic law in Leviticus. Indeed it wasn’t a matter for the church but a matter for the King to decide such tariffs of punishment (a position perfectly compatible with the New Testament). The moral content of the old laws can have relevance, but nobody is arguing that theocratic laws should be imposed from the Old Testament text. Or at least those that are are about as commonplace and mainstream as those who believe that Elvis was the son of God. Mostly this is a straw man invented by people like Dawkins, who I can only guess is either being dishonest or hasn’t actually read the Bible.

    The question is one of right and wrong. In a secular society people who believe that x is wrong because it says so in the Bible and they are fundamentalists should be treated exactly equally as people who believe that x is wrong because they are socialists, or feminists, or neoliberals, or social libertarians, or whatever. No special case should be made for views held by fundamentalist Christians, either putting them above liberal democratic procedure or by disregarding them as illegitimate in the name of “secularism”. We have problems with both of these.

  • flyingspaghettimonster

    Iris Robinson is entitled to believe whatever her particular religion and its priests encourage her to believe. This is a right she is entitled to under the European Convention of Human Rights, and she ought not to forget that.

    It may concern reasonable people that she is a prominent member of the Northern Ireland Assembly and that there are other members of the Assembly who apparently share her religious beliefs. A cause for concern is that these people may attempt to use their powers to pass laws based on “God’s Law”, as interpreted by their priests, with the effect of removing certain human rights that other people currently enjoy.

    I take a lot of comfort from knowing that she and others of her ilk will be unable to do any such thing. Thankfully the devolution arrangements, as laid down in the Northern Ireland Act 1998, substantially constrain their powers.

    For example, the competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly to pass laws is prescribed in Section 6 of the Northern Ireland Act. Thankfully it states that the Assembly has no competence to pass a law which is-

    a. incompatible with the European Convention of Human Rights;

    b. incompatible with European Community law;

    c. which discriminates against any person or class of person on the ground of religious belief or political opinion.

    So, Guardian readers, like me, can sleep easy that the likes of Iris will be unable to bring back capital or corporal punishment; or to pass a law to force gay people to undergo psychiatric treatment; or to repeal any of our equality laws.

    Of course, I reckon that she is fully aware of this but that, as others have suggested, she is merely playing to the gallery. To rational people she sounds like a fool, but to some others her outbursts are probably what they like to hear.

  • rabelais

    ‘I doubt Iris was advocating anything terribly intellectually coherent.’

    Absolutely Turgon. But doesn’t this speak volumes about NI’s political sphere, in so far as Iris isn’t the only ignoramous in public life here. Like many so called ‘democrats’ she is utterly ill-informed about the democroatic process and traditions she has been elected to. Now I gather from reading some of the posts on here she is equally ill-informed with regards religous positions on politics and democracy.

    Not so much theocracy, more like idiocy.

  • Seamus

    Iris is allowed to say what she wants and she’s in the position to place whatever of God’s laws she wants into government. Those who disagree with her are generally people who aren’t in power, those like Eamonn McCann

  • WerthersDerivative

    @Damian O’Loan

    You’re missing the point. The role of a government is to be the legislature. Were this to be confused with the duty to “uphold God’s law” we would be using a Christian equivalent of Sharia, and the role of the government would be relegated below that of theologians, as is the case in Iran. Mrs Robinson seems to wish to be able to pronounce Christian fatwas.

    Fortunately, our governmental system is beyond the archaic conception of Mrs Robinson (though the confusion between Church and State in England is not altogether irrelevant). It appears, from your post, that you have not quite grasped how we have advanced. May I suggest you (re-)read Rousseau’s Social Contract, and Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws.

    Speculating on how close our current laws are to those of a select few, yet still contradictory, bible citations is irrelevant. Iris Robinson clearly does not understand her responsibilities as a Member of the Legislative Assembly, nor as a Member of Parliament. That is why she is not fit to hold either position. That no member of the DUP has clarified their conception of the role of government shames the party, and allows one to presume that they share her ignorance on such a fundamental matter.

    No I think you may be missing the point. A Christian equivalent to Sharia is impossible. Not merely impossible in practice but impossible a priori. There simply is no Christian equivalent of Sharia or Halakha to be fundamentalist (i.e. textually literal) about. It was not the job of Christian deacons, elders etc. (diakonos and presbuteros in the original text, however we want to translate them to the Anglo-Saxon tongue I don’t mind) to be going around enforcing temporal laws on people. That was the job of the King or Emperor (“render unto Caeser”). It was their job to be the equivalent of a Greek moral philosopher or teacher. In fact that’s largely the whole point of the New Testament, when you view it through that lens. A Christian theocracy, in the sense of “rule by priests” is certainly possible, indeed the Vatican City currently is one, but that is not equivalent to Sharia, it is simply the rule of men who happen to be priests, which is different at a fundamental level.

    Of course Christian clergy, unlike Muslim clergy, were in no position to be enforcing temporal laws in first century Rome. Perhaps one might argue that if they could have they would have. But that’s irrelevant. The fact is that they didn’t, and so there is no Christian tradition, including any textual tradition that could be used by fundamentalists, equivalent to Sharia.

    In that view it’s not a matter of “the role of the government relegated below that of theologians”. The role of the government is to make laws in line with the views of the people they represent, after arguably perhaps examining evidence and subjecting themselves to debate and coming to a wiser decision than their voters who haven’t the time to do all that. It is MOST DEFINATELY NOT the role of the government to be deciding what is right or wrong or to be telling people what is right or wrong. That’s arse about face. That’s like the police having the power to tell politicians what the law should be.

    It is, of course, the job of politicians to signal to the electorate what their views on right or wrong are, so that the process of representation can work.

    For the same reason it is not the job of the government to take on what used to be the role of the church. Oxbridge philosophers of ethics perhaps, but absolutely NOT the government.

  • WerthersDerivative

    Another reason that religious and non-religious opinions affecting laws must be treated equally on a “one (wo)man one vote” basis is that all of these issues that I can think of cut across religious / secular lines. Religion is a mere correlate. There are atheists who oppose gay civil partnerships, atheists who oppose abortion (http://www.godlessprolifers.org), even atheists who support the death penalty for homosexual acts (e.g Vladimir Zhirinovsky).

    Similarly there are Christians who support gay civil partnerships and even evangelical Christians who are pro-choice.

    So should the RoI have given everyone a polygraph test to determine if their motives came from religion, and if not then denying them a vote in the abortion referendum? Of course not – that would be absurd. Religion must not be above the government in lawmaking, but neither must the government be above the people it is supposed to be representing, whether the views they hold have an element of religious inspiration or not.

  • Damian O’Loan

    WerthersDerivative,

    “No I think you may be missing the point… In that view it’s not a matter of “the role of the government relegated below that of theologians”. The role of the government is to make laws in line with the views of the people they represent, after arguably perhaps examining evidence and subjecting themselves to debate and coming to a wiser decision than their voters who haven’t the time to do all that. It is MOST DEFINATELY NOT the role of the government to be deciding what is right or wrong or to be telling people what is right or wrong.”

    No, I’m not missing the point. Because Iris Robinson’s position was quite different from your claims. What she actually said was:

    “The government are there to uphold the morals of the scriptures.”

    Which reinforces what I said. Never mind that this is an MP and MLA who does not know that ‘government’ is a singular noun, and what that represents. Her words indicate that she believes that government should

    a) interpret the Bible
    b) legislate on the basis of that interpretation.

    That is equivalent to Sharia law, though she clearly believes in a denser concentration of powers currently practised in Iran.

    Your comment that governments should legislate “after arguably perhaps examining evidence and subjecting themselves to debate” I think says enough. Arguably? Perhaps?

  • Peat Blog

    “Iris is allowed to say what she wants and she’s in the position to place whatever of God’s laws she wants into government. Those who disagree with her are generally people who aren’t in power, those like Eamonn McCann”

    Seamus,

    All the large political parties are in power here and several have already criticised Lady Gaffers comments.

    Whilst not a hanging offence, and she is entitled to her views, they are, nevertheless, disturbing. Those seeking a pluralist society and a fair and effective administration also have a right to criticise views which seem to underlie a political philosophy which, if not checked, could develop into something highly divisive and potentially authoritarian. Power corrupts after all and I have a deep mistrust of individual politicians and political dynasties here that appear, to my mind, to have been around for far too long – are they so effective?

    After 40 years of crap the last thing many people here want is moral and social conservatism and to be lectured to by those in authority. I sometimes wonder why the hell I ever came back.

  • Paddy

    I would tend to agree with Iris. The bible says there is no power but of God.

  • WerthersDerivative

    also, and this is where I personally get concerned, What Iris said is neither compatible with Christian law or Protestant tradition, which is that the law of the state should reflect the values of our faith but remain distinct from all ecclesiastical authority, which infact should not exist in a material sense, and be removed from responsibility to God – that responsibility begin limited to the purely personal and familiar. There is a famous story about a gold coin.

    Where exactly does Iris Robinson state that she should be put out of a job and her position as a lawmaker be replaced by an unelected clergyman?

    If she does not say that then surely her position is exactly that “the law of the state should reflect the values of our faith but remain distinct from all ecclesiastical authority”. What am I missing?

  • Garibaldy

    Werthers,

    I’m sure the idea that there can be no such thing as a Christian theocracy would have come as a shock to those living in, say, Calvinist Geneva. Or some might say, admittedly with some hyperbole, the Irish Free State in its early decades.

  • WerthersDerivative

    No, I’m not missing the point. Because Iris Robinson’s position was quite different from your claims. What she actually said was:

    “The government are there to uphold the morals of the scriptures.”

    Which reinforces what I said. Never mind that this is an MP and MLA who does not know that ‘government’ is a singular noun, and what that represents. Her words indicate that she believes that government should

    a) interpret the Bible
    b) legislate on the basis of that interpretation.

    That is equivalent to Sharia law, though she clearly believes in a denser concentration of powers currently practised in Iran.

    You still don’t seem to get it. There is a difference between morality and law. The government does not dictate morality it makes laws. The job of a politician is to make laws reflecting their own opinions of morality, which they should openly express and therefore be duly selected by voters as representing their own opinions. There is therefore absolutely no problem with a politician stating that the laws of the land should represent and be derivative of Christian morality. That is most definately NOT the same as Sharia were the laws of the land should BE, e.g. for adultery xyz as listed in Hadith number abc verse 21. The point is reinforced in that we cannot misconstrue Robinson’s position since no Christian equivalent of Sharia actually EVEN EXISTS. The most she could possibly theoretically mean to make Northern Ireland a theocracy would be as per the Vatican City, a rule by priests. What priests exactly? Pastor McConnell from her church? This is obviously not what she meant. Besides which by his own theology he isn’t even a priest any more than any of his believing “flock” are.

    Your comment that governments should legislate “after arguably perhaps examining evidence and subjecting themselves to debate” I think says enough. Arguably? Perhaps?

    I was simply drawing a contrast between representative and direct democracy. Something highly relevant to the Lisbon Treaty vote for example.

  • WerthersDerivative

    There is a difference between the jurisdiction of the religious establishment, and the ability of the legislator to enact a reproduction of the laws of the bible as statute.

    A legislator has as much chance to enact a reproduction of the laws of the Bible as statute as they have to become a unicorn farmer. They don’t exist in the first place.

  • joeCanuck

    The bible says there is no power but of God.

    Oh! OK. Leviticus it is then. And in that spirit, would that woman please shut the f**k up.

  • Damian O’Loan

    WerthersDerivative,

    Consultation processes and parliamentary debate appear to have passed you by. They’re practises used in democracies.

    “There is therefore absolutely no problem with a politician stating that the laws of the land should represent and be derivative of Christian morality.”

    No, you still don’t get it. She wasn’t talking about the nature of laws, she was talking about the role of government.

    A juridical decree based upon Christian theological interpretation, the logical process of a government “there to uphold the morals of the scriptures”, is precisely equivalent to what a fatwa is.

  • WerthersDerivative

    @Damian O’Loan

    A juridical decree based upon Christian theological interpretation, the logical process of a government “there to uphold the morals of the scriptures”, is precisely equivalent to what a fatwa is.

    Morals are not laws. If they were then we wouldn’t need politicians or democracy, a process to essentially correct laws to draw them in line with morality. Since the Bible is a book of morals and not a book of laws I don’t think there can be amibiguity here.

    A fatwa is a legal edict given by an unelected clergyman. I see no evidence that Robinson believes that unelected clergymen should be making laws rather than elected politicians. If you disagree then please inform me who you believe that these clergymen that she has in mind actually are.

  • Greenflag

    Belfast Gonzo ,

    ‘For example, she wears mixed clothing (as forbidden in Leviticus 19), fails to wear modest clothing and wears flashy jewelry (as forbidden by 1 Timothy 2) is greedy (according to her own expenses claims), doesn’t submit to men’s opinion (on the Nolan show), doesn’t remain quiet (more Timothy) and, as a quarrelsome wife, can only be compared to the annoyance of a constant dripping on a rainy day (Proverbs 27:15).’

    Hilarious Gonzo 🙂 Worthy of Mark Twain in his ‘Letters from the Earth ‘ or his ‘Adam and Eve ‘ narrative 🙂

    ‘Evil Iris is, according to her own logic, going to burn in the flames of Hell forever. ‘

    No chance of a public stoning then just to warm this Jezebel up for the eternal barbecue then ?:) I thought not . Still illegal then in NI :(?

    Will somebody ffs tell Iris to quit her proselytising and just do the job she was elected to do and at least appeared until recently quite capable of doing 🙁

  • pauljames

    Turgon
    Excellent post but can we stop this pinhead dancing and actually proscribe which God’s laws that Iris would have us follow, ie old testament, new, or a la carte?
    Any fundamentalist wish to contribute?

  • Damian O’Loan

    Werthers,

    A fatwa is a judical decree based upon theological interpretation of the Qur’an. It is administered by theologians, and in a theocracy is considered to be law. The fact that these scholars are not elected is irrelevant, though that we have elected representatives stems from the fact that we no longer consider the role of government to be to “uphold God’s laws.” Under Robinson’s ‘system’, we’d have people who interpret the Bible and make a law based upon that interpretation. The difference is only in the concentration of powers – it would be a judical decree based upon interpretation of the holy book of choice.

    I would suggest you accept the fact that she was not simply discussing a moral question, but made a statement on the nature of government that goes against everything that the entirety of Western Europe, the US, Australia, South America, most of Africa and parts of Asia believe in. She was not just wrong, she was so grossly wrong, and displayed such a crass misconception of the role of government and therefore its members, that she and her party ought to retract every word.

  • Peat Blog

    The sheer inconsistency of the DUPs position is one of the most galling things. Matters Biblical seem to arise mostly over issues of sexual morality which, one would have thought, should be of minor interest to government. However, when it comes to environmental or economic issues laissez-faire attitudes suddenly seem to kick in as if not subject to any sense of moral or social justice.

  • WerthersDerivative

    I would suggest you accept the fact that she was not simply discussing a moral question, but made a statement on the nature of government that goes against everything that the entirety of Western Europe, the US, Australia, South America, most of Africa and parts of Asia believe in. She was not just wrong, she was so grossly wrong, and displayed such a crass misconception of the role of government and therefore its members, that she and her party ought to retract every word.

    Form of words does not translate to “nature of government”. Her statement would not be alien to US politics. Perhaps you should not be asking her to withdraw words but to clarify and if necessary withdraw meanings. Words are mere flotsam and jetsam. Though actually if you have a problem with meanings then you should probably be addressing her potential and actual voters in the first instance and let her speak away so that they can draw conclusions favourable to your agenda about whether her true views represent them. Deceit would hardly be productive for anyone involved. That Iris Robinson supports theocracy is not, as it stands, plausable IMO.

    As an atheist, I consider people who wish to exclude the views of the religious in politics on the grounds of faux-secularism even worse than most Christian fundamentalist political figures. Most of them don’t have sources any better for their own morality and are often merely fashion victims who don’t think for themselves.

  • WerthersDerivative

    However, when it comes to environmental or economic issues laissez-faire attitudes suddenly seem to kick in as if not subject to any sense of moral or social justice.

    People acting freely except where it harms others is not in accordance with moral or social justice?

  • DUPed

    Peat Blog – it is because they are poorly educated arriviste aspirants with a whiff of power they feel they can push their magrinal views – but because of of ourfucked up wee norn iron they get the dumb, illiterate, prejudiced and down right fundamentalist bigots to make their mark on polls – and the outside world or a small part looks on in bemusement.

  • Peat Blog

    WerthersDerivative,

    Iris had plenty of opportunity today to clarify her meaning but I suspect we won’t hear from her for a while.

    I suppose part of the “bedding in” of assembly/devolved politics here will be about politicians knowing when to shut up and not opening themselves up to ambush. Although she undoubtedly believes it, I don’t think she went on Nolan intending to say what she did.

  • Peat Blog

    People acting freely except where it harms others is not in accordance with moral or social justice?

    I fear that many of our politicians, but the neo-liberal DUP in particular, do not see environmental protection and alleviating the excesses of the free market as moral imperatives. I suspect they are more interested in protecting certain economic interests. Contrast this with a prudish attitude on issues of sexual morality.

  • WerthersDerivative

    @Peat Blog

    Believes what?

  • WerthersDerivative

    @Peat Blog

    Seriously you’re acting like some kind of cross between Torquemada and Hyacinth Bucket.

  • Peat Blog

    Believes that her core function in government is to implement what she interprets as being God’s law.

  • Peat Blog

    Well, nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition…

  • TAFKABO

    Seriously you’re acting like some kind of cross between Torquemada and Hyacinth Bucket.

    Though probably not intended, that’s about as accurate a description of Iris Robinson as you’re likely to find.

  • 0b101010

    The most depressing aspect is not that the MP/MLA/”first lady” holds a fervently authoritarian fundamentalist theocratic view of government, but that she will almost certainly be safely and proudly reelected by the orange-blinded irreligious masses of Strangford at the next opportunity.

  • perry

    “The most depressing aspect is not that the MP/MLA/”first lady” holds a fervently authoritarian fundamentalist theocratic view of government, but that she will almost certainly be safely and proudly reelected by the orange-blinded irreligious masses of Strangford at the next opportunity.”

    Is it? The knee-jerk rush to sectarian point-scoring against Iris has been pretty depressing given that she joined the conversation in support of a catholic pro-life campaigner and said nothing about the position of religion in government that the catholic church hasn’t said thousands of times before, on particular moral issues such as divorce, contraception, abortion, stem-cell research, more systematically through endorsement for christian democracy or even just generally in proposing phrases to be added to the preambles of European constitutional treaties.

    If Ards voters are “Orange blinded” who’s blinding those non-Orange voters who choose catholic/nationalist politicians with exactly the same position on the question at hand as Mrs Robinson?

  • WerthersDerivative

    @TAFKABO

    Seriously you’re acting like some kind of cross between Torquemada and Hyacinth Bucket.

    Though probably not intended, that’s about as accurate a description of Iris Robinson as you’re likely to find.

    I’d actually agree to an extent, but the whole “you’re not allowed to base laws on morality you find in the Bible but have to base it on what we have been taught by watching BBC soap operas, reading the Guardian and attending Frankfurt School influenced sociology lectures, if you do so we’ll take away your democratic rights and that’s called secularism” crowd are every bit as apt for this description. Also they are much more dangerous because they have much more power.

    In a world where the Catholic church is not permitted to run a charity that declines to offer adoption services to gays and I can be imprisoned for declining to design a website for a gay nightclub on moral grounds (not that I would, but that’s besides the point) describing these people as Torquemada is perfectly apt. When fundamentalist Christians have that sort of unjust power then call me and I’ll look at the situation again. Frankly I’d rather confront the people who are ACTUALLY abusing my rights as I type this than some minority who these abusers tell would do so and must be stopped. It’s all very like Orwell’s Animal Farm.

    As for Hyacinth Bucket and “what would the neighbours think”-ism this quote from above “The more she speaks, the greater the wedge she drives between the DUP (and by extension all NI unionists) and the liberal western world. Much more of this and unionism will be politically untouchable for the overwhelming majority of people outside NI.” sums it up. It’s not about right or wrong it’s about who’s fashionable.

  • TAFKABO

    but the whole “you’re not allowed to base laws on morality you find in the Bible but have to base it on what we have been taught by watching BBC soap operas, reading the Guardian and attending Frankfurt School influenced sociology lectures, if you do so we’ll take away your democratic rights and that’s called secularism” crowd are every bit as apt for this description.

    Yeah, except this situation only exists in your paranoid imagination.
    See, we have the clear statement from Iris to show that the description fits her, we don’t have anything to support what you’ve just alleged.

    In a world where the Catholic church is not permitted to run a charity that declines to offer adoption services to gays and I can be imprisoned for declining to design a website for a gay nightclub on moral grounds

    Really, which world is that?

    Here’s an easy way of proving your claims.

    Tell me roughly how many people have ever been imprissoned for refusing services to people based upon their homosexuality, then give us an estimate for how many times you think homosexuals have been discriminated against on the basis of their sexuality.
    The comparison between the two might give us a better idea of the real situation, don’t you think?

  • WerthersDerivative

    @TAFKABO

    but the whole “you’re not allowed to base laws on morality you find in the Bible but have to base it on what we have been taught by watching BBC soap operas, reading the Guardian and attending Frankfurt School influenced sociology lectures, if you do so we’ll take away your democratic rights and that’s called secularism” crowd are every bit as apt for this description.

    Yeah, except this situation only exists in your paranoid imagination.
    See, we have the clear statement from Iris to show that the description fits her, we don’t have anything to support what you’ve just alleged.

    Au contraire. The fact that, as a web designer, I can be imprisoned for declining to design a website for a gay nightclub is plainly written on the current statute books. So tell me what are you going to do about this injustice?

    In contrast your allegations about what Iris Robinson allegedly seeks are all theoretical pie in the sky notions that have not happened. My priority is to deal with injustices in the here and now not theoretical could have might haves.

  • TAFKABO

    Can you point me to the relevant legislation which recommends jail for such an offence?
    Can you show me a case where someone has been jailed or threatened with jail for such an offence?

    Like I said, we have Iris Robinson’s own words as to how she sees her role in government. We also have her homophobic comments as a matter of record, indeed the last time I saw her speak on television she was comparing homosexuals with murderers, saying just as murderers could be redeemed, so could homosexuals.

    You’re bending over backwards to take offence where there is none, whilst at the same time arguing for other’s right to discriminate regardless of the law, or basic human rights.

    Forgive me if I fail to shed a tear over your tale of woe. I’d rather save my sympathy for real deserving cases, not pie in the sky hypothetical grievances.

  • 0b101010

    If Ards voters are “Orange blinded” who’s blinding those non-Orange voters who choose catholic/nationalist politicians with exactly the same position on the question at hand as Mrs Robinson?

    Would it surprise you at all if I suggest they are green-blinded? I see how you jumped at the safe assumptions, but could you really not have predicted that response at all? Perhaps the whataboutery of your comment is just a symptom of this knee-jerk rush to sectarian point-scoring you’re familiar with.

    Having to slowly spell out the duality of every argument just to keep the sectarians of our society happy is, quite frankly, a redundant bore.

    I do find it daft that militant Marxists on one side have to pretend to play nice with religion to keep their support base happy, but at least that’s a party placating the will of the people.

    I will admit that I find it more depressing that the working class, and largely irreligious or non-practicing, people of Strangford routinely and safely reelect staunchly conservative, fundamentalist evangelical/pentacostal theocrats that represent little to nothing of their political values beyond British Unionism.

    I’ve always thought it bizarre that the Nationalist-Unionist split is rigidly represented in both Catholic-Protestant and Left-Right lines that have very little political relation to each other.

  • WerthersDerivative

    @TAFKABO

    Can you point me to the relevant legislation which recommends jail for such an offence?
    Can you show me a case where someone has been jailed or threatened with jail for such an offence?

    Er, yes. Get with the programme. The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 say that if I refuse to design a website for a gay night club on the grounds that I have a moral objection to homosexuality then I can be imprisoned as punishment for that “crime”. This is a REAL abuse of civil rights, sitting there on the statute books, but it appears that people would rather create straw men about how fundamentalist Christians would theoretically restrict their civil rights in some hypothetical scenario. As I say, it’s like Animal Farm.

    Now I don’t have a problem designing a website for a gay nightclub, but that’s besides the point. I should not be imprisoned, or even fined, for refusing to do so. That’s an injustice.

    Like I said, we have Iris Robinson’s own words as to how she sees her role in government. We also have her homophobic comments as a matter of record, indeed the last time I saw her speak on television she was comparing homosexuals with murderers, saying just as murderers could be redeemed, so could homosexuals.

    You’re bending over backwards to take offence where there is none, whilst at the same time arguing for other’s right to discriminate regardless of the law, or basic human rights.

    Forgive me if I fail to shed a tear over your tale of woe. I’d rather save my sympathy for real deserving cases, not pie in the sky hypothetical grievances.

    That’s the whole point. The government is abusing your civil rights in all the areas related to “political correctness”, race, gender, sexual orientation and you like a good little brainwashed sheep refuse to even acknowledge the problem. THIS IS REALITY. THIS IS REAL LEGISLATION SITTING ON THE STATUTE BOOKS. All this talk about what Iris Robinson might or might not do if she ruled the world are exactly “pie in the sky hypothetical grievances”. That’s the difference.

  • Damian O’Loan

    “Get with the programme. The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 say that if I refuse to design a website for a gay night club on the grounds that I have a moral objection to homosexuality then I can be imprisoned as punishment for that “crime”.”

    No. You’ve believed the hype. From the governmental guidance:

    “What are the penalties for falling foul of the Regulations?
    The Regulations will provide for a civil remedy for discrimination through the County
    Courts.
    The Regulations will not lead to individuals being subject to criminal sanctions, unless they
    knowingly or recklessly making a false statement that a proposed act is not unlawful under
    these Regulations, in order to secure someone else’s assistance (for example, to place a
    discriminatory advertisement). If convicted, they may be liable to a fine.”

    http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/guidancenew

    So no, quite a different picture from the one you’ve painted. So do we still need protection from this law more than gay people need protection from discrimination?

  • WerthersDerivative

    @Damian O’Loan

    You are quoting local authority guidance, not legislation. Nothing contradicts any part of what I said.

    My general point remains that those following “political corectness” have MUCH, MUCH, MUCH more power to abuse civil rights than fundamentalist Christians have AND ARE ACTUALLY DOING SO. Such fundamentalist Christian abuse is a theoretical construct. PC lefties are abusing my civil rights in the here and now. Much of it is not so blatant as to be laid down in legislation but the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 is an example where they have been so bold as to put down illiberal and unjust laws on the statute books. There is no equivalent of this motivated by fundamantlist Christians. Therefore I question the priorities of those who support illiberal and unjust laws in the name of fighting the same by aledging that a marginalised minority group would do so in some hypothetical scenario where they attained power.

  • WerthersDerivative

    Also a fine, if rejected, eventually results in a prison sentence, but the magnitude of the punishment is hardly the point. The fact that it has been made a criminal act is the point.

  • Peat Blog

    “Therefore I question the priorities of those who support illiberal and unjust laws in the name of fighting the same by aledging that a marginalised minority group would do so in some hypothetical scenario where they attained power.”

    So, is Iris from a marginalised minority group that hasn’t yet attained power?

  • WerthersDerivative

    So, is Iris from a marginalised minority group that hasn’t yet attained power?

    Yes. She is a fundamentalist Christian.

  • Peat Blog

    But Werthers, Iris’s party is in power in Norn Iron and her hubby is First Minister.

    Anyhow, who says that those who have commented in the thread support unjust laws such as the one that you referred to? The point of the thread is to pass comment on what Iris has said and whether we feel it was appropriate given her position, and our interpretation of what government should be about. It also feeds into the wider debate of our place within the Union, given that much legislation affecting issues such as this are decided in London (or even Brussels) where the body politic is largely secular. Are Iris’s views at odds with the dominant British view? And, if so, what can she possibly do to get her agenda implemented?

    There are innumerate instances of petty (and more serious) injustices, and legislation, govt. policies etc. are always in constant flux. No one is disputing Iris’s right to freedom of speech but those who care about the character of government here (and there are many things to worry about), and how it runs our affairs on our behalf, have a right also to question the motivations of those in power. If only Iris would come out and explain herself further it might just be a storm in a teacup of idle speculation.

    Out of interest, do you know if Iris, or anyone from the DUP for that matter, commented in the House of Commons when that particular piece of legislation was debated?

  • Rory

    In the name of God! WerthersDerivative, why don’t you just design a bloody website for a Gay night club or whatever, file it away ready to produce when the threat of imprisonment looms and stop worrying.

    But for heaven’s sake don’t tell anyone lest you are accused of harbouring “queer” sympathies and get beaten up. Now there’s a more likely threat.

  • WerthersDerivative

    @Peat Blog

    But Werthers, Iris’s party is in power in Norn Iron and her hubby is First Minister.

    Despite that we are de facto ruled by a pack of Guardian reading labour party members. When an unjust law is produced via the DUP then I will condemn it. I haven’t seen one. If you know of one then please inform me. Even if one is proposed by the DUP never mind passed. Name it.

    Saying that gays can be “cured” is not such an instance, and it has a likelihood of being empirically true, despite the propaganda of the establishment. Abortion, like vivisection, is a complex moral issue, on which virtually nobody grants a moral free licence. Having a view on this and stating that it comes from the Bible is not a crime.

    Your dismissal of the point I make as “innumerate instances of petty (and more serious) injustices, and legislation, govt. policies etc.” is incorrect. The Guardian reading classes have an agenda of producing such injustices and moral wrongs. It is part of their nature. To them, metaphorically, a football match wouldn’t be fairly refereed unless it ends in a draw. They are the biggest threat to civil rights in the UK today. Fundamentalist Christians are most certainly not, even in Northern Ireland.

  • WerthersDerivative

    @TAFKABO

    Tell me roughly how many people have ever been imprissoned for refusing services to people based upon their homosexuality, then give us an estimate for how many times you think homosexuals have been discriminated against on the basis of their sexuality.
    The comparison between the two might give us a better idea of the real situation, don’t you think?

    This question shows your twisted moral compass. If I buy a girl lots of drinks and she refuses to come home with me that night she has not done anything immoral, and certainly nothing that should be a criminal offence. She may well have “disriminated against me” because I was bald or fat or whatever but that’s not a crime. To make it a criminal offence would be unjust.

    Morality is not a question of whether I am a greater victim than you and therefore I can force you to do what you don’t want to do. It is a question of everyone being allowed to do whatever the hell they want so long as it does not harm another person. Or at least, if that isn’t morality then that should be what the law enforces. Forcing me to agree to design websites on pain of fines or imprisonment doesn’t fit the bill. It makes no difference how many gays “have been discriminated against on the basis of their sexuality” in the past. That’s fucking irrelevant. It’s still unjust. It’s still wrong.

    As it happens I have doubts that gays were ever excluded from buying goods or services on the grounds of their sexuality more than the reverse was ever true, e.g. gay only services like http://www.parisgym.com/, but let’s not let reality intrude on the argument.

  • Peat Blog

    Werthers,

    Part of the problem with the current administration in Norn Iron is their lack of activity and (I may be wrong) I’m not aware of any legislation having passed through the Assembly – this is probably where my ignorance will be exposed (was there a Taxis Bill?). The DUP does obviously have form on the 42-day rule. Although not proposed by them, it was, I assume, also supported by many of the Guardian reading MPs within government (albeit whipped). I, personally, find that to be illiberal and open to potential serious abuse.

    In the battle of ideas it is imperative that we look at the hypothetical when considering the beliefs of our politicians and it is therefore legitimate for us to debate and discuss Iris’s and her party’s world views (I see from another recently added thread on Slugger that she tried to “clarify” in yesterdays News Letter). It certainly isn’t a crime and I don’t think anyone has asked that Iris spend a few nights in Hydebank.

    I would be interested to know what the DUP did in relation to the legislation that you referred to. If they said or did nothing, it would indicate to me that they are not doing their job and consistently following through with their moral input into legislation, whilst happily telling everyone of that morality on shock-jock radio shows. Perhaps it is only in-your-face and easy to undertand legislation that gets the attention of our local MPs (across the board).

    I have just finished reading The Sunday Times (although deeply suspicious of Murdock) and look forward to Private Eye arriving next week. Would also skim through The Independent online (Irish and British) and, indeed, sometimes also have a go at The Guardian. Frankly, I’m suspicious of them all and certainly don’t take my lead from them.

  • Peat Blog

    “As it happens I have doubts that gays were ever excluded from buying goods or services on the grounds of their sexuality more than the reverse was ever true, e.g. gay only services like http://www.parisgym.com/, but let’s not let reality intrude on the argument.”

    Werthers,

    What is the basis of your fixation with gay websites?

    By the way, that particular one could really do with a re-design.

  • Peat Blog

    Werthers,

    I was always under the impression that it was the Murdock papers and The Daily Mail which carried more political clout in the UK?

    Perhaps I’m wrong and after the next election we can expect to wake up to the headline IT WAS THE GUARDIAN WOT WON IT!

  • TAFKABO

    Werthers.

    As I expected, youcannot show me that imprisoning people for failing to design websites is a serious possibility.
    Guidelines indicate that the lawy is expected to be applied in a particular way, and in this case we see that prison is not how it is expected this law will be applied.
    As for all your guff about morality, that’s nothing but shite, sice I don’t believe in morals, and you can’t prove they even exist.
    What do exist are laws which protect people against unfair discrimination.
    Let’s look at your tortured example of refusing to design a website for a group of gays once again.
    If the website were one in which people solicitied sex then you would have every right to refuse to work on it if your own personal ethics prohibited you from working on a website which solicited sex. there’s no way you could be accused of discrimination.
    If, on the other hand, you were happy to design websites for heterosexuals which was for the solicitation of sex, then you would be discriminating against homosexuals, and in such a case you ought to be subjected to the anti discriminatory laws.

    But, being the fair open minded sort of chap I am, I’ll let you prove that you are not just arguing semantics here.

    If you think it’s unfair that you be prohibited from refusing to do work for homosexuals, if you feel a strong conviction against their lifestyle, then do you also agree that those who feel a strong religious conviction against catholicism should be allowed to refuse to provide services for catholics or anything that could be seen to promote catholicism?

    I await your answer with interest.

  • WerthersDerivative

    TAFKABO

    As I expected, youcannot show me that imprisoning people for failing to design websites is a serious possibility.
    Guidelines indicate that the lawy is expected to be applied in a particular way, and in this case we see that prison is not how it is expected this law will be applied.

    As a web designer who publicly advertises my services it is currently a criminal offence for me to decline to design a website for a gay organisation on the grounds that I think that homosexuality is immoral. That is in the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007. Do you even disagree with this fact? Yes or no?

    You can waffle on about oh this law wouldn’t really be enforced or oh I would only be fined not imprisoned and so on and so forth but that doesn’t change the salient fact that it has been made illegal.

    This is also the same law that does not allow charities to arrange adoptions unless they do so for gay couples as well as straight, and hence the Catholic church got into bother about it as was in the news at the time.

    I haven’t, in recent times, even heard fundamentalist Christians PROPOSING a law that is as unjust as this one, never mind ACTUALLY GETTING IT WRITTEN ONTO THE STATUTE BOOKS.

    I don’t give a shit if fundamentalist Christians think my sexual lifestyle is immoral, or if they think that abortion is wrong because that’s “God’s law” (it’s a complex issue that I could be persuaded either way on). If I want to stick my cock up another guys arse then that’s my business, but it’s also the right of Christians to say that it is wrong, just like they might say that adultery or “swinger’s parties” are wrong. No problem.

    I do give a shit when another gang of self righteous prigs who believe they have right and historical providence on their side start trying to enforce their utopian vision by criminalising what I might choose to do that does not harm others. Or even for that matter say that I must have this or that opinion or else I’m a pariah.

    It is wrong to criminalise sex acts between consenting adults and it is also wrong to criminalise my declining to design websites for gay organisations FOR ALMOST EXACTLY THE SAME REASONS.

    If I choose to politely decline to design websites for gay organisations then it’s none of the governments god damned business just as it’s none of their god damned business about the sex of who I may or may not consesually decide to stick my cock in. It’s the same issue. Saying that it won’t be enforced or that it’s just a fine not prison is sidestepping the issue.

    On the other hand it is the perfect right of either my neighbourhood hellfire preacher or a journalist writing for the New Statesman to tell me that either my sexual antics or refusal to design gay websites is wrong. See the difference?

    Iris Robinson says that gays can be “cured”. No problem, an interesting opinion and possibly empirically true. Iris Robinson says that people should be fined or imprisoned for consensual sex acts behind closed doors, then there’s a problem. But I see no such demand, I only see unjust demands coming from the “other side”.

    If you think it’s unfair that you be prohibited from refusing to do work for homosexuals, if you feel a strong conviction against their lifestyle, then do you also agree that those who feel a strong religious conviction against catholicism should be allowed to refuse to provide services for catholics or anything that could be seen to promote catholicism?

    I await your answer with interest.

    Yes, if I refuse to work for a company associated with Catholicism or simply owned by a Catholic there is no way that that should be a criminal offence. Who I work for is my decision. It’s not right for the government to tell me who or what I decide to work for.

  • SpellingBee

    Werthers,

    I would be immensely grateful if you would direct me to the provision in the Sexual Orientation Regulations which makes it a criminal offence to discriminate against a person on the basis of their sexuality. From my reading of the legislation the Regulations make provision for a civil action for damages by the discrimated person against the discriminating party and no criminal offence.

  • Peat Blog

    “As a web designer who publicly advertises my services it is currently a criminal offence for me to decline to design a website for a gay organisation on the grounds that I think that homosexuality is immoral.”

    Are you saying that the Govt. would do you for not tendering?

  • TAFKABO

    21.

    You can waffle on about oh this law wouldn’t really be enforced or oh I would only be fined not imprisoned and so on and so forth but that doesn’t change the salient fact that it has been made illegal.

    It does change the salient fact that you would not be imporisoned for such an offence, something you have repeatedly claimed. I’m not arguing it is not illegal to disciminate against homosexuals, on the citrary I am glad that the law is thus. What I am saying is that your interpretation of the law, insofar as to when and how it wouls be applied is paranoid fanatsy.

    This is also the same law that does not allow charities to arrange adoptions unless they do so for gay couples as well as straight, and hence the Catholic church got into bother about it as was in the news at the time.

    Great, this is what I call progress, we’ll have a civilised society if we continue along this path.

    I haven’t, in recent times, even heard fundamentalist Christians PROPOSING a law that is as unjust as this one, never mind ACTUALLY GETTING IT WRITTEN ONTO THE STATUTE BOOKS.

    Actually, you’ll find that in the last example you gave lots of fundamentalists were arguing that the law should allow them to discrilinateon the grounds of homsexuality, somethin which would be clearly unjust.

    I don’t give a shit if fundamentalist Christians think my sexual lifestyle is immoral, or if they think that abortion is wrong because that’s “God’s law” (it’s a complex issue that I could be persuaded either way on). If I want to stick my cock up another guys arse then that’s my business, but it’s also the right of Christians to say that it is wrong, just like they might say that adultery or “swinger’s parties” are wrong. No problem.

    Oh absolutely, everyone has, or ought to have the right to hold whatever beliefs they want to, I’m not interest in what people think, only on how their beliefs infringe and act upon others rights.

    I do give a shit when another gang of self righteous prigs who believe they have right and historical providence on their side start trying to enforce their utopian vision by criminalising what I might choose to do that does not harm others. Or even for that matter say that I must have this or that opinion or else I’m a pariah.

    Again I agree with this sentiment, but I don’t see how you can squre your view that you ouht to be allowed to deny services to someone and then think your belief doesn’t harm others.

    It is wrong to criminalise sex acts between consenting adults and it is also wrong to criminalise my declining to design websites for gay organisations FOR ALMOST EXACTLY THE SAME REASONS.

    Nope, as I said before, if you declined all business related to sexual acts, you’d be perfectly safe under the law, it’s when you pick and choose that you are guilty of discrimination.

    If I choose to politely decline to design websites for gay organisations then it’s none of the governments god damned business just as it’s none of their god damned business about the sex of who I may or may not consesually decide to stick my cock in. It’s the same issue. Saying that it won’t be enforced or that it’s just a fine not prison is sidestepping the issue.

    Sorry, but you don’t have the right to discriminate on the grounds of sexual preference. See my earlier point about refusing on the grounds of religion.

    On the other hand it is the perfect right of either my neighbourhood hellfire preacher or a journalist writing for the New Statesman to tell me that either my sexual antics or refusal to design gay websites is wrong. See the difference?

    Yes I see the difference, nowhere have I ever said free speech ought to be prhibited other than when it can be clearly demonstrated to be harmful to anyone.

    Iris Robinson says that gays can be “cured”. No problem, an interesting opinion and possibly empirically true. Iris Robinson says that people should be fined or imprisoned for consensual sex acts behind closed doors, then there’s a problem. But I see no such demand, I only see unjust demands coming from the “other side”.

    Well you know what they see about those who will not see.

    Yes, if I refuse to work for a company associated with Catholicism or simply owned by a Catholic there is no way that that should be a criminal offence. Who I work for is my decision. It’s not right for the government to tell me who or what I decide to work for.
    Posted by WerthersDerivative on Jul 20, 2008 @ 04:11 PM

    Now you’re being a more than a little disingenuous.
    Refusing to work for someone is not quite the same as refusing to do work or provide a service for someone.
    You are perfectly aware of how the law feels about the latter.

    Would you say it’s OK to refuse to do work or privide a service, such as Bed And Breakfast to someone because they are a catholic?

  • WerthersDerivative

    @TAFKABO

    It does change the salient fact that you would not be imporisoned for such an offence, something you have repeatedly claimed. I’m not arguing it is not illegal to disciminate against homosexuals, on the citrary I am glad that the law is thus. What I am saying is that your interpretation of the law, insofar as to when and how it wouls be applied is paranoid fanatsy.

    Ultimately, if I refused to pay the fine the government would coerce my behaviour through the use of imprisonment, but the severity of the punishment is not the issue. The fact that it is illegal is the issue. You would hardly say that making homosexual acts illegal would be justifiable on the grounds that it is “just a fine and you wouldn’t really go to prison”. You are merely throwing up flak to defend your immoral position.

    This is also the same law that does not allow charities to arrange adoptions unless they do so for gay couples as well as straight, and hence the Catholic church got into bother about it as was in the news at the time.

    Great, this is what I call progress, we’ll have a civilised society if we continue along this path.

    It’s what I call an injustice. Just as banning a charity that only helped gay couples to adopt would also be an injustice. If I want to set up an adoption charity serving only blind one-legged lesbians then it’s not the job of the government to make that illegal. That’s wrong.

    Actually, you’ll find that in the last example you gave lots of fundamentalists were arguing that the law should allow them to discrilinateon the grounds of homsexuality, somethin which would be clearly unjust.

    No, that is their right to do so, just as http://www.parisgym.com has a right to be gay only. Unless there is a monopoly of the provision of goods and services then nobody is even causing harm by omission. I was not harmed by the fact that I once lived close to Paris Gym and am not gay. It didn’t bother me in the slightest. The idea that I should have had the right to start legal procedures against Paris Gym is preposterous. That is a “right” that I don’t want to have but apparently now do. If gay people had a problem with the Catholic church not providing adoption services to gay couples then the proper response should be for them to set up an adoption charity specifically for gay couples, not to make other charities illegal through governmental coercion.

    Again I agree with this sentiment, but I don’t see how you can squre your view that you ouht to be allowed to deny services to someone and then think your belief doesn’t harm others.

    If I decide that I will not design a website for you then I have not harmed you, I have merely not helped you. Is that concept difficult to understand? Similarly Paris Gym did not “harm” me. That’s utter nonsense.

    Nope, as I said before, if you declined all business related to sexual acts, you’d be perfectly safe under the law, it’s when you pick and choose that you are guilty of discrimination.

    An irrelevant diversion. I have only discussed declining to design gay websites qua gay websites. That’s what we’re talking about.

    Iris Robinson says that gays can be “cured”. No problem, an interesting opinion and possibly empirically true. Iris Robinson says that people should be fined or imprisoned for consensual sex acts behind closed doors, then there’s a problem. But I see no such demand, I only see unjust demands coming from the “other side”.

    Well you know what they see about those who will not see.

    Well perhaps you could help me out here by telling me what unjust laws fundamentalist Christians want to put on the statute books. An example or two would help.

  • WerthersDerivative

    Yes, if I refuse to work for a company associated with Catholicism or simply owned by a Catholic there is no way that that should be a criminal offence. Who I work for is my decision. It’s not right for the government to tell me who or what I decide to work for.

    Now you’re being a more than a little disingenuous.
    Refusing to work for someone is not quite the same as refusing to do work or provide a service for someone.
    You are perfectly aware of how the law feels about the latter.

    Would you say it’s OK to refuse to do work or privide a service, such as Bed And Breakfast to someone because they are a catholic?

    Yes. That’s a right. A private person with no link to the public sector should be able to provide a bed and breakfast service for only those of a particular religion. Just as Paris Gym provided a gym only for gays or Club 18-30 discriminate by age etc. Ditto an all black gym or an all white gym. These things may or may not be immoral, but they are private matters that should not be subject to government punishment, rather like adultery. For the government to interfere in this is for them to overstep their legitimate purpose, which is to prevent people from HARMING others, not to prevent people from choosing who they should work for or associate with.

  • Damian O’Loan

    WerthersDerivative,

    I think you’ll find that a number of black people were punished, and continue to be punished, considerably from exclusion in just the way you describe. You should listen to Billie Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit’ or read Nelson Mandela’s ‘Long Walk ti Freedom.’ For governments to allow these actions to continue was criminal. Rarely have I found a comment on this site so repugnant.

  • WerthersDerivative

    @Damian O’Loan

    I think you’ll find that a number of black people were punished, and continue to be punished, considerably from exclusion in just the way you describe. You should listen to Billie Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit’ or read Nelson Mandela’s ‘Long Walk ti Freedom.’ For governments to allow these actions to continue was criminal. Rarely have I found a comment on this site so repugnant.

    Well if I wasn’t so ugly maybe women would stop discriminating against me and I’d get laid more. Though I’m afraid that I couldn’t support legislation forcing women to sleep with me who didn’t want to. That’s basically what we are dealing with here. You may not like peoples choices of who they associate with or decide to work for. You may condemn those choices as immoral. No problem. But if we are to have individual liberty then those choices must at least be LEGAL.

    The law addresses some theoretical problem that doesn’t even exist. If we have a free society then we cannot let government legislate for individual morality. Their job is to be a referee not a player. The reality is not that there is some vast swathe of guest house owners with signs saying “no gays” in their windows. In reality these new “equality laws” just serve to make criminals out of people like the owners of Paris Gym or the directors of Club 18-30. They are a very sinister extension of the state into private affairs.

    The basis on which the case for these laws was made was by analogy to the Race Relations Act 1976. I would have some sympathy in that that act was addressing a real situation of “no blacks, no dogs, no Irish” signs, but the laws are still ethically flawed in principle. At best they could be supported in the way that the laws on PSNI recruitment sanctioning religious discrimination are – a temporary measure to address a particular situation that a proper society shouldn’t really have and should eventually be done away with. Starting from this bad premise nulabour have made bad laws. Bad not just because they take away liberty from people who are not harming others but because they also create priveleged classes of people with special rights, and what subsets of the human race have these additional rights becomes a matter of government dictat. If I provide a service to only people of a certain age I’m a villain, but if I provide it only to those of a certain weight that’s OK. Stuff and nonsense. The government should stop interfering in private matters where citizens agree on a contract between them.

  • TAFKABO

    Well perhaps you could help me out here by telling me what unjust laws fundamentalist Christians want to put on the statute books. An example or two would help.

    Perfectly happy to oblige.

    Stephen Green the founder of The Christian voice tried to have people prosecuted for allowing the Opera Jerry Springer to be staged and shown on television.
    When he was unsuccesful he brought out a private prosecution.

    Thankfully the bastid lost and now faces banrupty as a result of his actions, but nervetheless you asked for an example, there you have t.

  • TAFKABO

    Thanks Werther.

    We can now see that your argument, if followed to it’s logical conclusion, would allow people to discriminate and refuse to provide services to someone because they were catholic, or any other religion.
    As has been said by the two of us, you’re entitled to hold your view, but we know the majority, and the law, think differently.

  • Damian O’Loan

    New Labour are not the only government that has legislated against discrimination. If you don’t think this is acceptable, I suggest you live with it. And not pretend that you are somehow the victim – that is what Iris Robinson’s tone and referral to the ‘twisting’ of her homophobic remarks aimed at.

    If you own a website design company, why, even if you did not approve of homosexuality, would you oppose designing a site for a homosexual? What possible justification is there? It is about giving homosexuals, traditionally victims of discrimination almost as much as blacks and jews, equal chance at, among other things, making private contracts. It is nothing like discriminating who you want to sleep with, unless you have sign saying ‘I will sleep with you for £x’ on your forehead, and consider this employment. We can agree to disagree at this point if you like. I’ve no real desire to spend more time in debate with KKK viewpoints.