Thursday, July 10, 2008

Adventist and Discrimination.

I was quite disappointed when the President of the British Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventist, Don Macfarlane, last year publicly spoke out against the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007.(1) For me it was hard to understand that an Adventist would openly advocate for the right to discriminate against homosexuals in the provisions of goods or services. Macfarlane essentially argued that it was right for individuals to be prevented from buying and selling goods and services on the basis of their lifestyle.

Macfarlane's statement, and those of other Christians, left me wondering what right do Christians have to claim legal protection from discrimination, when we ourselves want to maintain the right to discriminate?

Dr. Lucy Vickers, Law Professor at Oxford Brooks University, in a article on the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003, makes the following point:
"... it should not be forgotten that discrimination on religious grounds is not only something encountered by religious people, but also something practiced by them. Religious groups are often as keen to retain the right to discriminate against others as they are to protect themselves from discrimination by others."(2)

It is because of this desire, or need, to discriminate, that both the 2003 and 2007 regulations contain exceptions allowing certain forms of discrimination by religious or other groups. (See regulation 7 of the 2003 Regulations and regulation 14 of the 2007 Regulations.)

Adventist have for a long time argued for the legal protection of religious freedom, as evidence by the North American Religious Liberty Association (NARLA) and the International Religious Liberty Association. NARLA has, for example, advocated for the passing of the Workplace Religious Freedom Act. That is why I found Macfarlane's argumentation disappointing. Except for the reasonable exceptions when a particular religion or status is "a genuine and determining occupational requirement,"(3) surely religious freedom is best promoted by non-discrimination, in employment and in the provision of goods and services, of all groups and of all manifestations of belief or lifestyle. Adventist opposition to the 2007 regulations was therefore, in my opinion, misguided and counterproductive.

(1) Macfarlane's letter to the Prime Minister, published in the 16 February 2007 issue of the Adventist magazine Messenger, can be downloaded here.

(2) Vickers, Lucy, 'Freedom of Religion and the Workplace: The Draft Employment Equality (Religion or Beleif) Regulations 2003,' 32 Industrial Law Journal (2003) pp.23-36, at p.26.

(3) Regulation 7(2)&(3) Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003.


At 10 July, 2008 16:10, Anonymous Alexander said...

Well said. I agree. Thanks for speaking out on this weird double standard toward our gay brothers and sisters.

At 11 July, 2008 10:19, Blogger karlund said...

This is an issue that I've always found hypocritical in the SDA church!

Furthermore - The argumentation "that it was right for individuals to be prevented from buying and selling goods and services on the basis of their lifestyle." is such a huge judgement, I still hoped that we were not supposed to judge other people, but rather look at ourselves...

At 23 July, 2008 00:48, Blogger Lorin said...

Torsten has spoken of a observation a truth about the schizophrenia within adventist culture and christian culture to a large extent, when he asks how is this christian ?

whether we are christians or not , as christians we are admonished to treat nonbelievers with love and compassion, when christians are allowed to treat others with discrimination, the action of discrimination, becomes a way of behavior and a "culture" with entitlements. the SDA church and its appendages such as adventist health systems etc, not allowing employees who have partners gay or not, benefits, it would seem to logical people, that this is just a furtherance of this culture of discrimination.
the real irony to me is that a secular world and legal system has to force christians to act like christians, through law and court action.

At 24 July, 2008 11:00, Blogger Torsten Pedersen said...

Karlund, that is, of course, my spin on MacFarlane's comments. Although MacFarlane was clearly advocating right to excludes others from buying and selling goods and services, I doubt he realised the implications of what he was saying.

Lorin, I think that your right about actions of discrimination becoming a 'way of behaviour' and 'culture of entitlement'. The Adventist and Christian response to the 2007 regulations, definitely seem more like a 'knee jerk' reaction than an expression of legitimate concern.


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