Christianity and the Law
Gary McFarlane, a “relationship counsellor”, was sacked by his employer, the charity Relate, for refusing to give “sex therapy lessons” to a “gay” couple because this conflicted with his Christian principles. His request for right to appeal against an employment tribunal ruling upholding Relate’s action was rejected by Lord Justice Laws of the Court of Appeal. In the course of his ruling the judge made statements which strike at the fundamental Christian constitution of the United Kingdom, contrary to his avowed position that sovereignty belongs to the constitution rather than to Parliament and that the courts are to protect the constitution against abuses by Government.
Lord Justice Laws declared that “in the eye of everyone save the believer, religious faith is necessarily subjective, being incommunicable by any kind of proof or evidence. It may, of course, be true; but the ascertainment of such a truth lies beyond the means by which laws are made in a reasonable society. Therefore it lies only in the heart of the believer, who is alone bound by it. No one else is or can be so bound, unless by his own free choice he accepts its claims. The promulgation of law for the protection of a position held purely on religious grounds cannot therefore be justified. It is irrational, as preferring the subjective over the objective. But it is also divisive, capricious and arbitrary.” He claimed that, in a society in which all do not share the same religious beliefs, “the precepts of any one religion – or belief system – cannot, by force of their religious origins, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of any other. If they did, those out in the cold would be less than citizens, and our constitution would be on the way to a theocracy, which is of necessity autocratic.”
There are several fallacies in these statements, which can only be mentioned. It is wrong to assert in this unqualified way that “religious faith is necessarily subjective”; that it is “incommunicable by any kind of proof or evidence”; that ascertaining it “lies beyond the means by which laws are made in a reasonable society”; that it lies “only in the heart of the believer”, with the consequences alleged by the judge; that “the promulgation of law for the protection of a position held purely on religious grounds cannot therefore be justified”; and that no special place should be given in law to the Christian religion. Lord Justice Laws ignores the fact that the faith which he dismisses in such terms has its objective basis in the Holy Bible, the religion of which has been endorsed and established as the religion of the United Kingdom, and therefore of its law-making and law-enforcing authorities in their official capacities.
It is alarming that a senior judge should assert that the promulgation of law to protect a position held purely on the basis of the religion of the Bible, recognised as it is by the state, is irrational, divisive, capricious and arbitrary. What deserves the opprobrium conveyed by these terms is the ruling of the judge. It, together with similar rulings, has the effect of making those who practise Christian principles on a biblical basis almost the only persons who can be discriminated against in the workplace, even to the extent of being compelled to jettison their convictions or be deprived of their livelihood, though they are conscientiously practising what they legitimately regard as the moral imperatives of the Christian religion.
Bishop Nazir-Ali spoke well when he said that this ruling “has driven a coach and horses through the ancient association of the Christian faith with the constitutional and legal basis of British society. Everything from the Coronation Oath onward suggests that there is an inextricable link between the Judaeo-Christian tradition of the Bible and the institutions, the values and the virtues of British society. If this judgement is allowed to stand, the aggressive secularists will have had their way.” The president of the National Secular Society, hailing the judgement as “a defeat for fundamentalism”, asserted that “the right to follow a religious belief is a qualified right and it must not be used to legitimise discrimination against gay people, who are legally entitled to protection against bigotry and persecution”. Judgements such as these are turning reality on its head and learned judges and bigoted opponents of Christianity seem unable to see that, by such judgements, discrimination and persecution are increasingly directed against those who believe and practise the teachings of the Christian faith.
Britain is broken indeed when the dictates of divine revelation and enlightened conscience can be dismissed as Lord Justice Laws dismisses them and regarded as unworthy of being held as even equal with the feelings of “gays” and the practitioners of non-Christian religions. The twenty-first century has seen a flood of legislation which has denied the morality of the Bible and has done so in terms which make it increasingly difficult for convinced Christians to function in a variety of work situations. The outlook is bleak for liberty to practise the law of God when human lawmakers and law enforcers combine “against the Lord and His anointed, saying, Let us break Their bands asunder and cast away Their cords from us” (Ps 2:2,3).