Tag Archives: religious freedom

Are corporations people?

Corporations Are Not PeopleThe legal definition of a corporation in the UK is:

a body of persons authorised by law to act as one person, and having rights and liabilities distinct from the individuals who are forming the corporation.

A corporation can own property, do business, pays taxes – well, sometimes – be sued, sue individuals and other corporations, and though it can’t be born or die, a corporation usually has a definite beginning and can come to a definite end. A corporation doesn’t have a passport: it may be registered in just one country, but it can exist in many.

But no matter how many legal rights and powers a corporation may acquire, there are things it cannot do: it cannot vote in most democratic electionsthough the richer the corporation is, the more it is likely to get its way regardless of democracy; it cannot have sex or experience orgasm or know love or laughter or tears; and it has neither soul nor conscience – from a religious viewpoint, a corporation is not a person at all.

Or so I always thought.

But apparently, in the US at least, the Catholic Church has ruled that corporations have souls and consciences, and therefore rights of freedom of religion that ought not to be violated.

The American legal definition of a corporation is similar to the UK’s definition. A corporation in the US is an independent legal person, created, organised, and – should that time come – dissolved according to the laws of the state in which it is registered. Each state requires articles of incorporation that document the corporation’s creation and the corporation’s management of internal affairs. Nowhere in the legal definition of a corporation does it explain where in this process the corporation becomes ensouled.
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Religious freedom in the workplace

Revd Matthew Firth preached at St Matthew’s church in Ipswich, where he was Curate, on 13th May 2012. As of the new term, he will be working Chaplain to the University of Cumbria in Carlisle:

There is something which I believe the Lord has been speaking to me about for a few months now, and it’s based on what I think is one of the most chilling verses in the Hebrew Scriptures. Judges 21:25 says this: ‘In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.’ I therefore want to say something about The King, the Kingdom, and rebellion against the King and his Kingdom…and of course I’m talking about Jesus and the Kingdom of God.

(For full text, see Matthew Firth’s Sermon.)
(For Matthew Firth’s tweeting against equal marriage in January, see Firth’s Tweets. For the rebuttal of his scientific nonsense, jump to Narth Science.)

The chaplaincy page at the University of Cumbria website says:

While the chaplaincy has a distinctively Christian flavour to it and seeks to provide opportunities for students and staff to explore the Christian faith, we also want to be a pastoral service which is well and truly open to everyone, regardless of faith or belief. So, if you do want to explore the Christian faith, we would love to accompany you on the journey. But if you are simply seeking a safe space, a listening ear or personal support, we would love to be of help in that too.

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The Home Office’s civil marriage consultation

With much trumpeting of archbishops and baying of Cardinals, crying the usual nonsense about how this will DESTROY US ALL, the Westminister government have launched their own consultation on lifting the ban on same-sex marriage. This closes on 14 June 2012.

Dr Williams is resigning at the end of 2012, but his probable successor the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, is no happier about the idea that same-sex couples could get married.

Rowan Williams and John Sentamu at the General Synod

(The first consultation in the UK on equal marriage closed in December 2011, and the report will be published within the next couple of months.)

Responding to the consultation only took me a few minutes Continue reading

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What to expect from the anti-gay marriage brigade: Sentamu

In Scotland the consultation on equal marriage is closed and we can expect the report around April, which is just about when in England and Wales, the consultation on equal marriage is to be launched. In England and Wales, David Cameron has restricted the terms strictly to secular marriage: same-sex couples will still be banned from being legally wed in church.

This has not stopped the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, from speaking his mind on gay marriage (he’s against it).

On 4th December the Guardian published a kind of checklist I wrote on what we can expect from the anti-gay marriage brigade. Let’s see how Sentamu matches up against it.

“Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman,” says Dr Sentamu. “I don’t think it is the role of the state to define what marriage is. It is set in tradition and history and you can’t just [change it] overnight, no matter how powerful you are.”
Check:

Allowing same-sex couples to marry redefines marriage. The ba’s on the slates, the penguins are out on parade, the definition of marriage is already changed. Scotland for Marriage means marriage as a privilege from which some groups are barred – just as Focus on the Family means some families aren’t included. It’s as if they think there isn’t enough marriage or family to go around.

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On Christian Values

When I first started this blog, I planned to make a post a day. And real life kind of got in the way, as it does, and I’ve been making posts whenever a news item catches my attention and I have the time to write it. It’s Sunday morning on a beautiful frosty day and I want to go out with my camera and take photos of it, but I do have time to make one blog post, and two news items that have caught my attention: gay marriage, and the latest stupid thing David Cameron said. On the face of it these have nothing to do with each other, so I’m going to do a blog post about both.

On Friday 15th December, David Cameron made a speech to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. I love books, and I’d be happy for Cameron to make many speeches celebrating their birthdays. It’s something we don’t do often enough.

What Cameron said, though:

“But what I am saying is that the Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today. Values and morals we should actively stand up and defend. The alternative of moral neutrality should not be an option. You can’t fight something with nothing. Because if we don’t stand for something, we can’t stand against anything.”

I have no idea if Cameron actually goes to church, but if he does, and if his minister has any conscience or sense of humour at all, here’s the text (2 Samuel 12) Cameron should be listening to today, from the King James Bible in all its rolling thunder of glory:

1 And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor.
2 The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds:
3 But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter.
4 And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him.
5 And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die:
6 And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.
7 And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man.

As Fred Clerk at Slacktivist says, this is an alien story from another world: “it illustrates just how vastly different our view of the world and of God has become from the view that Nathan and David shared. David was guilty of adultery and murder. He knew himself to be guilty of those things. And Nathan didn’t walk in and point his finger at the king and say, “You are an adulterer and a murderer!” Instead, Nathan told a story to help David understand that he was guilty of something even worse. He told a story to help the king understand that he had become a rich man who had stolen from a poor man.“.

David Cameron cast a vote against the EU treaty in order to protect City of London financial services, who are in plain fact robbing from poor people to give to the very richliterally stealing from widows and orphans:

Highly paid City traders are depriving pensioners and savers of thousands of pounds through high management fees that are often hidden, according to leaked advice provided by consultants to the Treasury. The charges are spreading and are so steep that savers may find they get less back in retirement than they invested in savings accounts and pensions over their lifetimes.

As Avedon Carol notes in The Sideshow:

Krugman, DeLong, and Atrios all seem baffled by Cameron’s destructive austerity policies and the LibDems’ continued failure to balk at wrecking the country. Things might clear up if they read Chris Floyd and realized that what we have in the LibDems is pretty much the same thing as what we have in the Democratic Party: “But here is the result of all this serious savviness on behalf of progressive ideals: the LibDems are now helping implement the most regressive policies that Britain has seen since the Victorian era. They are presiding — happily, even giddily — over the wanton ravaging of a society already brought low by the brutal, bipartisan religious extremists — blind, fanatic worshippers of Mammon — who have held sway in Britain, America and Europe for more than 30 years. The LibDems are Obama: socially liberal, fiscally conservative, willing to sacrifice the wellbeing of millions of innocent people to save a thuggish elite from facing the slightest consequence of their own criminal greed and stupidity.” Yes, they are Mammonists. They’re not liberal, they’re not democratic, and they are not your friends.

This morning in the Scotland on Sunday, an entire leader was devoted to something that the Catholic Church in Scotland appears to perceive as “Christian values” – banning all religious groups from performing same-sex marriages on the grounds that a few very powerful religious groups object. This ban on religious freedom is being described as a “compromise deal” which would lift the ban on same-sex couples getting married but “with the caveat that the ceremonies must be held in a civil setting”. David Cameron’s government has proposed exactly the same ban on religious freedom in England and Wales for a consultation to begin next year. The claim is that this would prevent religious groups and individuals from being sued if they refuse to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, but this is something the anti-marriage brigade always say, and it’s absurd: there is no legal way that anyone in the UK can force any minister of religion to perform a marriage against their faith. Which all of the religious leaders know perfectly well. They’re just bearing false witness in the pursuit of their political goal.

Is the Scottish Government actually seriously thinking about enforcing a ban on multiple churches, faith groups, and the Humanist Society of Scotland, which seventeen faith groups and 24 religious leaders have already publicly told Alex Salmond they will oppose?

Well, yes, they probably are. In much the same way as, after World War I, the US government seriously considered invading Canada.

Over 50,000 responses were made to the Scottish Government’s consultation on equal marriage. 28,000 of those responses were simple postcards preprinted with a “No to same-sex marriage” message, distributed at Mass across 450 parishes as part of an anti-marriage campaign by the Catholic Church (which got a 14% return rate from Mass-going Catholics, rather demonstrating that their claims to speak for all Scottish Catholics in this were as bogus as the signatures on the Scotland for Marriage petition). Each of those cards will be recognised as a “no” vote, but they don’t constitute a detailed response.

But the Scottish Government do have to consider over 30,000 detailed responses to their consultation. Of those, about 24,000 were positive responses. Out of the 6,000 negative responses, undoubtedly more than one proposed the “compromise deal” of allowing same-sex couples civil marriage while banning all religious groups from providing a legally-valid religious ceremony for same-sex couples. As the SoS editorial admits at the very end, when they asked the Scottish Government for comment, they were told : “We have given an assurance that all opinions will be listened to, no final views have been reached and therefore no decisions have been taken.” (Which today they confirmed on Twitter: “Re story on same sex marriage in SoS: it is w/o foundation. No decision has been taken. Ministers still considering consultation responses.”)

The notion is current in American Christianity that you express being a Christian best by declaring yourself against homosexuality and especially against same-sex couples getting married. Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, has made clear he subscribes to that view of “Christian values”, and I suspect that insofar as David Cameron thinks about Christianity, he tends that way too: I doubt for all his praise of the King James Bible, that he’s actually read it.

1 Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand.
2 And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage. Micah 2)*

19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. 26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Luke 16

The Occupy Edinburgh camp is just five minutes walk from St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh. The message of the Occupy movement is far closer to the Christian values of the King James Bible than any message of homophobia that Cardinal O’Brien may be preaching in his church today.

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*For those who haven’t made the connection: Youtube: Financial Crisis Explained: Subprime Mortgage / New Statesman: The next financial crisis

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In Search of Compromise

Dear David,

In your letter on Scotland on Sunday, 11th December 2011 (two days after the equal marriage consultation closed) you say “I still hope some sort of compromise can be reached that might enable Christians of genuinely held but differing convictions to continue to worship together.”

There is. It’s the perfect compromise, and one I’m pretty hopeful will be enacted by the Scottish government.

At the moment, there’s a legal ban on all same-sex marriages, and a legal ban on all religious solemnisations of same-sex marriages in places of worship. This is fundamentally against freedom of religion.

The probable result of the recent consultation will be to lift these legal bans, which will allow same-sex couples who wish to marry to get married, and will allow churches and pastors who wish to marry same-sex couples, to do so. No church and no minister of religion will be forced to do so.

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland will doubtless argue it through to the bitter end and will come out on one side or the other – some ministers will wish to treat their parishioners equally, others will wish to discriminate, others yet will want to have no lesbian or gay or transgender parishioners at all, and bisexual parishioners only if they’re in the closet and in mixed-sex marriage. That isn’t the concern of government, and shouldn’t be.

You and your other homophobic friends will gather together and decide how important it is to you to oppose the idea that God loves everybody equally, and take your stand where you see fit. My personal thinking is that it would be advisable for you to argue for ministers in the Church of Scotland to have a personal right of refusal to wed same-sex couples, and thus put yourself on the moral high ground of religious freedom. If you argue that regardless of conscience, a minister must be forced to deny marriage to parishioners based on sexual orientation and gender identity, you are arguing against compromise and for a continuing fight – you cannot expect ministers to go against their conscience to make you happy forever.

Sincerely,

Jane

PS See also: “Allowing same-sex couples to marry is said to be an attack on religious freedom! The line is consistently pushed that if it is legal for religious organisations and ministers of religion to celebrate the marriage of a same-sex couple, it will become illegal to refuse to do so. There is no instance of this ever happening: the fears that it might seem to derive from T H White’s totalitarian anthill, ‘Everything not forbidden is compulsory’.” What to expect from the anti-gay marriage brigade

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Scotland for Marriage

I responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation on lifting the ban on same-sex couples marrying in Scotland. (You can too: www.equalmarriage.org.uk.)

Question 10: Do you agree that the law in Scotland should be changed to allow same-sex marriage?

Yes. Please give reasons for your answer: There’s no reason to ban same-sex couples from getting married and that by itself is enough reason to change the law. Scotland ought to be a country which stands for fairness, justice, and equality. It should be up to each couple to decide for themselves how they want to solemnise their relationship. There’s been a lot of nonsense talked about how this will “damage” or “redefine” or “taint” marriage, or somehow lead to polygamous marriage or nebulous dangers to society. All of this has been said before by the Christian Right in the US – and all of it has been disproved in court in the US. It’s a sad shame that so many religious figures in Scotland are taking their cue directly from right-wing hate groups that use Christianity as their excuse to promote homophobia. They haven’t got any real reasons to oppose same-sex couples getting married, and there are solid reasons why a couple would want to marry – their religious beliefs, their preference for a universally-understood relationship, improved international recognition of their status if they travel. Denial of marriage to same-sex couples is a pointless discrimination.”

Question 13: Do you agree that same-sex couples should be able to get married through both civil ceremonies (conducted by a registrar) and religious ceremonies (conducted by those religious groups that want to)?

Yes. Please give reasons for your answer: Mixed-sex couples in Scotland have always been able to decide if they want to get married by a civil or a religious ceremony – there’s no reason to ban same-sex couples from the same choice.

Question 19: If Scotland should introduce same-sex marriage, do you consider that civil partnership should remain available?

Yes. Please give reasons for your answer: Some couples may still prefer to register via civil partnership instead of marriage, and the choice should remain open for them. Civil partnership should be opened up to mixed-sex couples. This would simplify international recognition as couples who have registered a civil partnership elsewhere (in New Zealand or in the Netherlands, for example) could be recognised as having a civil partnership in Scotland, whether same-sex or mixed-sex.

Question 1: Do you agree that legislation should be changed so that civil partnerships could be registered through religious ceremonies?

No. Please give reasons for your answer: I think it would be unfair to a registrar. Registrars perform civil partnership ceremonies and they shouldn\’t be required as part of their job to perform a religious ceremony which they may not agree with.

Question 5 & 11: Do you agree that religious bodies should not be required to conduct same-sex marriages or civil partnerships if it is against their wishes?

Yes. Please give reasons for your answer: Basic religious freedom. No religion should be required to solemnise a couple’s relationship if they feel it’s against their faith. Besides, who wants a dour pastor girning away as he sourly performs the marriage, on what should be the happiest day of their lives? Common sense and religious liberty both say it shouldn’t be required of a minister of religion who doesn’t want to do it.

Question 20: Do you have any other comments? For example, do you have any comments on the potential implications of the proposals for transgender people?

At the moment, with same-sex marriage and mixed-sex civil partnership banned by law, if a couple are married / in a civil partnership and one of them wants to transition, they’re required to get a divorce before the trans partner can get the final gender recognition certificate. This is profoundly wrong. No couple should be forced into divorcing against their will. If the law were changed to allow for same-sex marriage and mixed-sex civil partnership, mandated divorce in the gender recognition process would disappear.

Responding takes from two to ten minutes, depending how verbose you get. Just click here and get started.

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