Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Faith, Fairness, and the Workplace - Government Survey

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is doing a survey on people's experience of faith in the workplace, and in using public services:

We want to gather as much information as we can from employees, service users, employers, service providers, trade unions, legal advisors and religion or belief groups so that we can assess how a person’s religion or belief, or lack of it, is taken into account at work and when using services.
This major call for evidence is part of our three year programme to strengthen understanding of religion or belief in public life, to improve knowledge of what happens in practice and to make sure that the laws which are in place to protect everyone’s right to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect are effective.
You can do the survey here
I'm aware of several people who have ended up working more Sundays then they bargained for when they first agreed to do the occasional Sunday. And there was this case earlier this week, a registrar whose council could have done more to accomodate her but instead got the sack. So it's all very relevant.
Press release from the Evangelical Alliance on the survey here, which references some other research done on faith in the workplace/public life, and where the 'rights' of Christian belief fit into the map of other perceived rights. 


  1. David, you seem like a good person which is why it disturbs me whenever you touch on this topic. You should explain why you don't believe that fairness, dignity and respect should extend to gay people.

    Registry Offices came about because of a need to register the marriages of people who wouldn't or couldn't get married in a church. A registrar has therefore always had to officiate at the wedding of couples that the Church of England wouldn't allow to get married in church. For Ms.Jones to decide that gay couples were an affront to her beliefs more than marrying divorcees seems like an odd reading of the Bible.

    The council could have been more accomodating and on that point of law Ms.Jones had a case. In the Ladele v Islington case Ms.Ladele refused to even do the paperwork for a civil partnership so the Jones solution wouldn't work for her. But even here there's a problem, what would happen if there were two anti-equal marriage registrars, would they have to be kept from working together so there was someone willing to officiate. What about if the whole cohort of Central Bedfordshire registrars refused to officiate given that it's a legal duty for the council to provide a same-sex marriage service.

    In a nutshell, why does Ms.Jones beliefs have to trump the right of a gay couple to get married?

  2. Thanks Andy, it looks like in this case the council could have accommodated the registrar, rather than force her out. But yes, if all the registrars had taken the same view that would have put the council in an untenable position. In that situation, they wouldn't have had the option to be generous, they would have had to insist on her doing the weddings or quit so they could employ somebody who would. But as it stands they did have that option, but chose not to try it.

    The borderland between conscience and law is a difficult one: there is provision both for GPs and nurses to opt out of involvement in abortions, but on the basis that a patient can be referred to other practicioners who don't have the same conscientious objection. At the moment, because that doesn't result in people being refused abortions, the NHS permits that.

    The issue is then perhaps, do we only allow conscientious objection for those moral viewpoints we can understand? It's probably easier to understand a nurse or GP not wanting to take the life of an unborn child/foetus, than it is to understand a registrar who sees marriage as being only between a man and a woman.

    If the system can accommodate two sets of rights which conflict with each other, without undue grief to either party, then that seems to me a good thing.