Friday, January 26, 2007

Some are more equal than others

Ghosthunting is quiet at the moment, and I haven't managed to get to those churchyards for photos. So I've been drinking absinthe and browsing the news.

The UK government has shown an unusual degree of intelligence in producing an 'equalities act'. Basically, it means it'll be illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation or anything else. So just because you think someone belongs to some group you're prejudiced against, you can't refuse to sell them stuff from your shop or make them sleep out in the cold rather than stay in your hotel. Sounds perfectly reasonable.

Hoewever, one of the ramifications of this is that gay couples will have the same rights as straight couples when it comes to adopting a child. Therein lies a huge blast of newspaper sales.

The Catholic Church runs orphanages, and has threatened to close them all if they are legally obliged to consider gays as adoptive parents. It's against their religion. The Church of England agree.

Yes, it is. It's against most religions since gayness does not contribute to spreading the religion through birthrate.

So who's the bad guy here? The government who wants to make everyone equal, or the church who wants an exemption from the equality law and are willing to shut down their orphanages if they don't get their way? How, incidentally, can an equality law work if there are exemptions?

The argument seems to be that gay adoptive parents put the child at risk. Considering some of the stories that have come out of orphanages over the last few years, I'd say they'd be at less of a risk if the adoptive parents were psychopaths, never mind just gay. Besides, social services will check up on adoptive parents - gay, straight or otherwise - so the child will be far more closely watched than they would be in an orphanage.

I can't see what the fuss is about. So what if two men, or two women, bring up a child in their home? It has to be better than the orphanage. So what if that child grows up to think 'there's nothing abnormal in gayness'? They'll be more tolerant. It doesn't mean they'll turn out gay. It's not catching. I've met gay men, I've even had a few beers in gay bars, and walked out as straight as when I went in. Drugs can be forced on you, and get you hooked. Gayness can't.

I'm not going to make the usual crass statement 'I have lots of gay friends'. I have few people I regard as friends. Whether any of them are gay or not, I don't know. I've never asked. I don't care. I don't make potential friends fill out an application form. It seems the Catholic Church does.

Reading this article, I was more concerned to find that our 'communities secretary' is a member of the strict group Opus Dei. The UK is a very mixed community, with all religions represented. Even Satanists cannot be legally prevented from following their religion here (well, as long as they don't kill anyone).

So having a communities secretary with a specific, highly strict religious outlook doesn't seem like a good idea to me. That job is supposed to cover everyone's outlook on life. The whole community. Including gays, atheists and even satanists. Can a strict Catholic, I mean Opus Dei-strict, have an impartial view here?

Reading the article, it seems not.

To me, that's much more of a worry than having a couple of guys adopt an otherwise parentless child.


Southern Writer said...

What a mess. I wouldn't be in Blair's shoes right now for all the taxes in England. It'll be interesting to see how it's settled.

tom sheepandgoats said...

Perhaps it is to their credit that they've run orphanages for so long, sparing social services enormous expense. One might imagine the government owes them gratitude, rather than a demand that they embrace a new policy which runs counter to their entire history.

The Church says they won't do it. Did they say that nobody else can do it? Let the government or others start their own orphanages if they want to, and if the Catholic Church is truly so morally repugnant, then decent people, gay or otherwise, will adopt their children somewhere else.

I'm a little surprised, Rom. You are very sensitive to efforts to impose changes on the majority in the name of political correctness. Consistently, ought you not be as sensitive to State efforts to impose a new morality on the Church? Let them fund their own orphanages. I doubt the Church would object to that.

Anonymous said...

Not surprizing

latent homosexuals are always the most homophobic. where better for latents to hide from their own sexuality than behind a habit or a backwards collar

Romulus Crowe said...

I have no problem with gay couples adopting children, but at the same time I have no problem with the Catholic church stating that it's against their religion to place children with gay couples. It's in the Bible, on which their religion is based. It's in a lot of other religious texts also.

What I have a problem with, in this instance, is the statement 'change the law to suit us or we'll abandon all these orphans'. That's effectively using the children as a bargaining tool.

I've never understood the stance some people take against gays, or against people in general who happen to have a different skin colour, or be fat or thin, or tall or short. Do these people really want a perfectly homogeneous world?
At the same time I've never understood why a gay man would want to become a priest. Why would he want to join a group that regard him as an abomination? Why would he have faith in a God who has stated, in writing, 'I don't like you'? People are weird.

The equality law is a good idea in principle (in an ideal world we wouldn't need it) but it's going to cause all sorts of problems.

There are car-insurers in the UK who only insure women drivers. Are they to be prosecuted for discrimination now? What about Club 18-30? Do they risk prosecution if they turn away a 35-year-old? What if a pensioner takes it into his head he wants to join the Boy Scouts? Can they refuse? This law, while being a great idea in principle, is likely to open a real can of worms.

There's no need for gay campaigners to make such a fuss about this either. There are many non-religious orphanages. It's not necessary to visit a Church-run one. It's not like they have better quality children.

Placing children with adoptive parents should be in the best interests of the child, as assessed by whatever officer is in charge of such things. If that officer decides that a gay couple can provide a secure and safe home, then why not?

On the other hand, as a result of all this fuss, some orphanages are now going to have to assess whether gay applicants are serious about adopting, or are simply testing the new law.

That can't be good for anyone concerned.

I don't think the law forces the church-run orphanages to place children with gay couples. It simply forces them to consider gays as potential adopters. They can still say no, if they feel it's not right for the child.

The trouble is, now there's been all this fuss, the first time a gay couple is turned down you can bet it'll be all over the papers.

It would have been better if the church had kept quiet and looked for alternative ways to screen their potential adopters. Yes, it would fly in the face of the equality law but that would have to be proved in each case. Asking for an exception to such a law just turns the spotlight on the issue.

There will be orphanages who turn away couples because they're gay. There will be gay couples who will deliberately apply to Catholic orphanages for no other reason than to antagonise those who work there.

If it had been kept quiet, the Catholic orphanages could simply have made up some excuse to direct gay couples to the state-run orphanage down the street.

As it is, it's likely to be the children who lose out.

Romulus Crowe said...

Anonymous - as I understand it, it's not homosexuality per se that the Church condemns, but homosexual acts. In the Catholic church, priests are (meant to be) celibate, so their sexuality is (should be) irrelevant. Whatever their preference, they shouldn't be doing it.

I still don't understand why gays want to be priests though.

heyjude said...

I don't think cost comes into it.
In the US at least, it cost the Satate just as much for a slot/kid in a Catholic orphanage as it does in a non-Catholic one.

Romulus Crowe said...

I think it's the same in the UK but I can't be certain. The Church might well be funding its own orphanages here, or they might be receiving funds from the government, or it could be a combnation of both.

I'll see if that information is available somewhere.

Romulus Crowe said...

As far as I can tell, the Catholic adoption agencies are funded mainly by gifts and donations to the Church. They are therefore not state-run and so it could be argued that they should be allowed to do as they please.

They won't be though. The government has refused to give them any leeway on this. The law covers all businesses. You can't discriminate if you run a hotel, for example.

I foresee trouble ahead - not least because their donors might decide not to fund any adoption agency that is obliged to consider gay couples.

Although I have to wonder--surely the fact that we have so many adoption agencies, both religious and secular, means that there aren't enough families willing to take these children?

In that case, is it not better to widen the options than narrow them?

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