Since I am gay, Anglican and British, I am more than disturbed to hear a priest in my own church and my own country concede that “the Ugandans, who are currently considering draconian legislation regarding homosexuality, might actually have a point.”
Writing on his blog today, the Reverend John Richardson points to the failure of a recent legal case to criticize Britain’s supposed lack of religious freedom and to suggest that Uganda has good reason to avoid following the West in “normalizing” homosexuality.
The case in question is that of Lillian Ladele, a Christian registrar who refused to carry out civil partnerships for same-sex couples. Note that we’re not talking about a priest or religious leader, or a church refusing to carry out a religious marriage ceremony. We’re talking about a public officer employed to undertake a public role, namely registering marriages and civil partnerships. Ladele claims that she was “bullied and harrassed” by her public employer because of her refusal. She initially won a case against them, but the ruling was overturned. And rightly so, it seems. Why should a public officer with public duties to fulfill be allowed to decide to fulfill only those duties she agrees with?
From this, Richardson takes the following unwarranted logical leap:
The outcome of this case, as it stands, means that traditionalist Christians could soon be excluded from all public office and employment. All that is needed is for applicants for any post to be asked their views on homosexuality —whether or not they accept it on an equal footing with heterosexuality. If the answer is ‘No’ (as it must be for the traditionalist Christian), then that may be deemed sufficient grounds for them to be unsuitable for such employment or to hold such an office.
This is fallacious. Ms Ladele was not dismissed simply because of her personal views, but because her personal views prevented her from carrying out the job she was employed to do. How will that lead to traditionalist Christians being fired from “all public office and employment,” as Richardson claims?
He laments the increasing tolerance of homosexuality since it was legalized in the UK in the 1960s (he supports the initial legalization, but detests its “unintended consequences”), and surmises that there is currently no possibility that “social normalization of homosexuality can co-exist with Christian morality.” He concludes:
At very least, this suggests that the Ugandans might look to our experience before making any decisions regarding their own situation, for the exercise of godly compassion in our case has clearly not resulted in a more godly society.
This is not the first time Richardson has seen fit to comment on African anti-homosexuality laws. In March, when many in the West condemned the Church of Nigeria for its metaphorical stone-throwing at homosexuals, the Reverend invoked the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery – but only to suggest that by holding the Church to account for its support of Nigerian anti-gay laws, liberal western Christians were the ones throwing stones.
Interestingly, this is the first comment Richardson has made on the Uganda situation.* First with Nigeria and now with Uganda, he has said little, breaking his silence only to sympathize with the oppressors.
Up until now, I had thought silence was the worst I could expect from fellow Christians in the Anglican Church. Cynical as I am, I never expected this much worse response – especially from my own nation and my own church. Frankly, it scares me.
*Correction: Richardson did in fact address the Uganda situation in October, advising against the legislation.