My first career after leaving University was working with disturbed children. I was therefore often involved in assessing foster parents. As a general principle, I would not consider people suitable as foster parents who express any strong prejudices which may negatively impact on the children who may be in their (temporary) care. Would we accept people as foster parents who proclaim that âJews are Christ-killersâ or âBlack people are less than humanâ? Disapproving of something â be it homosexual behaviour, unmarried mothers, or couples âliving in sinâ â is one thing. Promoting prejudice is another. I donât have sufficient knowledge of the case mentioned to evaluate it in detail. But I would hope that it involved more than simply holding that some behaviour is not acceptable to people holding certain religious beliefs. Children being placed in foster care are usually very fragile and vulnerable: they need unconditional love, not messages implying condemnation or rejection of anyone.
As for the bed and breakfast: while I am happy to allow businesses to exclude whoever they like, if we say that they can exclude one category (for example, same sex couples), why canât they put out signs such as used to be seen at some establishments in Great Britain many years ago: âNo Irish, No Blacks, No Dogsâ? Or âNo Christiansâ? Or âNo Jewsâ? The principle underlying anti-discrimination law is that public businesses (as opposed to private households) receive public benefits (for example, the ability to claim certain expenses as tax deductions). Why should those who are excluded by the businesses be required to pay taxes and rates to support the businesses who refuse to deal with them? I am quite happy for my local supermarket to refuse to serve Orthodox Priests. But I then want my council rates and income tax reduced because I would otherwise be paying to provide benefits to a business that refuses to deal with me.
In my private home I claim the right (which I can do under Australian equal opportunity law) to discriminate to my heartâs content. I can advertise for a âfemale, Oriental Orthodox, heterosexual, married, blonde, blue-eyed, Anglo-Celtic, able-bodied housekeeper between 25 and 30 years of ageâ. But my private employment of a housekeeper attracts no State support. I might note that my 76 year old, English, grey-haired, brown-eyed housekeeper (who is happily married) would take great exception to me publishing such an advertisement!
I have two concerns about these issues. First, why should Christians be promoting discrimination at all? Recall who was the first âevangelistâ in the Lordâs ministry. If you donât know the answer, Iâm happy to post it. And reflect on the question: âWho is my neighbour?â
Second, the churches continue to promote an image of being obsessed with sex. Are we equally eager to denounce and exclude hypocrites and liars and those who defraud widows and orphans? Those who ignore the plight of starving children? Men who, living in a wholly monogamous heterosexual marriage, regularly violently assault their wives? If so, where are the churches doing so? A quick reading of the Gospels provides a clear indication of our Lordâs moral priorities. Perhaps someone can provide a quick count of how often he referred to sexual sin as opposed to other forms of sin. It seems to me he much more often denounced religious hypocrisy than any other form of immorality.