I’ve already written about Lillian Ladele, but she’s far from alone as a Christian intolerant of homosexuality. In response to the news of a violent homophobic attack in Newtonabbey on Stephen Scott, Northern Ireland’s DUP MP Iris Robinson (wife of the new First Minister) said:
“I have a very lovely psychiatrist who works with me in my offices and his Christian background is that he tries to help homosexuals – trying to turn away from what they are engaged in.”
She should be aware that her psychiatrist friend is breaking his own professional body’s guidelines. Homosexuality hasn’t been seen as a psychiatric disorder in the West since the ’70s, so her ‘lovely psychiatrist’ is a maverick at best, a fraud at worst. As a service provider however, he’s also quite possibly breaking the law. Is it really OK for an MP to endorse law breaking?
“I’m happy to put any homosexual in touch with this gentleman and I have met people who have turned around and become heterosexuals.”
She’s clearly quite deluded, but also pretty nasty – I heard the interview, and she had every chance to express her outrage at the violence, as well as sympathy toward Scott, but jumped to imply he’d brought it on himself. And this is the woman who is the Chair of the Northern Irish Assembly’s Health Committee! She maintains she has the right to express her religious beliefs, whilst condemning violence against the gay community, yet she clearly prioritises one over the other. It directly parallels the Ladele case, and Mike Judge of the Christian Institute puts the religious case forward (as it relates to Lillian Ladele, whose case he is bankrolling):
“I certainly think Christians need to look for some kind of compromise. But we must remember that other occupations allow conscientious objections. Teachers are excused from religious assemblies and Catholics do not have to carry out abortions.
“I don’t think that Lillian should be facing the sack just because she has that one particular point of view. And that’s what is at issue here. She is being disciplined and threatened with the sack because she’s a Christian.”
That’s not true, and if it were would indeed be illegal. As I put in a previous post, indirect religious discrimination is perfectly legal when it can be justified. And considering the requirements of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation Regulations) Regulations 2007, it is justified under the law. Playing the martyr isn’t clever, nor is trying to fool people into believing the prevention of bigotry is tantamount to religious discrimination, when doing so will only make uncovering genuine discrimination that much harder.
Furthermore requiring equal treatment of people by professional people isn’t the same as allowing people to opt out of non-essential activities which they object to. A Member of Parliament disagreeing on religious grounds that all people are equal is not on. A legitimate psychiatrist cannot tell people that they are mentally ill for being gay. A civil registrar cannot opt out of a core function of her job on religious grounds. That’s not the same as a teacher not taking part in a religious assembly – that would be teachers refusing to teach gay students, or refusing to teach evolution because their religious sect didn’t believe in it. Iris Robinson will probably get lucky and get away with saying such insensitive garbage, because her job as an MP and position of responsibility mystifyingly allow it, but noone should be under the impression that she’s genuinely sympathetic toward Scott. Ladele will find out if she’ll get away with her religious homophobia sometime this month.