It may seem hard to believe – it sure is for me, having spent some time in the 90s training as a counsellor, but a Christian counsellor for Relate is suing his employers for requiring him to counsel gay people:
Gary McFarlane says the publicly-funded national counselling service failed to accommodate his faith or allow him to try to overcome his reservations.
Mr McFarlane worked for Relate in Avon and is also a solicitor and a part-time tutor on relationships at Trinity Theological College in Bristol.
He said that he has “overcome” his prejudices against same-sex couples since he began working as a Relate counsellor in 2003, but now that he is training to be a psychosexual therapist, he feels he cannot deal with gay and lesbian people.
Fortunately though he was suspended and then sacked. And now he’s decided that his employers have discriminated against him by ‘failing to accommodate his faith’. Excuse me? Did he not have a job description since the start (which applied equally to everyone else) requiring him not to discriminate in the provision of the (public) service? Is Relate not bound by the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation Regulations) 2007 to provide a service free from anti-gay discrimination? Why should he get special dispensation? Oh yes, he’s a theist. Ben Summerskill, Chief Executive of Stonewall said:
“It does seem extraordinary that someone who is involved in providing a mediation service should say he cannot do it becase he has unmovable views.
“Given that Relate, since the time he joined it, has always worked with gay couples, he does not even have the Lillian Ladele defence that it crept up on him.
“Relate receive public money and it is perfectly right that they should provide a service equally to the members of the general public who pay their wages.”
I couldn’t put it better myself. But for those of you who aren’t sure though if McFarlane is just a well-meaning Christian, bullied by militant gay secularists (the subject of my next post), here’s a clue:
“If I was a Muslim this would not happen,” he said. “They would find a way to make the system work. But Christians seem to have fewer and fewer rights. Relate needs to be forced to work through stuff like this.”
Christians don’t have ‘fewer and fewer rights’, unless of course you mean their right to discriminate freely against people they don’t like has been removed from them. If so that’s a good thing, and a service like Relate shouldn’t be used as a plaything for selfish theists who think the world should still revolve around them.
It’s an interesting new case, given Lilian Ladele’s counter-intuitive win (which will soon be appealed) against Islington Council in a similar scenario. Ladele’s win set a disturbing precedent, sending out the message that anti-religious discrimination legislation could be used to discriminate against gay people. For the sake of us all, this tribunal must prove that her case was an aberration.