July 15, 2008

The Christian Registrar

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7499248.stm

I know this is a week after the event, but I’ve finally worked out what it is that bothers me most about the ruling that Christian registrar Lillian Ladele was discriminated against for refusing to officiate civil partnerships. Leaving aside any of the accusations of bullying (I haven’t read the details of that particularly closely so she may well have been a victim of that) the part of the case which bothered me was the way she refused to conduct the partnerships.

Obviously she was not the only registrar at the office, so the smooth progress of CPs was not infringed as other registrars were willing to conduct them. The case came to light after internal issues arose, not because she refused a couple outright. If anything the case is a moral and political one, rather than one which focuses on any single incident.

I’ve been to enough non-religious weddings to know what they are like and the main difference is that God cannot be brought into it. At all. No hymns, no readings which mention God, nothing religious from any religion can be incorporated. Which is fine, I am all for secularism and having systems which exist without religious intervention. But what this means, surely, is that Ladele has been conducting these utterly religion devoid weddings for years in her role as a registrar, in addition to registering religious ceremonies of all faiths?

Ladele has been a registrar for a while according to the BBC article, and some have argued that it’s not fair to expect her to conduct CPs when she didn’t sign up for a job which entailed doing them, as they didn’t exist when she began and her faith might have precluded her from taking the job had this been the case. But she would have had to preside over secular weddings and registering Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, etc weddings. And this is the problem I see in this case – is she not also breaking God’s commandments (as she sees them) by doing so? If there is only one true faith, as she advocates, and that is the Christian one which frowns on homosexuality, then what about such Bible passages as Mark 10:9 “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” which seems to indicate that weddings are to be conducted by God, via a priest? This surely rules secular weddings out as there’s no God whatsoever involved. Or the myriad of passages about false gods and the like, which Christians see as condemning other faiths? Homosexuality received a few admonishments in the Bible, but there’s also a hell of a lot (pardon the phrasing) regarding marriage and its need to be blessed by God in a Christian context.

We’ve no idea if Ladele avoided secular weddings or registering non-Christian religious ones, but if these were duties she carried out then surely there’s a tangible stink of hypocrisy in this case? Why would a Christian be willing to facilitate some living in sin but not others? If she didn’t do these non-Christian duties then why didn’t she speak out about this. Sure, it wouldn’t absolve her of homophobia, but at least it would be consistent.

This isn’t intended as an attack on Christians, or even on Ms Ladele, I just find this problematic in trying to understand the case. The bullying element is another matter which I’m not discussing here. This is purely about what seems to me to be an inconsistent application of the Bible.

But then again if Christians did apply it consistently it’d need a Ned Flanders level of dedication, even to “the bits which contradict the other bits”. Whatever happened to the bloke who said “love one another” then got nailed to a cross?


- 4 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Whatever happened to the bloke who said “love one another” then got nailed to a cross?

    If I recall correctly, he learnt to fly and became a pilot.

    15 Jul 2008, 11:20

  2. Cruise, you beat me to it!
    A small entry along the lines of: If her faith is that important why isn’t she marrying people in a church, rather than in a ceremony completely devoid of religious overtones?

    15 Jul 2008, 12:29

  3. i don’t know what branch of faith she is of, but I hope she’s from one which allows female priests/vicars/whatever because if not then surely by being a registrar she’s also impersonating one of those and deserves more raised eyebrows?

    16 Jul 2008, 00:37

  4. I agree that the inconsistant application of the bible is an issue here, as it is almost entirely the case in the present that whether or not to accept a biblical passage is judged by current moral standards. Taking the Christian point of view, if we assume that the Bible represents an accurate depiction of the message of God, and that God is indeed omniscient, then all biblical passages must be taken literally as the author would well have known their future collision with changing moral standards. That would naturally lead to the collapse of the church, as I don’t think we could handle so many stonings. However, if we accept that the bible is simply the work of the early men of the church, we have a method for refuting certain sections assuming it was their idea, and not a divine one. It all ends up a capricious mess. With regards to “love thy neighbour” – I think there’s reason to believe that what was actually meant was “love thy neighbour [if he’s Jewish]” as one of the early schisms of the church came about through the question of whether to inlcude gentiles. Still, she deserved to be reprimanded.

    16 Jul 2008, 12:18


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