The bishops of Winchester, Chester, Hereford and Blackburn, with the retired Lord Carey of Clifton and Michael Mazir-Ali from Rochester wrote to the Sunday Telegraph about Shirley Chaplin, a Christian nurse who has been “prevented from working in a patient-facing role” because she refused to remove the cross she has worn every day since her confirmation 40 years ago.
The bishops argue that this “is yet another case in which the religious rights of the Christian community are being treated with disrespect.” Discrimination is being shown against Christians, they claim and they “call on the Government to remedy this serious development.”
On the face of it, Shirley Chaplin’s treatment by the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust seems unjust. They have categorized her cross as "just an item of jewellery" rather than a Christian symbol. The uniform policy of the NHS trust permits exemptions for religious clothing and this has been exercised with regard to other faiths.
The bishops extend their argument to claim that Christian beliefs on marriage, conscience and worship are not being upheld with “numerous dismissals of practising Christians from employment for reasons that are unacceptable in a civilised country.”
Isn’t it sad that these five bishops and a retired archbishop can motivate themselves to write in support of the right of a Christian nurse to wear a cross and complain that other Christians have been dismissed because of beliefs about marriage, conscience and worship but don’t relate this to church attitudes to and treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people? Most of the cases referred to by the writers are connected with people who objected to having to deal with LGBT people in their work place.
In a civilized society like the United Kingdom, the population, led by Government initiatives, realised very quickly that discrimination against LGBT people is unfair and unjust. The equality granted to us under the Equality Bill, Civil Partnership lesgislation and other recent measures has been accepted by the majority, many of whom have LGBT family members or colleagues.
The bishops want a civilized society for certain groups of people but claim exemptions to enable the church to continue to discriminate against LGBT people. The majority of people in the UK see through the prejudice that such bishops have imposed on the church. They treat church attitudes to human sexuality with contempt and derision.
The bishops discriminate against LGBT people and treat us with disrespect. If the Church of England continues to claim exemption and maintains a policy of prejudice informed by Biblical fundamentalism against gays and lesbians, I hope and pray that the population of this country will continue to desert the church and seek spiritual inspiration and nourishment in healthier and more holy places.