This week at The Guardian‘s Belief page, the editors ask whether faith trumps equality: “When religions believe they must discriminate on grounds of sex, or gender, or of belief, what should the state do?” On Monday, the editors published the text of an address delivered by the Pope to the Catholic bishops of England and Wales on the subject, and yesterday they added another religious perspective, that of Michael Scott-Joynt, bishop of Winchester and member of the House of Lords, to the debate:
The problem of modernity is how to order ethical life in a society of strangers—or at least, a society where close bonds of kin and community are weak, and in which there is no single moral story shared by all. Baldly put, there are two options: to impose a single moral order on everyone; or to establish a social structure which encourages genuine pluralism and diversity, and generates a community of communities, each living according to their authentic moral code, the role of the state being to police the margins and mediate when moralities clash.
The church is often accused of seeking to impose its own story, its own morality, on everybody. But we have argued consistently for a long time for the second version of a liberal society—one where difference is allowed to flourish and is not subjected to a single version of morality imposed on everyone – still less a thoroughly illiberal society where some seek to banish others from public debate.
This is where I still think that the equality bill—for all its noble intentions and humane motivation – got the balance wrong in the provisions that were contentious in the House of Lords recently. If we are to be a thriving community of communities, how can it be right to argue that those who are employed to promote the aims and values of a community need not share—and live their lives consistently with—those aims and values. What I believe and how I act are integrally linked—and that is true of everyone, not just of religious believers.
Read more here.