Dr Evan Harris clarifies: “I hearby solemnly declare Islam is more anti-women and more anti-gay than the Church of England”
1) I “tweeted a broadside against the Established Church”His Grace is delighted that you find him ‘sweet’: he takes pleasure in being fragrant, and has rather robust sides. Not all do, however, and so your attack upon the Church of England may cause distress to many, for the Church is neither buildings nor institution, but people. Considering that Twitter appears to have been recently responsible for ending careers, getting one joker arrested for threats of terrorism and another sued for libel, a tweet clearly has enormous power. A tweet, by definition, can have no context other than its 140 characters: each one is an isolated unit. This one simply caught His Grace’s eye.
I think its contradiction in terms to say one tweet – evn taken out context – is broadside. You must have very narrow sides. Or an over-inflated view of the power of a tweet. Its rather sweet either way.
2) I alleged that the Church of England “hates women and homosexuals”Guff and bluster? His Grace uses the OED which refers simply to ‘the hatred of women’ (from Gr misos hatred and gunē woman). There is no alternative meaning. For those who, like His Grace, do not use inferior online dictionaries (from Princeton or wherever), misogyny is hatred, pure and simple, so your denial that you said ‘hate’ is clearly not true.
I did not. If I had wanted to say that I would have said it. I said that the Church Of England was mildly misogynistic and homophobic, that is to say that it discriminates adversely against women and gay people. If you had looked at the whole twitter discussion (about the role of women and gay people in the Church of England) and the TV debate it was a comment on, it would be obvious that it was relating to the fact that the Church of England bars gay people and females from being Bishops.
The dictionary (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/misogyny) defines misogyny as hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women. But I concede maybe I should have said “sexist” to be clear what I meant.
Again the dictionary (wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn) defines homophobic not as narrowly as just the hatred or fear of homosexuals but also prejudice against homosexual people and homosexuality. However, given the contentious nature of the word in some circles may be I should have exceeded 140 characters to say “discriminatory against homosexuals and critical of homosexual behaviour.”
In any event your guff and bluster about hatred is misplaced.,
Let me clear - it is not my view that the Church of England as a whole hates women or gay people.
It is noble of you to concede that you should have used words other than ‘misogynist’ and ‘homophobic’: that, indeed, goes some way to admitting that the words you used were ill-advised and inaccurate, as His Grace alleged. You engaged in unreasoned hyperbole: that was the cause of the objection.
The Church of England’s restrictions on those who may be bishops are drawn from Scripture and have been widely discussed and debated within the Church’s own democratic body, the Synod, and modified or clarified by consensus or accommodation of diverging interpretations. There is no ban at all on homosexual clergy (including bishops). It is noteworthy than you now make clear that you ‘do not believe that the Church of England as a whole hates women or gay people’. But you did not same ‘some’ or ‘part of’: you attacked the whole Church, which some may deem prejudice. The ‘broad church’ approach is characteristic of the Church of England’s via media: your caricature of misogyny and homophobia was a gross distortion.
3) I am “Abortion-supporting”You did focus an awful lot in Parliament on this issue as a matter of ‘equality’, and you manifestly favoured greater liberalisation, which very few (if any) Christians do. The requirement for the consent of two doctors ought to be maintained, since doctors are as fallible or prone to bribery as any in authority. It is widely known that your record on abortion (and euthanasia) earned you the title ‘Dr Death’, and you have frequently been accused of ignoring or distorting evidence to maintain your point of view. That is what you have done in this tweet on the Church of England – ignored and distorted. Ad hominem His Grace may occasionally use, but it is not at all off-topic when it constitutes part of your agenda for ‘equality’.
Ad hominem, off-topic and misrepresentation. I support the right of a woman to choose abortion (as do many Christians of course) but support policies which reduce unwanted pregnancies and thus the need for abortions (as do many Christians)..
4) “One wonders why he targets only the Church of England, which very broadly accommodates such an array of mutually exclusive propositions and beliefs that some wonder how it maintains believers in communion at all.”His Grace has never seen you tweet ‘Islam hates women and gays’ or ‘Catholic Church hates women and gays’. If you could point to where you have written this, His Grace would be appreciative.
While this is your own dig at the C of E, it is wrong to suggest that my criticism of religious attitudes to women and gay people are restricted to the C of E. Ironically, I have also been attacked by Catholic and Islamic bloggers for “picking on them”. But of course some in each religion delight in seeing themselves or their creed as persecuted and singled out.
5) “Dr Harris refers to the Constitution, insisting that it should not be ‘linked’ to misogyny or homophobia. But these are not reasons simply to disestablish, but to ban altogether, for the illegality of discrimination on the grounds of gender or sexuality is firmly embedded in statute law.”Ah, your own straw man emerges. You say His Grace is wrong because ‘It is not unlawful to be prejudiced against women or gay people’. His Grace never said it was; he clearly used the word ‘discrimination’, which is not at all synonymous with ‘prejudice’. Your sleight of hand on this point is corroborative of your propensity to distort in order to win your argument.
This is the interesting bit of your post.
I note that despite the bluster about “hatred” you do here clearly interpret my words as being about the discrimination on gender and sexuality grounds. Well done. It suggests the preamble was a pedantic attempt to create a straw man (allegations of hatred).
However you are wrong. It is not unlawful to be prejudiced against women or gay people. Moreover I often argue against criminalisation of ideas, emotions and thoughts, and indeed the incitement of negative ideas, emotions and thoughts. You are also wrong in that it is (rightly) not unlawful for the church to discriminate on these grounds in appointments to the priesthood and the bishopric. This is specifically protected by the relevant European Directive on employment discrimination and by our Equality laws - Schedule 9(2) of Equality Act 2010.
While I have argued that the exemption should not extend to the employment of youth workers, I have always strongly protected the right of religious organisations to make their own rules on who should be in their priesthood, etc. In fact I have never joined a campaign on women priests (etc) since, not being a member, it is not a matter for me what the CofE does. All I have said is that if I was a member I would support women bishops.
The point is that the CofE is perfectly entitled to bar women and gay bishops, but the nation has a whole – via its constitution - should not be linked to that lawful discriminatory view by virtue of CofE being the established religion. The country has moved on from such discrimination and should leave the CofE separate to determine what it wants to do.
Bizarrely, you state: “I have always strongly protected the right of religious organisations to make their own rules on who should be in their priesthood, etc.” You clearly do not defend that right on Twitter; indeed, to refer to the Church of England as being misogynist and homophobic is a manifest denigration of ‘its own rules’: by criticising and attempting to shame, you are certainly not ‘strongly protecting’ the right of religious organisations to practise in accordance with their own beliefs. The assertion that you are is absurd.
Your argument about disestablishment is one with which His Grace is very familiar, and it is fraught with complexity. To many secularists, it is as simple as a single parliamentary bill: in reality, disestablishment will occupy a vast amount of parliamentary time and political energy: there are much higher priorities than whether or not a Roman Catholic should be able to accede to the Throne.
6) “He appears not to understand that it is neither liberal nor democratic to ride roughshod over the consciences, beliefs and views of minorities; if, that is, the Church of England constitutes a minority, for Christian orthodoxy appears to have been excluded from those ‘protected characteristics’ identified in Labour’s Equality Bill.”It is here that you show your intolerance of Christianity and a manifestly illiberal attitude towards the religious conscience. The rights and freedoms of some conflict with the rights and freedoms of others: Labour’s Equality Acts have created a ‘hierarchy’ of rights, and it is evident that the Christian conscience is being subsumed to a totalitarian act of sexual uniformity. Parliament has defined marriage by authorising the Book of Common Prayer as being between one man and one woman: the Church holds to that definition, which (you aver) discriminates against the rights of homosexuals to marry in a church building. Why should that be a ‘right’? And if it be, what of the priests and bishops who oppose such freedoms and thereby refuse to officiate? Should they be prosecuted for discrimination? The Church of England offers the ultimate ‘public service’ to all, but you would have it conform to the gay rights lobby and sex equality advocates regardless of its customs, traditions and orthodox beliefs. That is not liberal: it is Marxist.
All religious belief is protected by “Labour’s equality bill” (that is the Equality Acts of 2006 and 2010) very clearly. What is not permitted is to use religion as an excuse to discriminate against other people where that infringes their rights and freedoms unless it is covered by exception which in turn requires the discrimination to be for a legitimate purpose and to be a proportionate of achieving that purpose.
The courts have consistently held that when it comes to delivery of public services and the receipt of commercial services, discrimination against gay people on grounds of religious conscience is not lawful. Just as it would not be right tom allow religious doctrine as a get-out for racial discrimination (qv South African Dutch Reform Church) or to allow some non-religious creed (eg the BNP) a similar loop-hole with which to discriminate against gay-people.
7) “The [Liberal Democrat] party has proportionally fewer women MPs [just 12%] than both Labour [31%] and the Conservatives [16%]). Is that evidence of LibDem misogyny?”The Church of England is not a political party: it does not need to pander to every whim or appeal to every opinion in order to garner votes. It is not concerned with sophistry and lies, but with integrity and truth.
The difference is that Lib Dems and the other parties do not have rules in place to prevent women being approved or selected, and are actively seeking ways to increase the proportion. The Church of England’s current official position is that 0% women bishops is the currently right number.
8) “would Dr Harris advocate the re-writing of history to accommodate Christ’s femininity or expound his homosexuality? Jesus chose 12 male disciples and did not marry: does that make him a misogynist? If God is our Father, and God is love; if Christ is the Son, and Christ is love, then there is no hatred – mild or otherwise – in the expression of maleness that lies at the heart of Christian divine ontology. Indeed, it is manifestly illiberal to seek to emasculate this God or androgynise the faith on the basis of a tyrannical desire to impose ‘equality’. How can that be love?”Your reluctance to engage proves that you are oblivious to the logical corollaries of your equality agenda. God is Father and Christ is the Son: if that is misogynistic, you are advocating a completely different religion.
I am sure you can find someone interested in that theological discussion.
9) “please, Dr Harris, the Church of England is the least of sinners when it comes to grappling with complex issues of gender and sexuality: why don’t you pick on another religion whose hatred of women and homosexuals is – how she His Grace put it – rather less mild?”His Grace is happier, indeed. For you have clarified your views on Islam and conceded that your tweet was poorly worded and inaccurate. You have admitted that you engaged in unreasoned hyperbole, and so His Grace was justified in his objection.
I hearby solemnly declare Islam is more anti-women and more anti-gay than the Church of England.
Happy now, Cranmer!
I would point out that it is difficult to squeeze an attack on Islam’s doctrine into a 140 character tweet about the established church!
He notes, however, that you have not addressed any of the points he made alluding to the tyranny of the majority or Mill’s defence of minorities. The Church of England is a benign institution: if Liberal Democrats can find no space for exemptions in law on the basis of the Christian conscience, you have ceased to be liberal, at least in the sense that your forebears from Mill to Gladstone would understand.