As a Christian serving as an Anglican priest, I find myself ashamed of the actions and rhetoric of many of those protesting against Sexual Orientation Regulations (SORs) legislation outside parliament tonight (9 January 2007). By misrepresenting what these regulations are actually about and then using them as an excuse for homophobic abuse, these unrepresentative and unaccountable protesters are bringing all people of faith into disrepute. Please let other voices be heard.
Like the Faithworks Movement, a highly regarded mainstream evangelical organisation have issued a statement backing SORs, claiming that they have been widely misrepresented, and emphasising the Christian Gospel as a message of welcome and hope.
Or the UK Christian think tank Ekklesia, which sees that the “panic and anxiety” over equalities legislation, which would prevent gay people facing discrimination in public services and in the provision of goods, including hotel or B&B rooms, as a "symptom of the demise of Christendom – the era in which particular understandings of the Christian message could be sanctioned for the whole of society." The idea that all or even the majority of Christians support the extreme claims and views of many opponents of the fair and reasonable Sexual Orientation Regulations is false”, commented Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow. “It is deeply sad that people backing tonight’s protest seem to be associating the Gospel with fear and prejudice – when those were precisely the things Jesus challenged in his co-religionists.”
Supporters of the regulations rightly point out that, in any case, the requirements are not for endorsement of particular practices, but are intended to ensure equal treatment irrespective of orientation. As, Faithworks leader the Rev Malcolm Duncan said yesterday: “We welcome the SORs as an attempt to ensure that goods and services are delivered inclusively and in non-discriminatory ways. It is right that any organisation receiving public funding should deliver services to genuine public benefit. The proposed SORs are an opportunity for Christians to demonstrate the love and grace of Christ. However, vociferous opposition, a lack of constructive dialogue, and threats of civil disobedience mean that the Church is in danger of sounding homophobic and is doing little to give itself a credible voice.”
Everyone enjoys the right to protest but not to oppress or abuse and certainly not to do so in the name of others. For me faith is about inclusion, compassion, tolerance and hospitality and standing in solidarity with the oppressed and those others seek to make outcasts.