Ethics comes from the Greek word 'ethos', meaning 'what ought to be'. In this article we expose 'what ought to be' in recent European Equality Legislation. We expose holes that ought to be filled with legislation protecting the moral-ethical values of individuals and organisations. The absence of such protection poses ethical dilemmas for those holding strong beliefs, and also endangers those who actually propose, endorse and enforce such legislation. It is a 'two-edged sword'.
Equality between women and men is one of the fundamental principles of EU law. The EU's objectives on gender equality are to ensure equal opportunities and equal treatment for men and women and to combat any form of discrimination on the grounds of gender. EU equality (anti-discrimination) legislation has been imposed upon member states through a series of 'Directives' (a Directive is a legislative act of the EU which requires member states to achieve a particular result without dictating the means of achieving that result). Much of this legislation is to be welcomed, as in the following Directives on gender equality:
However, Article 13 of the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997) afforded the Community new powers to combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. This led to the 'framework employment Directive' (Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000) which dealt with discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. Ethical problems arose when this was followed with the Directive on Equal Treatment in Access to Supply of Goods and Services - 2004 (Directive 2004/113/EC). This Directive applies to all people and organisations (both public and private sector) that make goods and services available to the public.
Since we are discussing 'equality' and 'belief', we should also note Article 17 of the Lisbon Treaty (a legally binding provision):
The Equality Act 2010 consolidates much preceding anti-discrimination legislation and effectively implements relevant EU Directives. The act covers nine protected characteristics, which cannot be used as a reason to treat people unfairly. It requires equal treatment in access to employment as well as private and public services, regardless of the protected characteristics of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.
Under the Act people are not allowed to discriminate, harass or victimise another person because they have any of the protected characteristics. Harassment includes unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic which has the purpose or effect or violating someone's dignity or which creates a hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for someone with a protected characteristic. On the other hand, there are a number of clauses and exemptions in the Act for churches e.g. it can be lawful for churches to refuse to hire their premises out to advance religious purposes or beliefs that conflict with their ethos.
Example: when a Christian supplies goods and services in the form of Bed and Breakfast Accommodation, he or she cannot refuse accommodation to a same-sex couple requesting to share a room. They would be violating anti-discrimination law. But to accept the request forces them to compromise their Christian ethos.
A Biblical Response
There is much in European Equality Law to commend it (see for example Equality between men and women). But, as in the above example, the law also raises significant issues for those who take the Bible 'as read' i.e. without liberalisation.
Yes. The law underscores the biblical theme that all men are equal in the sight of God - there is no favouritism (Rom 2.11). It underscores equality for all races and both sexes. It underscores the fact that individuals are free to believe what the wish (Jesus let people do precisely that; He just pointed out the options and consequences). In this sense, yes, European Equality Law draws some sort of baseline reflecting God's moral law.
From a biblical point of view, yes. The law equates commonly accepted ideas of morality (moral relativism) such that homosexual activities are as acceptable as heterosexual activity. This crosses the biblical moral baseline since the Bible warns against homosexual activity.
Current European Equality legislation is a mix of remnant biblical ethics and humanistic beliefs. We see a remnant of the biblical ethos of loving our neighbour by treating all people as equals, together with the humanistic acceptance of homosexuality. But since the Lisbon Treaty adopts a secular approach (it does not mention Christianity or God), it seems that EU law will be increasingly driven by Satanic forces (Jn 14.30). So the current moral baseline could eventually be lowered to legalise incest for example (an act specifically forbidden in the Bible). Already, consensual incest between brother and sister is not prohibited in France, and Sweden allows marriage between siblings who share one parent.
Yes. In an attempt at obtaining universal anti-discrimination, the law has discriminated against some minorities. The bishops of England, Wales and Scotland have denounced the EU Equality Directive as "wholly unacceptable" because, they said, "it forces Christians to act against their consciences". Christians sometimes take their case to court, but judges often trump their Christian ethos. For example, the charity Catholic Care has been refused permission to appeal against a ruling that it cannot exclude gay couples from using its adoption service. Examples of persecution of individual Christians under UK Equality Law are all too frequent.
Trevor Phillips, head of the Committee for Equality and Human Rights in the UK, has publicly criticized Christian denominations who do not accept Equality Law. He has stressed that believers should not expect exceptions to the Equality Act 2010, with its language on sexual orientation, once outside the church or the mosque. On the other hand, because of the moral vacuum some are calling for Equality Law to be extended to cover faith.
Yes, probably. Many see it as an essential element of the end time World Government, which requires increased control over individuals, particularly in the financial, political and ethical areas. George Orwell's concept of 'thought police' come to mind here, where government constantly monitors what is said and done to ensure it is in line with government thinking. A progressive deterioration in the 'quality' of the law is expected ending in world-wide spiritual darkness:
"For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people ..." (Isa 60.2)
In practice, yes. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. "
But when a Christian attempts a simple act of prayer for someone, or wears a small cross in public, Equality Law often trumps HR Law and their right to 'manifest their belief'. As already pointed out, in Europe at least, this is leading to increased marginalization of the Christian faith and less not more equality for such minorities.
Yes, if the government of an EU member state redefines marriage and makes same-sex marriage legal. Given that EU Equality Directives aim to remove discrimination, the European Court of Human Rights has stated [Spring 2012]:
"If same-sex couples are allowed to marry, any church that refuses to offer wedding services to them will be guilty of discrimination."
In other words, churches in an EU member state that wish to retain the biblical ethos on marriage will be prosecuted by the EU if same-sex marriage was legalised in that member state.
It seems inevitable that, eventually, all EU member states will get EU legal enforcement for 'gay marriage':
"Legalizing same-sex marriage will reduce discrimination" [Klaus Jetz, Lesbian and Gay Federation, Germany]
"It's important we treat people fairly; it's what most people want whether they are gay or whether they are straight." [Maria Miller MP, UK Parliament]
After all, the minority homosexual community will be able to claim 'discrimination' if a country says 'marriage' does not apply to gay couples. Already, as of 2013, the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Iceland, New York State, Denmark, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, France, and England & Wales legally acknowledge same-sex marriage.
Moral Relativism: In most countries moral relativism - culture defined morality - will eventually win the day and the majority will accept the concept. For example, in the UK, a 2011 ONS Poll found that 45% of Britons already approve of 'gay marriage', and in Australia some 62% support same-sex marriage [Galaxy Poll, Feb 2012]. Of course, polls can be manipulated to favour government objectives. For example, in 2012 the UK Government claimed that its (rather dubious) online consultation on gay marriage was 'the biggest listening exercise ever', but the Government ignored the Coalition for Marriage (C4M) national petition of over 500,000 signatories!
Biblical Standpoint: Does all this matter? Yes. Legalising same-sex marriage generates ethical and moral confusion - see Same-sex Marriage - and so the concept is hotly contested in America, Britain and Australia. For instance, church leaders have said:
"Marriage must remain a union between a man and a woman. It is not the role of the state to redefine marriage" [Archbishop of York (UK)]
"Same-sex marriage would eliminate entirely in law the basic idea of a mother and a father for every child" [Cardinal Keith O'Brien (Scotland)]
God originated the concept of marriage as being between one man and one woman (Gen 2.24), and Jesus underscored this view (Mk 10.6-8). The 'one flesh' concept in these verses implies sexual union and child conception, as well as spiritual and emotional intimacy and close friendship. So governments or the EU have no right to hijack the term and redefine it for a vocal homosexual minority under the guise of 'anti-discrimination law'. In time, as in other homosexuality discrimination law, it seems the church will be legally obliged to accept the term. But given the biblical definition of marriage, it is hard to see how the church can take 'gay marriage' seriously. In particular:
So from a biblical standpoint, 'gay marriage' is at best meaningless, and at worst an abomination in the sight of God. Many Christians will simply see it as meaningless, whilst the majority population will accept an illusion. Perhaps a way forward would be for those churches who see gay marriage as wrong from a biblical standpoint, to opt out of legal marriages. Then, after a brief legal ceremony at the Registry Office, a Christian couple could be married in the traditional biblical sense in church, but without any legal implications. After all, it is God who joins a man and woman together (Mat 19.6), not man or the State, and only then are they truly married!
"... a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife ... what therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." (Mat 19.5,6)
Yes, very serious dangers. Those who devise (EU Commissioners) and uphold (the judiciary) Equality Law could be in great danger. If there is no God (and subsequent judgement of sin) then these people have nothing to fear; the moral maize they introduce and their actions against people of faith will not be judged. But if the humanists are wrong and God exists (see Reality) then Equality Directives and the national laws upholding them will be used as evidence against them:
"And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened ... And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books." (Rev 20.12)
Such law violates God's moral baseline, particularly in the area of homosexuality, and crushes personal ethics. Such law also puts a crown of shame over a nation since it is defiant of God's law. As the Bible says:
"Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people" (Proverbs 14.34)
Yes - in a powerful and effective way. They must acknowledge that they are in a spiritual war and so engage in it through prayer. The word of God is the weapon, but prayer is the battle! This is powerful for several reasons. First, prayer is secret and so is immune from humanistic legislation. Secondly, prayer invokes the Holy Spirit who is more powerful than the powers of darkness in the world (1 Jn 4.4).
How might this work out in practice? Consider the case of Christians who own a hotel and are faced with the request to accommodate a same-sex couple. They could comply with the law and accept the couple. But there is nothing to stop them praying earnestly around the rented room prior to the arrival of the couple. They might ask for a strong presence of the Holy Spirit in the room in order to reveal truth and convict of sin (Jn 16.8). They could also place the word of God discretely around the hotel.
Society should ask itself if 'equality' devoid of 'absolute morality' is a valid objective. Indeed, is it even logical? In essence Equality Law is saying that 'all activities (above a lowering moral baseline) are equally valid'. So for example, as the baseline is lowered, it is conceivable that heterosexual intercourse could be equated to incest or even human-animal intercourse! Clearly, without a sound moral baseline for judging equality, some aspects of Equality Law are severely flawed.
In matters of faith, a better way is to replace the EU objective of equality with respect and tolerance of belief. This would avoid crushing the ethos of individuals, and would come close to the ideal biblical ethos of love and care for others.
Bible quotations are from the New King James Bible