Diversity 2.0

Posted on April 4, 2010

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Notwithstanding the fact that Chris Grayling’s comments advocating that B&B owners should be allowed to refuse entry to gay couples portray a potential Home Secretary in a rather embarrassing, law-breaking stance, they also show the thorny issue that discussions on diversity must now tackle.

Previous discourse on equality & tolerance was limited to the notion that the majority should not be allowed to discriminate against the minority.  Legislation followed and, quite rightly, enforced protection on the grounds of ethnicity, gender, age, disability, religion and sexual orientation.

And yet, as this legislation has become normalised across society, new frontiers have emerged that this bilateral legislation is ill-equipped to deal with – minority discrimination against members of a different minority.  Chris Grayling’s suggestion is that a Christian couple has every right to break the law if it conflicts with their own religious beliefs.  And it is the catch-all idea of a belief system that seems to be causing most of the issues here generally.

Within the working environment, businesses are struggling to cope with discrimination against women and gay people, not from an intolerant majority, but from religious minorities whose rights have themselves been protected.  Knowing which should take precedence, given the current law, is difficult.

But might it be that there is an argument for removing religious tolerance from the equalities discussion altogether?  Not necessarily on the grounds that religious beliefs should not be afforded the same rights, but on the grounds that all other grounds are mutually inclusive.

There are few, if any instances, for example, of women’s rights conflicting with disability rights or gay rights or those relating to age or ethnicity except where the reason is rooted in a religious belief.

In light of this, religion’s role should be reconsidered within the framework of equalities legislation as the inevitable minority on minority clashes continue to develop.  It may be that it should play second fiddle to other rights.  But it cannot continue to disregard them in the way some commentators, and MPs, would like to think just.

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Posted in: Politics