Should the Christian Brethren be tolerated?

The Sunday Age reported yesterday that the small religious group the Christian Brethren (not, apparently, to be confused with the Exclusive Brethren), is refusing to permit a gay support group, Way Out, to use its camp ground (the pun cannot be avoided).

Way Out is likely to lose its anti-discrimination case before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, but I expect that they will be one of the last groups to do so.

Exemptions for religious bodies under anti-discrimination law, which the Brethren will use as their defence in this case, are under sustained attack from human rights advocates, with a review of the Victorian legislation under way, and the federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner also calling for religious and other exemptions to be removed.

Though I doubt the exemptions will long survive, as with The Peel case last year I prefer a tolerance to a rights-based approach to these issues.

A tolerance-based approach does not exempt groups like the Brethren from criticism. I am happy for negative newspaper articles to be published about them, and would be sympathetic to boycotting Brethren businesses if they refuse to deal with groups like Way Out.

But if the Brethren believe that homosexuality is immoral, as Christians have believed for centuries, should the state be forcing them to act against their conscience and permit a gay camp? Should this now near-deviant view on homosexuality be banned as a guide to action?

A rights-based approach that removes anti-discrimination exemptions for religious organisations goes much further than what is required to allow gay people to go about their business. It’s not as if the Brethren have a monopoly on camping grounds (and indeed Way Out found another one). I doubt there is a single service other than religious services themselves where religious groups are the major providers.

It’s not at all clear to me that religious conscience should be valued at zero when there are workable alternatives. That’s the trouble with ‘rights’ – they tend to award complete victory to one group, rather than fostering compromises that allow everyone space to live according to their beliefs.

The young gay men of Way Out are not old enough to remember the time when homosexuality was illegal, but gay men of all people should be reluctant to support state-enforced moral codes rather than an ethos of toleration.

53 Responses to “Should the Christian Brethren be tolerated?

  • 1
    Shem Bennett
    October 26th, 2008 19:01

    Hermit, how do you know those passages about false prophets are not speaking about you and your kind?

    All I can say is that reading in a book that the self-same book is true is not convincing.

    I’m not going to hell because no such place exists. You might believe the words the book has written in it, but I don’t think that makes me a fool…

  • 2
    Hermit
    October 26th, 2008 19:07

    I know I am not a false prophet because what I am saying is what the book says. In fact, I’m just pointing out what the book says.

    If the book is right, and there is a hell, then I suggest that in a coming day you will think you have certainly been a fool.

  • 3
    Hermit
    October 26th, 2008 19:17

    I agree with you that it is not convincing to argue that you should believe the Bible because the Bible says it is true. But I am sure you are very well aware of the dozens, if not hundreds, of logical and reasonable arguments that can be put forward to support the truth of the Bible as the true Word of God.