Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Daniel Hannan, anti-discrimination law, and freedom

This is old news (it’s about something that happened at the beginning of this month) and you will all know about it (because it’s on Daniel Hannan’s blog, and everyone now reads that), but it seems important to me, so I’m writing about it.

On the 2nd of April, the European Parliament adopted the report by Dutch Green MEP Kathalijne Buitenweg, which extends discrimination protection beyond the labour market to goods and services for the discrimination grounds of sexual orientation, disability, age and religion/belief. This appears (according to the Greens) likely to be adopted during the Swedish Presidency of the EU, following last week's commitment by the Swedish government to do so.

Daniel Hannan spoke against it, and as usual, spoke well.

But he comments that “Dozens of Christian groups wrote to me in advance of the vote urging me to propose an exemption for churches. In each case, I wrote back saying that, while their analysis was spot-on, they were wrong to seek such a derogation. The problem, I said, was not peculiar to religious organisations. The measures covering discrimination on grounds of sex, sexual orientation, nationality, political opinion, ethnicity and disability were equally flawed. . . . I gave my correspondents a Pastor Niemöller sort of reply.”

I suspect that these Christian groups included the Christian Institute, who rightly say “The Directive has great potential to interfere with religious liberty and free speech. It also hands power to Brussels to control important aspects of discrimination law.” (They might also have mentioned freedom of association.)

But Daniel Hannan has made an important point. Christians seek religious liberty for themselves. But they should to be thinking about liberty for other people as well. After all, the “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31) principle means that if we want other people to give us liberty, we ought to be seeking it for everyone else too.

Which seems to me to be a good reason why Christians ought to be libertarian.


Martin said...

One of the horror stories branded around about anti-discrimination laws is that if they were repealed, all the minorities would be out of a job.

I say this is bunkum- who reading this would want to go to a shop that you knew had racist/etc employment policies? Not I. I believe the vast majority of people wouldn't either. Anu such business would either close down soon, or be forced to have such high prices as to only attract neo-nazis as customers. I very much doubt such a business would be too successful.

patently said...

Hannan is right, again. He has spotted the usual pattern; propose something that is, in principle, wrong and oppressive, then "resolve" this by allowing exemptions for those who shout loudest and have the best PR.

Exempting churches does not make this proposal alright. Their need for an exemption simply demonstrates that the proposal is wrong.