Monday, 29 June 2009

Will Christians stand up for the rights of the BNP?

Anti-discrimination law is one of the passions of our current government, and several groups are finding themselves affected. The British National Party was recently told by the Equality and Human Rights Commission that it must accept members from ethnic minority groups or it could be in breach of the law. A couple of days later, the JFS, a Jewish school in London, was told that it had broken the Race Relations Act by refusing admission to a boy because his mother was not officially recognised as a Jew. It struck me as rather ironical that a Jewish school, in attempting to maintain its Jewish ethos, should fall foul of the same legislation as the BNP.

Race relations legislation of this sort undermines freedom of association, and it is none of the business of the state to tell a non-governmental organisation who should employ, accept into membership, etc. I must confess that I am sad that neither the Conservatives nor the Liberal Democrats have (to the best of my knowledge), promised to repeal any of this legislation.

Now, it must be said that I personally cannot see why the BNP doesn’t allow members of ethnic minorities to join. Nor can I see why anyone from an ethnic minority would want to be a member of the BNP, or even be employed by it, and it doesn’t seem to me that the BNP is doing anyone any harm by its ethnicist membership rules. In fact, they simply flag up the sort of party that it is, and say “caveat emptor”.

With regard to the JFS, I cannot see why the state should tell them to change their definition of Jewishness. It is not for the state to tell a Jewish organisation what constitutes Jewishness.

But the point that I, as a Christian, want to make, is that Christian organisations, such as the Christian Institute, rightly publicise the ways in which anti-discrimination legislation affects the freedom of Christian organisations. Last month they pointed out that “the Government says its new Equality Bill will force churches to accept practising homosexuals or transsexuals in youth worker posts and other similar roles.” I believe that the Christian Institute is right to criticise this legislation.

My problem is that Christian organisations seem to complain bitterly when anti-discrimination laws affect them, but say little about it when anti-discrimination laws affect other groups. Will Christians stand up and defend the rights of the JFS? Will they (dare I say it?) stand up and defend the rights of the BNP?

The answer is that we Christians have been pretty silent in our opposition to anti-discrimination laws, except when it affects us. We have generally sought exclusion clauses for ourselves, while being happy that everyone else has to abide by laws that diminish our freedom. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: 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.

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