According to today’s Daily Mail, I should be feeling insulted this morning. “What an insult to Christians!” declares its front page.
The Mail is angry with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) for issuing advice that suggests that the religions and consciences of all people, and not only Christians, should be respected in the workplace.
Sometimes, the Mail has claimed (with little evidence) that Christians are being marginalised. This is not the issue now. Today, the Mail is explicitly objecting to the notion that non-Christians should be respected as much as Christians.
The Daily Mail has campaigned in favour of Christians being allowed to wear crosses at work and was pleased when this right was upheld in court. Today, the paper declared in outraged tones, “After crucifixes are allowed at work, human rights quango tells firms: Give vegans and pagans special treatment too.”
The EHRC is saying no such thing. Recognising the right of Pagans to wear religious symbols is not “special treatment”; it is equal treatment. As a Christian, I want to express my faith and follow my conscience, not as a matter of “special treatment” but as a right enjoyed by all people.
The Mail article, by political correspondent Jason Groves, declares that “Even atheists should have their beliefs respected according to the new guidance”. Is the Mail arguing that atheists should have fewer rights than others? I hope that most people, whatever their views on religion, would find this suggestion appalling.
The paper seems particularly angry about the suggestion that “lifestyle choices”, such as vegetarianism, veganism and environmentalism, should be respected alongside people with “deeply held spiritual beliefs”.
For many people, such principles are more then “lifestyle choices”. They are, indeed, deeply held beliefs. For some, they are also spiritual. My environmental commitments are strongly linked to my Christian belief that the world is not simply there for the wealthiest humans to use for their own ends. I know several Christian vegans whose veganism is inspired by their interpretation of Christianity. I do not share that interpretation, but I understand where it comes from.
For all their regular claims about Christians being marginalised, it is clear that the Daily Mail don’t want equality for Christians. They want privileges. Such an idea should be abhorrent for people seeking to follow Jesus Christ. Jesus did not teach his followers to claim privileges for himself that they deny to others. He urged them to love their neighbours as themselves – and that means all neighbours, not only Christians. Jesus lived his life in solidarity with people on the margins of society and was killed as a result.
I am not insulted when people whose faith I do not share are accorded the same rights as me. I am insulted when the Daily Mail tries to co-opt my religion to promote prejudice and inequality.
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