Press: The Lord and the Law Lord

05 May 2010

by Andrew Brown

THERE is an awful symmetry between the views of an Evangelical such as Lord Carey on homosexuality, and those of Lord Laws on Evangelical Christianity.

Lord Carey is horrified that anyone might think him bigoted just because he thinks gay sex will take you to hell: the distinction between orientation and practice is perfectly straight­forward to him, as it must be to anyone who is not really tempted by the practice. So he cannot understand why anyone thinks his views amount to discrimination.

Lord Laws believes that everyone has the right to be a conservative Evangelical, but that they don’t have the right to practise their beliefs in defiance of the law. This is to Lord Carey an open-and-shut-case of discrimination. If he cannot act on his conservative Evangelical orientation, he is condemned to a second-class citizenship. Sauce for the gander, say I.

But there is a real problem here. It seems to me that if either side (per impossibile) were interested in real dialogue, they might start by considering how to break this symmetry and reflecting on their own part in it. Lots of people go through an Evangelical phase as teenagers, especially in public schools, and then grow out of it; but, for some people, temperament seems to be a matter fixed at birth. Is it really fair to deny them the expression of something so fundamental to their personalities?

CERTAINLY, orientation without expression would be a terrible burden to poor Melanie Phillips, who steamed off even further round the bend in Monday’s Mail: “Terrifying as this may seem, the attempt to stamp out Chris­tianity in Britain appears to be gathering pace.

“Dale McAlpine was preaching to shoppers in Workington, Cumbria, that homosexuality is a sin when he found himself carted off by the police, locked up in a cell for seven hours and charged with using abusive or insulting words or behaviour.


“It appears that two police community- support officers — at least one of whom was gay — claimed he had caused distress to themselves and members of the public.”

Now, if Dale McAlpine had been a Muslim homophobe, preaching that all Jews were going to hell, and a Jewish policeman had carted him off to the cells for seven hours, would this really have been denounced as an attempt to stamp out Islam in Britain? Hardly by the Mail, and hardly by Melanie Phillips.

IT WAS left up to The Guardian diary to point out that the judge in question, Lord Laws, was not quite the monster of Melanie Phillips’s imagination: “So just who is this wicked, secularist judge who doesn’t understand the former archbish’s concept of Christianity? Intriguingly, it turns out that Laws could scarcely be more Anglican if he tried: a faithful communicant, member of the Temple Church in the inns of court, supporter of the Book of Common Prayer, chairman of governors of a school associated with Westminster Abbey, and married to the distinguished New Testament scholar Sophie Laws, who herself sits on her inner-London parochial church council.

“He’s even written a legal defence of the rights of citizens and how they should be protected by the courts against government abuses of power. In other words, Carey and his supporters got precisely the sort of judge they wanted. And he devastatingly rejected their argu­ment.”

IN The Sunday Telegraph, Jon­athan Wynne-Jones had another good exclu­sive: this time the three flying bishops spotted in Rome. In The Observer, Jamie Doward had a story into which a lot of work had been put, trying to nail Philippa Stroud, the head of Iain Duncan Smith’s think ­tank, the Centre for Social Justice, as some­one who exorcised gay teen­agers.

They found one girl, Abi, who had had “transsexual issues” as a teenager, and whose parents sent her to Mrs Stroud’s church in Bed­ford: “‘Convinced I was demon­­ically possessed, my parents made the decision to move to Bedford, because of this woman [Stroud] who had come back from Hong Kong and had the power to set me free,’ Abi told The Observer.

“‘The session ended with her and others praying over me, calling out the demons. She really believed things like homo­sexuality, transsexualism and addiction could be fixed just by prayer, all in the name of Jesus.’”

By the time you read this, Mrs Stroud may be MP for Sutton and Cheam. Certainly, her think tank says that it has for­mulated more than 70 Conservative policies, a claim that also came up in the FT’s long piece about the Christian influence on the Con­servative party a few months back. So maybe, just maybe, even Evangelical Christians aren’t persecuted all the time by everyone.

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