Gay Bishops OK if Celibate – Disestablish the C of E

Primates of the Anglican Communion

It is hilarious, but it is sad even more. The Anglican church manages to make itself cruel, offensive, absurd and incompetent all at the same time.

The Anglican church has decided to allow gay clergymen in civil partnerships to become bishops if they repent their past gay sex and promise to be celibate in future. In seems that the church made this decision because it thinks it will protect it from discrimination cases brought by gay priests. Whatever the reason for the decision it is extraordinarily inept.

This is a very cruel thing to do. First of all the potential bishop is required to humiliate himself by repenting past loving  acts. That is not only horrible in itself, it is a repudiation of his partner which can only be damaging to the commitments he gave in entering a civil partnership.

It is quite obviously discriminatory to say that straight bishops may have a full sexual life, but that gay ones must be celibate. This decision will provide no protection from accusations of discriminatory behaviour. Much more important is the personal consequence of this imposition. First of all there is the partner of the bishop who most likely has sexual needs and expectations which will now be denied. This is not because his partner no longer loves or desires him, but because an employer has decreed that this love is unacceptable. If they kiss or cuddle each other the bishop must succeed in not being aroused by the partner he loves. Obviously this is completely unenforceable, but that is not the point.

By definition, bishops should have a strong commitment to the teachings of their religion and church. A bishop who has taken the job because he believes that he was called to do it by god will try to deny his own sexual wants and reject those of his partner. Apart from damaging the partnership and putting it at risk, this is a stress on the bishop which will go much deeper. Being torn between his god and his life partner must make the man less able to do his job at the very least, but there is a very real possibility that it could damage his mental health. That might have much worse consequences.

The C of E holds a special constitutional position as the established church in Britain. Bishops are lawmakers and it is unacceptable that this should continue to be the case. It has always been wrong that the state and religion have been intertwined and having the head of state as the head of an established church is an aspect of our history which should have been discontinued long ago. Now that the C of E have shown themselves to be incapable of treating women equally with men and with their absurd mistreatment of gay priests, the time has come when the church must be separated from the state.

The UK has committed itself to equality through a mass of laws and judicial decisions over the last forty years. It is not possible to remain credible in that commitment to equality at the same time as keeping a discriminatory church as part of the legislature.


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2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,400 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 7 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Scrap Sunday Trading Restrictions Now

English: Trolley station Most of the supermark...

It was acceptable to the government to suspend restrictions on Sunday trading for the Olympics, where it was largely irrelevant, but for the busiest retail day of the year we have to put up with only six hours of trading in larger shops.

Where is the sense in that?

Since the Sunday trading laws were reformed Sunday has become the busiest shopping day of the week. All pretence of Sunday being kept free of commercial and sporting activity for religious reasons is long dead. A small minority might want to return to such restrictions, but they are greatly outnumbered by those who have no religious concerns and by followers of other religions whose special days are Friday or Saturday.

The struggle of shops relying on customers physically coming to their store is made far worse by limiting their hours on Sunday so that customers are crowded and forced to queue or unable to park. It is possible to shop online twenty four hours a day, every day of the year. These pointless limitations mean that the shift to online shopping will be accelerated and many more of the goods will be sourced from other countries.

The economy is in a mess. There is little prospect of any early improvement in that, but one thing which would help is for the government to get out of the way of people shopping when they want to.

Scrap the Sunday trading restrictions now.

Abolish the Police Federation

A PCSO on duty with two police constables. Not...

Current events over the case of Andrew Mitchell, who was forced out of his job as Government Chief Whip after a disagreement with a police officer, has focussed attention on the Police Federation.

The Federation is a very odd organisation. It was set up by the Police Act 1919 in a panic after a police strike. This Act prohibited strike action by police so the Federation is not described as a trade union although it functions in every way as a union in the way that it represents and negotiates for its members.

The Federation is actually far stronger than trade unions usually are. It has a total closed shop of uniformed police officers. It is possible for an officer to decline to pay subscriptions and so not have legal representation or other benefits, but they remain members of the Federation so long as they remain in the service at the rank of Chief Inspector or below. In reality it is extremely rare for a police officer to even withdraw from paying subscriptions. The institutional and peer pressure on anybody taking such a stand would be enormous.

The fact that the Federation is a national body and all police belong to it undermines the claimed autonomy of the forty three police forces in England and Wales. These forces are supposed to be accountable to the newly elected Police Commissioners, but the terms and conditions of the uniformed staff are rigidly enforced to a national standard by the Federation and the reality of local influence is minimal.

In tandem with the fiction that the Federation is not a union, it is claimed that police officers are not employees, but crown warrant holders. By way of this title it is claimed that police officers have an independence from government and even their own chain of command in that, for example, an officer cannot be ordered to arrest a person if they believe that the arrest is not necessary. This is an entirely empty concept of no practical value.

The police are a little like the Church of England in denying that their staff are employees, but if it quacks like a duck it is a duck and this duck is a real quacker. Police Officers apply for the job in the way of any other job. They work for a salary over a career period after which they get a pension. If they want to leave at any time they hand in their notice just like any other employee and if they misbehave they are subject to discipline and possible dismissal. The fact that they go through a little ritual at the end of their training in which they take on the ‘office of constable’ makes no difference at all to these facts.

The Police Service, the Police Federation and, to a certain extent, individual police officers want to be regarded as special and to be treated preferentially to other services and staff. Of course it is true that policing is a fundamental necessity to preserve the freedoms of citizens to go about their lives in safety and to have their property protected when they are unable to adequately do so themselves, but there are a whole host of agencies in society that make up this protection. The police are a major component, but they are not the whole and they should not be regarded as a class apart.

When you start to examine the peculiar nature of the police perception of their identity it becomes clearer why the Federation was, and is, so venomously opposed to the creation of Police Community Support Officers (PCSO’s) and to the change of some roles, like scenes of crime work, to civilian activity rather than for uniformed officers. PCSO’s are recognised as normal employees and they can belong to unions if they so choose. Civilians with crime scene expertise can detract attention or even overshadow the police officer in the crime domain which they consider to be exclusive to them. This resistance to change is much more fundamental than the response of any normal union to changes in the workplace.

We do not yet know, and it is very likely that we never will know fully, whether there was a conspiracy involving Federation members to undermine a Cabinet Minister,but we do know something of the mindset that allows them to think it is a good thing to be offensive to Home Secretaries who attend their conference, to aggressively lobby government ministers and members of Select Committees. I have no objection to any person or organisation robustly campaigning, but it takes on a sinister tone when a central plank of that activity is to assert that the integrity of a police officer must never be questioned or that the selfless commitment of the service must be taken as being beyond doubt.

There are dangers in being a police officer and the appalling murder of two of them at the time of the Mitchell affair was much to his disadvantage. Sadly, many jobs involve great danger. Apart from the military, death and serious injury is more common in quarrying, construction and other heavy industrial occupations than in the police. It is a comparable occupation to many others in that respect.

Some reference needs to be made to integrity. I first became aware of police corruption in the 1960’s. I was living in London and police at that time routinely took free food and drink from pubs, clubs and restaurants. Those who were reluctant to provide were given a hard time and the more generous ones were not troubled by licensing laws or were not noticed if they assaulted an unwanted customer. My politics were different when I was younger and I took part in CND marches. When demonstrators were arrested they frequently had items planted on them so that they could be accused of violence. Unfortunately for the police, many of the demonstrators were strong, articulate people who were able to expose theirs lies and deceits. This was not what they had been accustomed to among the general public. Nevertheless, many demonstrators received wrongful convictions which they were unable to overturn.

More recently we have been made aware of the wholesale changing of evidence relating to the Hillsborough tragedy. This could not have been done without the orchestration of the police management, but also it would not have been allowed to have happened without the agreement, endorsement or support of the Federation.

There are plenty of other examples which could be given to show that automatic acceptance of the truthfulness of police accounts cannot be given. Despite all of this the Federation were happy to appear on national television angrily accusing Mitchell of impugning the integrity of police despite the fact that he had apologised to the officer he had the altercation with and not making any claims that the officer was untruthful. The Federation rage was really that they, or any of their members, could be challenged at all.

The police have become more exposed to public scrutiny over the last fifty years. As a consequence police performance has improved, but there still needs to be major change in the service to make it fit to meet the public need in the twenty first century. The Police Federation is a major obstacle to that change.

Individual police officers should have the freedom to join, or not join, a union of their choice. Society should not be at risk of being without a police service because strike action or other failures to perform. This issue needs to be dealt with contractually rather than by a specific law making police different from all other employees.

The police are an essential part of maintaining safety and order in society, but they are not the only ones. When firefighters strike they place people at risk. If we go back to the winter of discontent under the Callaghan government, refusal to work by many public employees resulted in substantial hazards from unprocessed waste and other work not done. Organisers of such action are already responsible under common law for wilfully endangering public safety. All that is lacking is the will of the state to prosecute. As an additional protection, contracts of employment for providers of essential services could include express conditions making the withholding of labour gross misconduct which would result in dismissal.

It is time to repeal the Police Act 1919 and with it see the Police Federation cease to be a statutory organisation with guaranteed membership.

Although Andrew Gilligan is dealing with the problem of police failures and corruption rather than the issue of the illegitimate statutory position of the Police Federation, this article does help put the subject in further context:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/9761022/Have-the-men-in-blue-crossed-the-line.html

Circumcision

Symbol of the three Abrahamic religions.

Grace Adeleye has been convicted of manslaughter after a baby boy died following a circumcision which she carried out on him at home.

 

Last year a court in Cologne, Germany ruled that there was criminal liability for those carrying out this procedure for non-clinical reasons on boys who were below the age of consent. The German parliament has now passed a law Allowing ritual circumcision of infant boys.

 

The position in British law is unclear. It seems that there is a presumption that it is legal. By contrast female circumcision is statutorily illegal under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003. It is noteworthy that the female procedure is described as mutilation, but this term is never applied in the case of males.

 

Cutting off a baby’s foreskin without medical reason is just as much mutilation as it is to cut the labia of a girl. The fact that people do this without anaesthetic, in non-sterile environments and without any control of their qualifications or skill worsens the situation.

 

Female genital mutilation became illegal in Britain in 2004, but there is no clarity about whether male genital mutilation for cultural or religious reasons is legal or not.

 

Just because something has been done for centuries does not mean that it is alright. Cutting off part of a child’s body without any medical reason is obviously a serious assault. Where this is done in unsatisfactory conditions it represents a significant risk to the life and well being of the child apart from any questions of longer term changes in that person’s life without their informed consent. To argue that circumcised men do not generally claim that they have been disadvantaged by it is not valid. It is self evident that having been circumcised as a baby it is impossible for adult males to know whether their enjoyment of sex has been reduced by the de-sensitisation resulting from the absence of a protective cover to the glans.

 

It is quite right that female genital mutilation is a much more complicated issue than it is for males. This is because there is a wide range of procedures from limited labia trimming to full excision of the clitoris and extensive labia removal. The British law prevents any vaginal surgery for non-medical reasons. It must be asked why there is not similar protection for males. I do not actually support specific laws prohibiting assault on the genitalia. These practices should be treated like any other abuse of a child. The permanence of a surgical procedure makes it a more serious assault than many others.

 

The claim by some that the procedure has hygiene benefits might possibly have had some basis in antiquity, but it does not in 21st century Britain. In fact the hygiene argument seems to be a modern one that is not supported by evidence of benefit.

 

Male circumcision pre-dates Christianity and Judaism. We cannot know the reasons that it was first done. For Jews it is a religious obligation based on the supposed covenant between God and Abraham. No scriptural indication is given of why God would want men to have their foreskins removed. In the Abrahamic religions man is supposed to be made in the image of God. If God himself has a foreskin why did he want his followers to remove theirs?

 

Those who accept the evolution of humans as an established fact will recognise that the foreskin is present because it has a purpose. It might be argued that the protection provided by clothing has removed the evolutionary requirement for the foreskin. Well OK. If that is your view make that decision for yourself as an adult. By the way, just in case anybody reading this thinks that evolution might not be right because it is only a theory I would say that the evidence for the theory of evolution is just as compelling as the evidence for the theory of gravity.

Grace Adeleye, who has just been convicted of manslaughter, is a Christian of Nigerian origin. Male circumcision is not required by Christian churches although it is practised by Copts. In fact Saints Peter and Paul wrote against circumcision. It seems likely that in this case circumcision is a cultural practice rather than a religious duty.

 

Hardening of the glans caused by circumcision does seem to reduce the transmission of HIV by circumcised men, but it does not prevent it and the use of condoms by HIV positive men is a very much greater protection. It would certainly be very wrong to think that it was OK to have unprotected sex with an HIV positive man because he was circumcised.

 

These mutilations should be treated as criminal assault. A baby is not born with a religion so I do not accept the legitimacy of religious obligation. However, since religions have such a strong hold on people an exception could be granted for religious requirement provided the procedure was only conducted by practitioners who could be held to account if they failed to effectively minimise the possibility of complications by being well qualified and using proper clinical practice.

Just Dreaming

PhotonQ-Homer' s Evolution Theory

PhotonQ-Homer’ s Evolution Theory (Photo credit: PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE)

Given that the interpretation of dreams by Freud and others is garbage, what is the evolutionary benefit of dreams?

http://www.epjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/ep035978.pdf

This paper presents an evolutionary argument for the role of dreams in the development of human cognitive processes. While a theory by Revonsuo (2000) proposes that dreams allow for threat rehearsal and therefore provide an evolutionary advantage, the goal of this paper is to extend this argument by commenting on other fitness-enhancing aspects of dreams. Rather than a simple threat rehearsal mechanism, it is argued that dreams reflect a more general virtual rehearsal mechanism that is likely to play an important role in the development of human cognitive capacities. This paper draws on current work in cognitive neuroscience and philosophy of mind in developing the argument.

Was Sigmund Freud a fraud?

Sigmund Freud Quote

Sigmund Freud Quote (Photo credit: Psychology Pictures)

“I am actually not at all a man of science, not an observer, not an experimenter, not a thinker. I am by temperament nothing but a conquistador–an adventurer, if you want it translated–with all the curiosity, daring, and tenacity characteristic of a man of this sort” (Sigmund Freud, letter to Wilhelm Fliess, Feb. 1, 1900).

http://www.skepdic.com/psychoan.html

Was Clement Freud a sticky toffee pudding?