St Mary Magdalene † St Bartholomew † St Alban †
Sunday 25th September 2011
What is religious discrimination?
On Tuesday, I spent a couple of hours of fun with a researcher from the University of Derby. She was part of team exploring the thorny question ‘What is religious discrimination?’ It is not an easy question to answer and I certainly can’t claim to have come to any conclusions after the extensive questioning.
The basic problem is one person’s religious observance can be offensive to another person.
A couple of examples of the tensions involved from my time as a Curate in Ilford. An Orthodox Jewish group wanted to put up poles in our particular part of Ilford to help them in their religious observance. Should this be allowed? Or is it right to allow a local Muslim group to build a minaret on their local Mosque? Whose rights are protected under the law? The religious community or the wishes of the wider community?
Of course, there are two competing rights in both of these cases. The rights of the religious community to express their faith. Against the rights of the wider community that may object to that expression? Of course, the hope is that these two competing rights can be resolved but often there has to be an arbiter in these disputes. Whatever way the judgement goes the losing side will feel discriminated against. There are no easy answers but perhaps it is through holding these competing rights in tension is all we can do.