UK Onews,-- I should say at the outset that I was turned down by the Equality and
Human Rights Commission (EHRC) for a post they advertised. I'd never
have dared apply had it not been for Trevor Phillips, who headed it at
the time. "Why don't you have a Christian on board?" I had asked him.
"Why don't you apply?" he'd graciously replied. Alas, he was leaving the
Commission when he said it. But when I saw his replacement – Baroness O'Neill
– I wasn't upset about my failed application: the philosopher is, at
least on paper, Christian. She'd look after the interests of the
majority of Britons who feel they belong to that faith.
I was wrong to relax, though. Today I read that the EHRC has made one of those "recommendations" that
make my blood boil: employers must allow Druids vegans and greens to
express their "beliefs" in the workplace, or risk legal action.
In other words, the tenets of Druids, vegans and greens are on a par
with those of Christianity and the world religions. No one distinguishes
between dietary rules and Christian values, or between God and Gaia.
I've written here before about how the BBC will invite so-called witches on
religious programmes and expect everyone to take them as seriously as
rabbis or vicars. The reverence with which a book as fatuous as "Eat, Pray, Love" was treated by millions shows that spirituality still means something.
The problem is that, whether Druid or vegan, the religious spirit of
our age (and the EHRC is nothing if not of the moment) is big on the
supernatural but light on the discipline that underpins faith. Saying no
(to lying, adultery, promiscuity) is difficult and above all implies a
distinction between right and wrong. Druids, vegans and greens are
preachy about "ethical" lifestyles but that's the problem: it's more
lifestyle than faith. This nuance is lost on the EHRC, which will now be
obliged to extend its special pleading to Jedi warriors and other joke
"religions". What a nightmare for employers this will turn out to be.
Cristina Odone is a journalist, novelist and broadcaster
specialising in the relationship between society, families and faith.
She is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies and is a
former editor of the Catholic Herald and deputy editor of the New
Statesman. She is married and lives in west London with her husband, two
stepsons and a daughter. She has recently launched the website freefaith.com.