10-31-06: United Kingdom: Discrimination, The Law and The Christian
By Adventist News Network
October 31, 2006 London, United Kingdom .... [BUC News/ANN Staff]
Christians are not free from discrimination and they should be prepared to withstand it, said Richard O'Dair, an employment and discrimination law specialist, at a recent meeting of Christian business professionals. O'Dair contributed to a breakfast panel of five discussing, "Discrimination: How Should We Fight It? Is Litigation the Answer?" The meeting was held at The Law Society's Hall, Chancery Lane, in London.
The discussion was organized by "Level Seven"-- a group of business professionals mainly based around the Central London Seventh-day Adventist Church who wish to reach out to their colleagues in the city, Victor Hulbert, communication director for the Adventist church in Britain, explained. According to their Web site, Level Seven "exists to provide a platform for challenging discussions about relevant contemporary issues from a Christian perspective and for networking and fellowship with people who want to make a difference in society."
O'Dair said when it comes to discriminatory prejudice, "we need the Holy Spirit to help us." He pointed out that on an organizational level it is easy to be sued for alleged discrimination "even though you and the Lord know that you have acted in good faith." O'Dair believes that generally, discrimination law is something that Christians should welcome as they must be able to give a coherent justification for anything done in the workplace.
However, Paul Diamond argued that discrimination legislation is often used to discriminate against people and that it is very political. Diamond specializes in the law of religious liberty and argues that, for instance, legislation that protects rights for people of a certain sexual orientation may, by its very nature, discriminate against religious organizations that believe in sexual relationships in terms of God-ordained heterosexual marriage.
A Christian employee or employer should always work towards seeking a reasonable accommodation, added Mark Mullins, a member of the Council of the Lawyer's Christian Fellowship and chairman of its Public Policy Committee. He believes that legal remedies should always be a last resort.
"Nevertheless," he stated, "a Christian must always stand for Christ and must not compromise their faith."
Another panelist, Mark Jones, agreed that "while litigation is an answer, it is not the only answer."
For the past three years, Jones has run a practice applying his experience in employment law to assisting Christians, churches and other Christian employers.
He says one way to diffuse a problematic situation is by first having an informal meeting. He explains it is an opportunity for Christians to resolve differences in a patient manner.
However, O'Dair warns, while as a Christian you may want to avoid litigation, sometimes it is best to follow the old Roman dictum: "If you want peace, prepare for war".
Daniel Matovu recently defended an employee who was fired for distributing Bible passages relating to homosexuality to work colleagues. He counseled that Christians "need to be careful, to be sensitive".
This is the third "Level Seven" seminar aimed at business and professional people working in London. Attendees included some business students from Newbold College, a Seventh-day Adventist institution. For more information visit www.levelseven.org.uk.
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