- From what I know from Phillip in other conversations, I understand that he has no absolute moral objections to gay relationships, nor to their inclusion in the life of the Church. The issue here is treating homo- and heterosexual couples in an identical and generic way.
- When reading this, it's important to think about the bigger issue of faith in the public, social and political arena, as well as the secular liberal dilemmas when dealing with the specific truth claims and ethical views of faith groups.
No room for gay rights at the adoption agency
The dispute over adoption exposes a wider debate about the morality of liberalism, Phillip Blond and Adrian Pabst argue
‘The sterile appeal to equality masks an agenda to elevate one minority over another’
The GOVERNMENT’S refusal to exempt Roman Catholic adoption agencies from anti-discrimination laws represents the latest liberal assault on religion. The Roman Catholic rejection of gay adoption is neither regressive nor reactionary.
First, it is by no means clear that the current attempt to impose equality legislation on the adoption process serves the best interests of the child. Second, it is equally uncertain that equality of rights ensures respect for difference. Third, it is far from self-evident that the secular liberal logic that is driving this issue is the only or indeed the best way of creating a diverse society.
Roman Catholicism seems to have a point. One suspects that, for most ordinary people, a heterosexual couple in a family environment represents the best way to bring up a child. The common preconception that children are better off when raised by two parents has a sound empirical and sociological basis. We now know from various longitudinal studies that one-parent families are strongly correlated with poverty, crime, and social exclusion.
Moreover — dysfunctional partners aside — few human beings would argue that one parent is as good as two. Few would disagree with someone who spoke of the absence of a mother or father as damaging to their mental and emotional well-being. Nobody doubts the heroism of the parent in one-parent families, but nobody would envy them or their children.
At first sight, same-sex couples offer two surrogate parents, but crucially they cannot offer both a mother and a father. The denial of this foundational experience is surely emotionally and socially damaging. Children need to encounter male and female parental love — both are vital for development. The lack of fathers as role-models and loving mentors is a self-evident factor in many delinquent youths and failed lives.
Why, then, so uncritically accept the assertion that same-sex couples are just as good as heterosexual couples at raising children? There is no solid evidence on which to make this claim. Yes, gay people have raised children for years, but usually in the context of a failed heterosexual relationship — a situation in which both mothers and fathers are still present.
The argument that, were it not for homosexual adoption, children would be abandoned in care homes is as peculiar as it is pernicious: it is not as if there are children that only gay people would adopt.
The raising of children by same-sex couples is so recent and so historically unprecedented that it is not unreasonable to adopt the precautionary principle, and wait before enforcement by law.
The ideology that is imposing the equality legislation, however, does not seem to be concerned with the well-being of the child. If it were, serious questions would be asked. We would object to raising children by computers because, in part, they would be denied a mother and a father. Surely the right of a child to receive the love of a mother and a father is irrefutable. Same-sex couples, however good or well-meaning, cannot deliver this.
So why aggressively assert equality where none should pertain? It is hard to see what principle of justice or well-being is served by denying a child the love and recognition of a mother and a father.
To deprive children of this experience reveals a fundamental contradiction. On the one hand, homosexuals insist on their particularity. Like other minorities, they rightly demand tolerance and respect for their specificity.
On the other hand, homosexuals now want to be the same as heterosexuals. This goes beyond equality of rights, and extends to practices such as marriage and having children — constructions that arguably are particular to heterosexual couples. Curiously, in the name of equality, a group that is defined by difference seems to desire nothing so much as sameness.
Moreover, by enforcing equality legislation on all adoption agencies, a minority imposes its will and worldview on a majority. The contrast with religious groups could hardly be more marked: whereas the Roman Catholic Church seeks an exemption only for itself, those who support gay adoption insist on the application of the Equality Act across the board. Thus they deny precisely the sort of freedom of conscience that currently allows Roman Catholic doctors to refuse to perform an abortion.
In reality, the sterile appeal to equality masks an agenda to elevate the interests of one minority over those of another. A simple secular equality of rights ensures a permanent conflict between minorities and the destruction of the differences that a truly plural society would uphold.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York were correct to support the Roman Catholic Church in its request for an exemption from this repressive legislation. But they should have gone much further.
Since contemporary secular liberalism values little more than human will and unconstrained choice, it conflicts with virtually every other human value system. The self-professed moral superiority of liberalism is a sham. It claims to defend diversity, but it enforces conformity with a secular code that it alone defines.
Liberal progressives cannot deliver a just and plural society co-operating around common values of tolerance and respect. Christians need to resist the current politics of uniformity and compliance. They should intercede with a critique of contemporary social mores and the alleged panaceas of our governing class.
Phillip Blond is a senior lecturer in theology at St Martin’s College, Lancaster. Adrian Pabst is lecturer in theology at the University of Nottingham.