The BBC reports:

A relationship counsellor who refused to offer sex therapy to gay couples has lost his unfair dismissal appeal.

Gary MacFarlane, 47, from Bristol, was sacked by marriage guidance service Relate after he said he could not do anything to promote gay sex.

He alleged Relate had refused to accommodate his Christian beliefs.

The service’s chief executive Claire Tyler said: “The appeal judgement validates Relate’s commitment to equality of access to our services.”

Mr MacFarlane, a former church elder, was appealing on the grounds of religious discrimination at the Employment Appeal Tribunal in Bristol.

The two main quotations below are, to my amazement, from the text of of the relevant judgement by the England and Wales Court of Appeal. The arguments in these extracts seem to me to go beyond those I understand are normally supposed to be included in such documents. I also wonder how much foundation for some of the claims made can be found in English legal history—none is offered at those points the text, and I bet there are plenty of opposing precedents. Still, I agree with the following [apart from the feeble “slippery slope” bit about theocracy], so why should I care?:

[T]he conferment of any legal protection or preference upon a particular substantive moral position on the ground only that it is espoused by the adherents of a particular faith, however long its tradition, however rich its culture, is deeply unprincipled. It imposes compulsory law, not to advance the general good on objective grounds, but to give effect to the force of subjective opinion. This must be so, since in the eye of everyone save the believer religious faith is necessarily subjective, being incommunicable by any kind of proof or evidence. It may of course be true; but the ascertainment of such a truth lies beyond the means by which laws are made in a reasonable society. Therefore it lies only in the heart of the believer, who is alone bound by it. No one else is or can be so bound, unless by his own free choice he accepts its claims.

The promulgation of law for the protection of a position held purely on religious grounds cannot therefore be justified. It is irrational, as preferring the subjective over the objective. But it is also divisive, capricious and arbitrary. We do not live in a society where all the people share uniform religious beliefs. The precepts of any one religion – any belief system – cannot, by force of their religious origins, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of any other. If they did, those out in the cold would be less than citizens; and our constitution would be on the way to a theocracy, which is of necessity autocratic. The law of a theocracy is dictated without option to the people, not made by their judges and governments. The individual conscience is free to accept such dictated law; but the State, if its people are to be free, has the burdensome duty of thinking for itself.

Would you say there’s some creeping Americanization of English law going on there? Like there was in this [PDF 73KB]? I would. Hurrah for the colonies!

[Thanks, Andrew.]