Politician sacked … for being competent at her job!

So, another politicians has had to resign (i.e. they were told to)  and apologise.  This week, the shadow minister for faith, Janet Daly resigned and apologised.  What was her misdemeanour? Had she been caught in an affair, had she been accused of bullying, had she broken COVID-19 rules even? Not, it was none of those things.  Had she defied the party whip on a major policy vote? No.  Was she simply proving unable to do her job?  Quite the opposite in fact. I’ve heard very positive comments about her engagement with faith leaders.

No, her crime was to suggest that Registrars should have the option of a faith based clause in their contract allowing them not to officiate at a same-sex marriage ceremony.  The clause would be similar to the conscience clause for medical practitioners in the case of abortions. Here are her words.

“There needs to be something in place that protects people of faith as well as those who think the other way,”

“It is an issue of conscience. It is like people having a choice who for reasons of conscience cannot participate in conducting an abortion.” [1]

You will notice that she does not say that same-sex marriages should not happen.  She does not say that registrars should be free to speak out against them, she simply insists that people who disagree with something on the grounds of faith should not be forced to go along with it. Remember that many registrars will have gone into their roles long before the law changed and long before definitions of marriage changed but now their ability to carry out a public service has been hindered. 

Furthermore, as I allude to in the title above, in effect this shadow minister has been sacked for being good at her job and representing faith communities. Disappointingly the only response I’ve seen from a Conservative spokesperson was not to defend her and criticise the Labour leader for allowing this but to put the boot into her further. This is concerning for religious freedom and freedom of conscience generally.

The situation also raises some thoughts about marriage and civil marriage more generally.  My first thought is “Why would you want someone conducting your marriage who does not believe in/agree with what you are doing?” 

There again, I have long felt that civil ceremonies are often cold and impersonal. Surely it is far better to have someone who knows and cares about you leading the ceremony.  If not a religious wedding, the at least a wedding rooted in the community would be better.Linked to that the wording of vows and the basis of powers invested often comes across as legalistic and heavy, lacking in grace and hope.

This resignation serves further to remind us not just about the problem we have where those in public life don’t get faith but also that there is so much confusion around the foundational institutions in our communities. This is unsurprising. Departure from the foundations will risk the rest of the building.

[1] Janet Daby resigns as shadow faith minister over same-sex marriage comments (christiantoday.com)

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