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Sunday, 26 October 2008

Religion versus reality – again

Another Christian is claiming he can’t do his job because of his “faith”.

This time – not exactly hot on the heels of but not far behind Lillian Ladele, the registrar in Islington, London – it’s a relationships guidance counsellor called Gary McFarlane (pictured).

And it’s not as if he worked for a specifically Christian counselling organisation. No, he works for the nationally known and renowned Relate.

He claims he’s been fired because he admitted that his superstitious beliefs could prevent him from administering sex therapy.

McFarlane has worked for Relate since 2003, but, according to the Mail, he says his employers failed to accommodate his religion and allow him to overcome his reservations.

The 47-year-old is taking his case to an employment tribunal.

The Mail says:

Mr McFarlane, a solicitor, said he was “sad and disappointed” with the “bigotry” he had experienced at the Bristol branch of Relate from “a group of people with their own agenda”.

“If I was a Muslim this would not happen,” he said. “They would find a way to make the system work. But Christians seem to have fewer and fewer rights. Relate needs to be forced to work through stuff like this.”

Mr McFarlane, who regularly attends both Church of England and Pentecostal services in Bristol, joined Relate Avon five years ago.

As a solicitor, he has specialised in resolving legal disputes through mediation, and even sits on a committee advising the Law Society.

Well he has a point there. If he were a Muslim you can bet your bottom that they’d make allowances, because that particular religion is almost invariably kowtowed to.

McFarlane says he did overcome his doubts at one point and helped a lesbian couple.

“In counselling,” he tells the paper, “you are drawing the couple out, going on a journey with them, enabling them to think in more than black and white. You are not telling anyone what to do or endorsing what they do.

“But in sex therapy you are diagnosing their problems and setting them a treatment plan, not unlike a doctor.”

He said that, while he had the attitude “each to their own”, he felt uncomfortable doing anything that would directly encourage gay sex. He says he hadn’t thought he’d have to confront these issues until he faced the prospect of providing therapy for a gay couple. That was when he planned to discuss them in confidence with his supervisor.

Some fellow counsellors have complained about McFarlane’s views, claiming he’s been homophobic.

Homophobic or not, it’s a fact that many couples are of the same sex (get used to it), and McFarlane should be able to give the advice, therapy and/or counselling he’s been trained to give.

He says some counsellors with special issues had been worked around. Some who had been abused as children found it hard to work with abusers, he said.

But that’s something that happened to them against their will, creating a psychological scar. A belief in a particular form of religion is a choice.

1 comment:

Stuart Hartill said...

I suppose an 'obvious answer' that's going to be given when we object to this behaviour is that if more gays, humanists, muslims....whatever..volunteer for groups like Relate there'd be counsellors to suit all and in turn the counsellors could indicate stuff they're uncomfortable with - not a real answer of course, as you can never know who's going to be 'on call' when a particular case comes up and each counsellor should be able to deal with anything in a crisis.
But I also think another problem is what happens in smaller communities when the Christian mafia gain local control of groups like this. In my area their hidden grip on anything from Relate, Cruse, the Samaritans and more worryingly government liason bodies, means that no-one from outside their little circle gets past the private vetting.
It's a vicious circle - Christians claim in public non-Christians don't match religious voluntary efforts, while privately ensuring they cannot volunteer.