Tuesday, 27 April 2010

No place for Catholics in the Conservative Party?

I have copied these extracts from the text of the BBC news report in case it disappears at some point.

Tory election candidate Philip Lardner has been suspended for describing gay people on his website as "not normal", the party has confirmed.

Scottish Conservatives chairman Andrew Fulton described the Ayrshire North and Arran candidate's comments as "deeply offensive and unacceptable".

"These views have no place in the modern Conservative party," he said. ....

[Mr Lardner's] suspension was provoked by comments in the "What I believe in" section of his website, under the sub-heading: "Homosexuality is not 'normal behaviour'."

The former Territorial Army soldier wrote of his support for the controversial "clause 28", which was introduced by the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher and banned public bodies from promoting homosexuality. ...

... Mr Lardner wrote: "As your MP I will support the rights of parents and teachers to refuse to have their children taught that homosexuality is 'normal' behaviour or an equal lifestyle choice to traditional marriage.

"I will always support the rights of homosexuals to be treated within concepts of (common sense) equality and respect, and defend their rights to choose to live the way they want in private, but I will not accept that their behaviour is 'normal' or encourage children to indulge in it.

"Toleration and understanding is one thing, but the state promotion of homosexuality is quite another."

The comments have since been removed.
The first point worthy of comment is that the BBC report misrepresents what Philip Lardner would appear to have said on his website (before it was censored). It seriously misrepresents him to say that he described gay people as "not normal". Even a cursory reading of the quoted words later in the BBC report show that Mr Lardner's descriptor of "not normal" referred to homosexual behaviour, and expressed what he believed about a form of behaviour, and not what he believed about the people who form a section of our society. If the Conservative Party's decision to suspend Mr Lardner from the Party is based on the same misrepresentation of his words, then he is the victim of a serious injustice.

The second point is to compare the quoted views of Mr Lardner to the teaching of the Catholic Church. As expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, this teaching recognises that "homosexual acts are intrisically disordered" (n.2357); the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church includes homosexual acts as one of seven "grave sins against chastity" (n.492). Now, there is a subtle point of political philosophy as to whether or not a statement of one's own moral beliefs have a place in public, political discourse - Rocco Buttiglione argued, for example, when talking about his being prevented from taking up a position as a European Union commissioner after a controversy about his views on homosexuality, that, in the political sphere, the real point was that of accepting the principle of "non-discrimination" and not one of insisting that those in public office hold one particular moral view or another on the matter. So a Catholic candidate standing for the Conservative Party might well affirm the principle of non-discrimination with regard to the treatment of homosexual persons, but not expect that they will have to also affirm their belief in the moral licitness of homosexual behaviours (preferring, perhaps, in the political sphere to keep a certian silence about their own beliefs). And this might also lead them on to want to say, as did Mr Lardner, that - also based on the principle of non-discrimination - they would support the rights of teachers and parents who out of conscience do not want homosexual behaviour to be taught to children as morally equivalent to chaste heterosexual behaviour.

Which leads me to ask: If the Scottish Conservatives Chairman considers that Mr Lardner's views "have no place in the modern Conservative party", will he come clean and also admit that this is equivalent to saying that "Catholic views have no place in the modern Conservative party"?

[Let's also read this in the light of David Cameron's remarks about Pope Benedict's forthcoming visit to the United Kingdom, made during the recent television debate: here and here.]

H/T to Kate, where there is some additional reporting. Kate's post suggests that Mr Lardner's website did (before being censored) express something of his own moral beliefs.


Francis said...

Lots of good stuff to mull over here, Joe.

I think the Labour and Lib Dems would probably say these views had no part in their parites, too, so it's not just no place for Catholic views in the Conservative party but all three main parties.

Of course, homosexual behaviour is not normal in the sense of average.

But there can be a temptation to confuse normal/not normal with natural/unnatural and from there to good/not good.

I think that reassuring parents he would not allow those teaching about homosexuality to 'encourage children to indulge in it.' is something of an aunt sally. Why would a teacher do this any more than encouraging to indulge in hetrosexual behaviour. I just don't think this really happens.

Likewise with, 'but the state promotion of homosexuality is quite another.'

How can you 'promote' homosexuality? I meen you cna 'promote' healty eating, fitness, saving regularly. You can't promote a state of being, can you? I just can't see how my teachers could have said or done anything that would have made me feel sexually aroused by men.

Anonymous said...

Zero says
As a conservative MP is as hard to find as a needle in a haystack in Scotland (and I doubt if that will change next week), I am surprised anyone even noticed what he had written.
Also, by describing him as "the former Terrotorial army soldier" do you think they were trying to indicate that he might be anti-gay?

Joe said...

Having written my post, a little bit of further trawling round the net did suggest that Mr Lardner might have "previous" history that I would not necessarily want to defend.... though I didn't see sufficient evidence to confirm this completely. I decided to leave my post up as it seemed defensible on this issue itself ..

David Cameron is, I think, trying hard to have the Conservative Party seen to be "gay friendly", so I am not surprised they jumped firmly on this case ...