By all accounts, Gary McFarlane never discriminated against anybody. He delivered relationship counselling to same-sex and different-sex couples alike.
He was training to deliver sex therapy, a second string to his bow. He answered an unexpected and entirely hypothetical question. Would he feel comfortable delivering sex therapy to a same-sex couple?
Sex therapy reportedly involves discussing foreplay and sex acts. The therapist prescribes physical activities for the couple to practise between sessions as homework.
Gary and fellow members of his faith community typically believe that the acts he would likely have ended up having to talk about, are sinful. I dare say sex therapy tends to work best if the couple and the therapist feel comfortable together.
Most people wouldn’t feel comfortable delivering the sort of service that sex therapy is, to anybody. Gary wasn’t at all sure that he would feel comfortable delivering sex therapy to a same-sex couple. I imagine that there might be other people who wouldn’t feel completely comfortable delivering sex therapy to anybody except same-sex couples. I wouldn’t begrudge them such a niche specialisation. Sex therapy is hardly the ideal subject for a “those who can’t, teach” approach. Some sexual acts are (shall we say?) rather specialised tastes.
Gary just blurted out the truth, that he wasn’t sure whether he would feel comfortable. His reasons? Those are irrelevant to the legal arguments that I think should have succeeded, when he took his employer to a tribunal, over what happened next. Relate retaliated by firing Gary from his job.
I cannot see how any couple would be disadvantaged, by being denied the opportunity of choosing as their sex therapist, a particular practitioner, who felt uncomfortable working with them, but couldn’t dare to admit it. I cannot see that weeding out of the sex therapy profession, any trainee who isn’t sure that he will be equally comfortable delivering sex therapy to same-sex and different-sex couples, is necessary (or “proportionate”), in order to maintain the standards of service that the sex therapy profession as a whole delivers to its clients.
Poor Gary wasn’t even allowed to return to his relationship counselling role, in which he had delivered that service to same-sex and different-sex couples alike. Instead, he was made jobless, for a “thought crime” that I think ought to be “decriminalised” without delay.
Is it in anybody’s best interests, for couples unknowingly to receive sex therapy, from sex therapists who are secretly working far outside their comfort zone, under duress? I wouldn’t want to. Would you, dear reader, whether you self-identify as gay, straight, or neither?
2 responses to “The mild misgiving that dare not speak”
McFarlane’s case illustrates the present vogue that a Christian’s faith shouldn’t have a cost. There has been talk in the some of the Christian blogs and (creeping ever to the Right) Christian media that the failure of this and the associated cases is a subverting and suppression of ‘Christian Conscience’ in the public sphere. But is this really the case? Two of the cases are wholly focused on rather limited issues around homosexuality – or excusing homophobia, depending how you look at it – the case of McFarlane is highly suspect, given the man’s willingness to give sex therapy to unmarried couples – where was his ‘Christian consciousness’ then? And FYI, just because someone is not gay, doesn’t mean that their sex life is ‘virtuous’ – indeed it is strange, with all that spills from the sex obsessed minds of a certain flavour of reactionary conservative Christian that nothing is said about what actually constitutes Biblically endorsed heterosexual sex. Is it just penetrative vaginal sex? Is role play allowed? Or anal or oral sex? Why has McFarlane only spoken out about counselling homosexuals? Surely there must – at least on occasion – be aspects of heterosexual sexual relationships he might feel are also sinful… But no, this doesn’t appear to have been a problem to him – which I think demonstrates that the courts were right to dismiss his case for the hollow bleating that it is.
If the focus of these ‘professional martyrs’ was a little more even handed then they would be credible. We’ve yet to see Christian Concern, or the Christian Institute or whatever ‘Ambulance Chaser for Jesus’ support the case of a banker or lawyer or business man etc. refusing to make an investment or take a case or do a deal because they were stricken with by their ‘Christian Conscience’ – which is highly suspicious when you think about it… but of course bankers, lawyers and business people are far better paid than public sector or voluntary workers and no doubt the fat pay cheque is ample compensation for any infringement of their Christian conscience? And perhaps banks, law firms and businesses aren’t as likely to be a soft touch like a local authority or registered charity? No, the focus has been disproportionately on ‘easy’ morality, a convenient minority, a low investment, high return moral stance, where if you don’t happen to be gay, it’s no challenge to you and your life – and as such demonstrates just how morally bankrupt is the more vocal ‘Christian Conscience’ in our present society. I am sure there are many issues in business and government – far removed from sexuality and trinkets around the neck – where a voicing of Christian Conscience would have been welcome. But in reality, the only time we’ve really see a militancy on the part of political Christianity has been concerned with homosexuality and jewellery… Which I think is pretty sad, when you come to think about it, don’t you?
As an aside, I do think it is ironic that we hear so much at present from reactionary conservative Christians about ‘freedom of speech’, ‘freedom of conscience’ and ‘freedom of religion’ – yet for much of the history of political Christianity – where Christianity has had a hand in the government of Western nations, it is Christianity that has suppressed ‘freedom of speech’, ‘freedom of conscience’ and ‘freedom of religion’. The blood spilled, the victims tortured and the martyrs burnt at the stake to suppress the heretic, the Catholic or the Protestant is conveniently forgotten by reactionary Christians wanting to claim as their own the fruits of the Enlightenment and social liberalism – fruits that when they had the power, they allowed to rot on the tree. Even until fairly recently in Britain, Catholics and Non-Conformists were denied access to certain professions or the right to hold land – and even now (until the law changes in the near future) an heir to the British throne cannot marry a Roman Catholic.
So please stop your whining, telling half truths and playing the victim card. McFarlane et el lost their cases, fair and square – and perhaps you should have the humility to accept that, perhaps even try and spread a little forgiveness, try being a peacemaker, instead of throwing petrol of the fire, try turning the other cheek… But these requirements of the Bible are personal, they apply to each and every Christian… So I can understand the attraction of Lev 18:22. An easy, pre-packed, ready to wear righteousness… The only real casualty is the Gospel itself. But the likes of you can’t see that…
Thank you for sharing some of your thoughts, “nw72ja”. Might there also be something or other that you wanted to write in reply to anything I had actually written?