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Christian firefighter wins damages over refusal to work at Pride

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  1. Andrew Quick 21 Jan 2009, 1:36pm

    He has every right not to go to a Pride event. If there was a fire and he refused to go that would be very different. You can’t force people to change and this type of thing really doesn’t help our cause.

  2. I agree with Andrew. I wouldn’t actually want to attend a pride march either and I’m secular and gay!

  3. Sister Mary Clarence 21 Jan 2009, 1:52pm

    If its part of the fireman’s job description to provide information about fire safety (which I’m fairly sure it is), the I am again fairly sure that the job description will not contain any caveats stating that they can opt out if the recipients of that information are gay, Jewish, black or disabled.

  4. Strathclyde seem to have made a settlement on a “commercial” basis ie. it is cheaper to pay the plaintif than to go to trial.

    Normally, this is fair enough but in this instance there would have been a clear public interest case for going forward to trial in order to further clarify the case law that has started to build up with the Islington and Relate cases.

    In a nutshell, this seems to be that your religious beliefs are protected but not necessarily your actions based on that belief, especially when providing a public service. As human rights are for humans and not beliefs, this seems reasonable.

    The council are accountable for their use of public money and The National Secular Society should seek to challenge Strathclyde’s decision making here (directly or through the NAO) and make them justify their actions.

    As things stand, there remains a degree of confusion that the mixed-fibre wearing, shell-fish eating pick n mix religious bigots will exploit.

  5. I agree that he should not be forced to attend a Pride march IF they consult him and he expresses his beliefs AND it is shown that this will not in any way reduce or harm their service to the public.

    After all, if most of them refused to go they would not be able to give out many leaflets or advice, in which case they should consult their staff more and make sure they have more people attending.

    The problem seems to be that they just applied this blanket ‘conscription to gay pride’. Marches happen about all kinds of things – from pride to politics – and I would not want to be forced to attend every kind of march if it wasn’t necessary to discharge my public duty.

  6. Which part of Roman Catholic belief is compromised by handing out Fire Safety information? The nature of the even should have no bearing of such activity – would the same fireman refuse to give such leaflets to Protestants, who, after all are officially regarded as heretics. This decision appears to have been made for expediency [cheaper than going to a Tribunal] – a poor basis for making any decision!!!

  7. Suppose he was a member of the BNP and refused to go to a march because there were black people there and he didn’t want to hand out leaflets to a black person? This is a very slippery slope. Yes you shouldn’t force people but he does not deserve any compensation, the guy is a biggot should he be made to feel its a good thing being a bigot. Hey cash reward lets encourage more.

  8. gaygirlsguide 21 Jan 2009, 3:07pm

    It still maddens me that peoples religious beliefs (which they choose) are protected over the rights of something naturally inherrant. He has the right to refuse to hand out information to gay people, would I be so protected if I refused to do the same based on someones religious beliefs? I very much doubt it. Choice trumping nature…sad really

  9. I have to diagree with those that suggest that some comprimise should be found to allow these Christians not to attend the march. They are public servants – a march is a march – whatever the cause – if the fire service have a policy of capitalising on the event of a group of people coming together to promote fire safety then they have this policy. Further, for individuals to refuse to execute their duty on the basis of whatever group of people is present is bigotted and wrong. In this case, Strathclyde Fire service have set a precedent: i.e. they afford people with certain belief systems the right to choose which groups they service. I would suggest that this against their own equal opportunities policy, it is direct discrimination in terms of the employment regulations 2003 (i.e. policies are in place which favour a group (christians) to the deteriment of others (any group whom christians pick and choose to condescend today, on the basis of interpretations that suit their personal prejudices). Also, it contrevenes the goods and services act since policies are indirectly in place to allow services to be provided differently (to what would have otherwise been) where personnel are charged to do their duty without argument. You know what folks – the bigots might have even learned something on the day!

  10. Ooops – Correction to my above rant fuelled by rage! I should have said “they afford people with certain belief systems the right to choose which groups they serve”…..

    (I think talking about fireman and using the words “…which groups they service” says more about me, and not so much about the cause I am fighting for…)

  11. Christina Engela 21 Jan 2009, 3:24pm

    I sincerely hope no gay lives ever depend on those nine firemen to perform to the same level of dedication as they obviously deliver to heterosexual citizens. I wonder if they will have the brass face to refuse to attend victims who need rescue on the grounds of some backward religious beliefs which are nothing but an excuse to validate inexcusable hate. Perhaps if a gay club or an AIDS clinic were on fire they would claim religious grounds there too?

    It is disgusting. Those nine individuals should be ashamed of themselves, treated as they deserve by their despicable actions – and declared unfit to serve the public trust.

  12. Har Davids 21 Jan 2009, 3:27pm

    Mountains out of mole-hills! You may not agree with someone’s lifestyle, but giving out flyers on safety at an event and then coming up with your religion!!

  13. Must remember to take down the rainbow flag before my house catches on fire.

  14. I can’t see how handing out a leaflet impacts on your religious beliefs. Surely the issue here is fire safety for the community (or whatever the leaflets were about) and not the sexuality of the people receiving the leaflets. Either the 9 firefighters believe that handing out leaflets is pointless (in which case they should stop doing it completely) or they believed they are providing a valuable public service but have the right to withhold that service from the people who paid for it.

    Given that we have to pay for the wages of these people with our various taxes, are we entitled to a tax rebate when they refuse to provide us with the service? If not, that sounds like extortion – we’re forced to pay for these nine people but aren’t entitled to receive the same service from them.

    I wonder how Strathclyde Fire and Rescue will deal with complaints from their lesbian and gay employees (who I presume have to work with these nine bigots) for discrimination in the workplace. Or are we expected to believe that the bigotry of some firefighters only surfaces when handing out leaflets.

  15. Complain!!!

    You may register a complaint:

    By Post The Complaints Officer,
    Strathclyde Fire & Rescue Headquarters,
    Bothwell Road, Hamilton ML3 0EA
    By Email
    By Fax 01698 338482
    By Telephone 01698 300999 (asking for the Complaints Officer)
    In person to any member of SFR’s staff at any SFR establishment

  16. Vulpus_rex 21 Jan 2009, 5:57pm

    “To suggest that he was not doing his job just because he wouldn’t attend a gay Pride march is an insult to his courage and the courage of his profession.”

    This says it all. Fire men should stick to saving lives and not going on marches. The facile veil of legitimacy given to this whole exercise by saying that firemen were sent to promote fire safety is rubbish. The clear message was “Strathclyde fire service want to be seen to support gay pride” – didn’t see them at the countryside alliance march “promoting fire safety”. Their attendance at gay pride was an overt political gesture that back fired and they have wasted a tonne of cash trying to disguise this.

  17. Sister Mary Clarence 21 Jan 2009, 6:14pm

    According to the BBC, dated Tuesday, 18th July 2006

    “The men, who are based at Cowcaddens fire station, had been asked to distribute fire safety literature at the event last month.”

    I think you’ll find Vulpus that the purpose of distributing fire safety literature is to ‘promote fire safety’. I don’t know if you get out of the house much, but if you attend any one of a number of large events, you’ll find the fire service there banging on about smoke alarms (having them), chip pan fires (not having them) and smoking in bed (not doing it).

    I wasn’t aware that passing a leaflet to a gay person about the inherent dangers of setting fire to yourself in built up areas was in anyone condoning the homosexual lifestyle.

    Obviously I may be wrong ….

  18. BEAU NOSH II 21 Jan 2009, 6:56pm

    Reinds me of the two gays who found themselves locked out of their flat when they came home and had to climb up a ladder through a window to get in.
    “I feel like a fireman,” said Kurt.
    “Where’d you get one this time of night?”answered Rod.

  19. Outraged of Tunbridge Wells 21 Jan 2009, 7:00pm

    Sorry, but I’m with Vulpus on this one. This had damn all to do with fire safety, it was purely a political pose-value to make the fire department look “right-on” and trendy, there is plently of public service literature and commercials about fire prevention. And anyway, who frankly would read such stuff at a Pride march anyway. I bet the streets were littered with the damn things afterwards.

    As Tony mentioned, what if you were a BNP supporter at a Black march, or more scarily, a black fireman at a BNP march… I’m sure the complaints would target the fire service then.

    It’s about time people stopped using gay issues for a bit street-cred and just got on with their jobs.

  20. Yeah, well, they’ve blotted their copy books so that’s their careers up the swanny and rightly so.

  21. It’s interesting to me that no one has responded to the comments that refer to the possibility that the fire department might take longer to respond if it were known that the alarm was from a gay address. There have been times that gay owned or gay themed businesses have been allowed to burn to the ground. There have been times when life support measures were denied to gay individuals.

    Just because they wear uniforms doesn’t automatically mean they’re beyond reproach.

  22. Yikes, what a rabid bunch of intolerants many of the responders on here are!! For a sub section of society that is currently screaming “INTOLERANCE” at anyone who so much as drops the word “queer” into a conversation – notwithstanding the fact that this is a word that is now used with abandon by radical “queers” – you show little understanding for someone who is expressing his freedom to adhere to his interpretation of his religious beliefs, however unpalatable they may seem to us. The hate and bile you spew forth is truly frightening! You really should all look in a mirror and see how your hysterical, over-the-top reactions to any perceived homophobia is making you just like your perceived enemies, only worse. Perhaps this is not so surprising when some of the most spiteful, and yes, homophobic people I have ever met have been gay people themselves, some of whose ability to hurt and heap shit on to one another seemingly knows no bounds. Seems as a “community” we are living in a greenhouse “bubble” and collectively are throwing the largest stones of all!

  23. Rob,

    The point is, where does the discrimination stop due to religious beliefs. Would the fire officer refuse to enter a burning gay club to rescue people, as it offends his ‘religion’.

    This is the thin end of the wedge. Don’t forget other religions will use this also. Next we will have taxi drivers refusing to pick up people who have been in a pub, or are carrying alcohol in their shopping as it is against Islam.

    Or what about an islamic doctor refusing to reat an unmarried pregnant girl, or an alcoholic?

    They could ALL use exactly the same argument.

    Sadly, the Fire Brigade involved have just chosen what seems right now to be the easy route, but this issue will not stop here. Maybe once it starts to affect heterosexuals, people will take the issue more seriously.

    As regards the case itself, I hardly see how handing out leaflets at Glasgow Gay Pride (which is actually pretty tame) can offend a person religious beliefs. He wasn’t exactly asked to pole dance in a gay nightclub was he?

  24. I am completely disgusted by this individual, John Mitchell. Hiding behind a ‘religion’ that promotes hate and prejudice. He is employed to provide a service to ALL the community, not pick and choose who he ‘will hate this week’.
    He is a disgrace to all decent and professional emergency service personell – no ‘hero’ of mine!

  25. Since the 16th century Reformation, there have been large numbers of Protestants who considered the Roman Catholic Church to be “apostate”, “an abomination”, and other, even more offensive epithets.

    There are considerable numbers of conservative Evangelical Christians who still share that same view.

    If an Evangelical Christian was to refuse to hand out fire safety leaflets at some Roman Catholic public gathering, would they receive taxpayers’ money as a reward for their refusal to do their job?

    I think we know the answer to that!

  26. The news of this has angered me a lot, as one of the directors of Pride Glasgow (the new name of Pride Scotia Glasgow) i was even more angry that Strathcylde Fire and Rescue did not think to actually inform us of this especially seeing as they were very supportive of Pride in 2008 to make sure they did not get any negativity from the LGBT community during the event.

  27. john wilfred sharp 22 Jan 2009, 2:41am

    anyone on public duty must do what they are told .
    no discussions on that . he is paid by gay taxes too.
    this decision is shameful.
    next they will refuse to save gay in a fire .

  28. Bouncerman in Black 22 Jan 2009, 6:09am

    Of course this now works both ways and any local Gay person injured or compromised by a fire incident can now possibly sue that Fire Service for failing in their duty to educate on the dangers of …. and the means to prevent….

  29. Can you imagine if those same firemen decided that it was against their religion to rescue gays from fires! They are public servants who by the nature of their work can’t pick and choose which section of the public they will and will not serve.

    Strathclyde Fire Service are wrong in their handling of this case and certainly as a gay man I feel betrayed that money changed hands.

  30. One wonders what would be the outcome if the situation wwere reversed and a LGBT firefighter were to refuse to give out leaflets at a religious event.

    I’m confident that LGBT people are confident enough in themselves and sufficiently committed to genuine public service not to contemplate such a childish and self-obsessed action but, as I said in my previous post, by arriving at a commercial settlement to save money by not going to trial, Strathclyde have opened up an area of confusion that might cost them dear in the long run as more bigots see a sudden conversion to religion as an opportunity to exploit the situation.

    And Strathclyde are not the only ones this could rebound on. The Christian Institute might well regret the day they started to support these cases if it means that christianity gradually becomes little more than a repositry for those dregs of society who just want a copper bottomed excuse to hate.

  31. What’s next: “Oh I’m sorry, I can’t put your fire out, I’m a Catholic and your gay”. a lot of Catholics think we should burn in hell anyway. I’m sorry but those kind of events, talking about fire and training the public are part of their duties. As employees, their wages are paid by gay people as well as straight. They have a job to do, GET ON WITH it. They aren’t being asked to sleep with men, just hand fire safety leaflets out.

  32. I’m gay and I was raised as a Catholic, although I’ve not practised in years. I can’t say that my upbringing was pro-gay, but neither was it anti-gay. It’s misleading to say that all Catholics are as homophobic as this fireman. To use his “religious beliefs” as a cover for his personal homophobia is a disgrace. Surely there are gay people present at ALL events he may need to hand out leaflets, but he doesn’t seem to have a problem with it then. I feel he was just trying to get back at the fire brigade for disciplining him.

  33. Giving way on an issue of principle to save money? Short-term cheap is often long-term very expensive.

  34. Not wrong Sister Mary Clarence, you are however prone to a)spinning something in a context that was never meant and b) resorting to sarcasm when frustrated by your position.

    Of course, when I hear about the fire service attending the next BNP conference to “Promote fire safety” then I will happily apologise and conceded that I was incorrect.

  35. **So I am protestant, will he not come to put fire out at my house because he is catholic?

    I thought firemen were suppose to be “macho” etc. Was that the only excuse those 9 guys could come up with? Sounds like a bunch of pussies to me. I wouldn’t want them at my parade anyway.

    I’m sure if he hates one group, he hates many others too. Maybe he should move to Rome, Italy and become personal boy to the Nazi Pope!

  36. Sister Mary Clarence 25 Jan 2009, 4:12pm

    Apologies for appearing sarcastic Vulpus, but not sure what I was spinning out of context and I fundamentally disagree with the original comment you posted.

    “Fire men should stick to saving lives and not going on marches. The facile veil of legitimacy given to this whole exercise by saying that firemen were sent to promote fire safety is rubbish.”

    The following recruited on the fire service website:

    “Today’s firefighter also works closely with the community to increase their level of awareness and so prevent incidents from occurring in the first place.

    Being able to communicate effectively to schools, community groups, voluntary organisations and others is important, as is treating people with dignity and respect regardless of their background or culture.”

    The fire officer concerned was asked to carry out his duties as per paragraph one and was unwilling to do so in line with paragraph two.

    The recruitment blurb goes on to state:

    “The role of the firefighter is continually changing as new techniques and equipment are introduced. As well as responding to emergencies, you will also be expected to work closely with the community:

    To prevent fire and accidents from starting in the first place.
    Educating the community by visiting schools, community centres and people in their own homes.
    Advising people about planning escape routes within their own homes in case of a fire.
    Actively seeking to understand and to value diverse individuals and groups.”

    As part of the fire service interview process they follow a fixed question model.

    Question 3:

    “Describe a time when you have helped support diversity”

    Question 13

    “Give an example of a time when you have encountered different groups of people and tell us how you approached treating everyone as equals”

    Based on all of this, I utterly fail to understand why this case was not argued out in tribunal. Its because of spineless little sh*ts like those at Strathclyde Fire and Rescue HR/Legal Services who haven’t got the balls to carry cases like this through, we and other other minority groups continue to get the sh*tty end of the stick and god-bothering twats will continue to take the piss out of us and hapless employers who pay lip-service to implementing equality laws.

    If Stonewall could take a minute or two out from slagging off Price Harry, they might serve the interests of our community better by taking Strathclyde Fire and Rescue to court for false advertising.

    It is absolutely abhorrent that this guy should be allowed to get away with providing potentially life saving information to any subset of the community because he doesn’t endorse any aspect of their lifestyle and I find it disappointing that so many people have made comments that seem to suggest they think this is nothing more than political correctness gone mad.

  37. I totally agree SMC. And to address the point that it may have been a politically motivated decision to join the March, I would say that the Fire Service, like all public services, should publicly engage with the minority communities just to make clearly the case that gays etc are welcome in the Service, and that we will get full support from it. Not to attend, when other public, uniformed services were there, would in itself make a statement

  38. I’d like to say I’m shocked at this news, but unfortunately we’ve a long way to go as a society before we stop letting so-called Religious Rights trump, well, everything, for a fear, as stated by Rob above, of appearing to show religious intolerance.
    Is it really intolerant to hope that somebody who agrees to take on a job, particularly in the public sector (which is not only funded by the public, but in this case also has a substantial bearing on public safety), be both willing and able to perform the duties relevant to that post?

    Why are we so scared in our culture of offended religious views? I agree that this event in itself may appear trivial, but what it does is send a clear message to the public that chosen religious beliefs are considered more important than innate sexual preference, and that it’s ok to discriminate against gay people if you have religious grounds for doing so. So much for equality!

    I’m a gay atheist, and I can honestly say that I’ve never discriminated against anybody on the grounds of their religious beliefs, but if I did, particularly during the course of my employment, I would expect to be sacked on the spot if not reprimanded by a court for religious intolerance. This is just a microcosm of a far wider and deeper issue that I’m sure will bring up far more conflicts in the future.

    I, for one, am wholeheartedly jumping on the Atheist Bus in a bid to stop religious rights from stomping all over everyone else’s. Who’s with me??

  39. I live in Strathclyde region and last night, I e-mailed the eight MSPs who represent me in the Scottish Parliament, asking if they’d look into the possibility of this settlement being illegal as it seems to contravene the Goods and Services (Sexual Orientation) Act 2007.

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