Sunday, March 6, 2011

Vegans and Christians and gays

I have a few friends (and relatives) who are vegetarians. A few go as far as ovo-lacto vegetarianism, and even as far as vegan. For those who don't know the difference (I didn't until they told me), a vegetarian avoids meat of some sort, ovo-lacto vegetarians will eat eggs and milk, and vegans strictly avoid animal products or byproducts.

Catholics join the ranks of vegetarians on certain days, including Fridays during Lent, which starts this week. We do so according to an old testament practice outlined in the book of Daniel.

Daniel 10:2-3: In those days, I, Daniel, mourned three full weeks. I ate no savory food, I took no meat or wine, and I did not anoint myself at all until the end of the three weeks.

For this reason Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays in Lent, in mourning for Christ's Crucifixion. However, we may eat fish, as fish is a symbol of Christ. Eating it is symbolic of the Eucharist, in which we consume the body of Christ.

So why are people vegan (or vegetarian in general)? Some do it because they think it is a healthier life style. Some do it because their bodies don't react well to meat, and they find it easier to digest vegetables. Some do it because they feel that it is morally wrong to eat animals.

If you are a fan of "Dinner Impossible" you will know that Chef Robert Irvine often laments the fact that he has to make vegetarian dishes for the people he cooks for. I don't find it to be a burden at all to make vegetarian dishes, and when we have friends over who are vegetarian, we always make sure there are not only things like salad, but an entire meal they can eat. I have discovered some delicious Lenten dishes in cooking food for vegetarian friends.

Likewise, when I go out to eat with friends who are vegetarian I alter my diet to make them feel more comfortable. If I know they believe it is wrong to kill animals I will have a potato and salad, even if I have a hankering for a steak that day.

My point is that even though they think eating meat is a sin and I don't, I respect both them and their opinion. I don't take them to court and have them declared unfit to care for children because they think I am wrong to eat meat.

Not so the case in the UK. In a recent case, the high court ruled that parents can be denied foster children for "refusing to talk to children about homosexuality as though it were an acceptable lifestyle". Now, I'm not trying to compare a homosexual lifestyle to eating meat, because in my view they are different. However, if you are a person who professes that there is no moral difference (in other words if you see a gay lfiestyle as being as morally valid a choice as eating meat), there is no reason to discriminate against those who do consider it sinful (as a vegan would consider eating meat sinful).

According to this Daily Mail article [emphasis mine]:

Owen and Eunice Johns heard that their values could conflict with the local authority’s duty to ‘safeguard and promote the welfare’ of those in foster care.

The grandparents have already fostered 15 children and were praised by social workers as ‘kind and hospitable people’ who ‘respond sensitively’ to youngsters.

During the case, the Equality and Human Rights Commission argued that children risk being ‘infected’ by Christian moral views.

Yesterday the retired couple’s request for a ruling that faith should not be a bar to becoming a carer was denied at the High Court in London.

...The Johnses are considering an appeal but campaigners fear the ruling will be used as a blueprint for other councils to stop devout Christians from becoming foster parents.

The couple, who have four grown-up children and six grandchildren, had applied to be respite carers offering short-term placements for children aged between five and ten.

Mrs Johns, a retired nurse, said: ‘This is a sad day for Christianity. The judges have suggested that our views might harm children. We do not believe that this is so. We are prepared to love and accept any child.

‘All we were not willing to do was to tell a small child that the practice of homosexuality was a good thing.’

She added that the couple have visited her nephew, who is gay, and his partner in San Francisco.

Her husband added: ‘We wanted to offer love and stability and security to a vulnerable child. Eight-year-olds we have looked after want to play, not talk about their sexuality.’

Yesterday the council denied that it had sought to discriminate against Mr and Mrs Johns on the grounds of religious belief, but added that it ‘welcomes the judgment’.


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