A Serpent-like Dove
4th January 2018
Christ told us to be "…wise as serpents, and harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16). In a world where, as Seventh-day Adventist Christians, we might increasingly feel besieged by rulings that seem to erode our religious freedoms, we might find it very difficult to exercise that balance of being serpent-like doves, so to speak. It was therefore reassuring to witness a live example of a response to this commission, when Elder Sonia Munroe, Pastor Andrew Cudjoe, and Alex Nsimbi, were fortunate enough to attend a one-day conference at the Centre for Conflict, Rights and Justice at the Nottingham University Law School – a conference where Pastor Brighton Kavaloh, as one of the invited presenters, tactfully displayed just how to be wise, but harmless. The conference was held on Monday 11 December 2017 and was entitled 'Law, Human Rights and Religion – Flashpoints'.
Presenting to a room of about 30 academics with expertise in various areas of law, some of whom were from within, and others from outside the UK, Pastor Kavaloh was one of 4 presenters who were tasked with speaking during the 'hot potato' section of the day – Religion, Sexuality and Gender Identity. With each speaker given only 15 minutes to present their thoughts, then a question and answer section at the end, Pastor Kavaloh was the second speaker with the highly-anticipated presentation entitled, 'Ceasefire – A Call to End Hostilities - Religious Rights v Sexual Minorities'.
Through an analysis of the Judaeo-Christian foundations of English common law, meticulous scrutiny of specific case law, analysis of the UK Human Rights Act (1998), and evidence of concerns from distinguished experts of the law regarding the dangers of considering one of equality as more important than another (e.g. sexual orientation rights against freedom of religion), Pastor Kavaloh was able to prove that within the current climate, religious freedom is a right that is regarded as less valuable than sexual orientation rights.
Pastor Kavaloh concluded by proposing the need to adopt the principle of reasonable accommodation for religious beliefs in UK law. This would be the most effective way to ensure that different groups' rights and freedoms are balanced fairly, rather than the recent trend where courts have tended to be pernicious when interpreting equality legislation in relation to the manifestation of religious freedom.
Despite some of the audience and presenters having differing views to those of Pastor Kavaloh, the cordial response from various presenters and audience members was evidence enough that there was mutual respect between all parties.
Furthermore, Pastor Kavaloh's presentation was a powerful witness in an environment where some might have thought that views like those presented by Pastor Kavaloh might be ridiculed. Instead, the act of stepping out in faith not only showed that there are indeed others who have espoused the very same views as we do, but after some heard his argument, they were keen to state how inspired they were.
Yes! It is still possible to be as wise as a serpent, and harmless as a dove – even in this day and age.
[Alex Nsimbi ]