Yes but what was he doing?

What are we talking about here?

A police trainer who was sacked for believing that officers should use psychics to solve crimes is going to court to prove he was the victim of religious discrimination.

Was he sacked – is he claiming he was sacked – just for believing that? Or was he sacked for practicing it? Surely that makes an important difference – yet, oddly, the piece nowhere makes it clear which possibility is at issue.

Alan Power, who has been a member of a Spiritualist church for 30 years, argues that his belief in the power of mediums should be placed on a par with more mainstream religious and philosophical convictions…At a tribunal in London, Mr Power will claim that Greater Manchester Police broke the law by sacking him for believing that mediums should be consulted in criminal investigations.

But did they? Did they sack him just for believing that, or did they sack him for putting it into practice? Come on, Telegraph, obviously that’s a crucial bit of information; why did you forget to provide it?! Surely it’s quite right that employers shouldn’t be firing people just because they believe X Y or Z; surely that’s none of an employer’s business unless the employee is acting on the beliefs. If this police trainer was actually wasting public time and money by consulting psychics, or training cops to do so, then that would be a good reason to fire him – yet the Telegraph never says a word about that. Bad journalism.

The judge however said something truly ridiculous.

The judge wrote: “I am satisfied that the claimant’s beliefs that there is life after death and that the dead can be contacted through mediums are worthy of respect in a democratic society.”

No, they aren’t – respect is exactly what they are not worthy of, in a democratic society or an oligarchy. Forebearance, other things being equal, yes, but respect, no. Tolerance, in the sense of not being interfered with, yes, but respect, no. I know this is familiar territory – I seem to spend my life making the distinction between tolerance and respect – but since the coercive slide keeps being made, one has to keep pointing it out. Employees should be free to believe anything they want to, but that doesn’t mean they should be free to do anything they want to merely because they do it as a matter of ‘belief’; we should all tolerate each other’s beliefs, which does not entail never questioning or criticising them, but that doesn’t mean we should all respect each other’s beliefs, which perhaps would entail never questioning or criticising them.

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