Not being a Muslim or Jew, I do not believe food needs to be Halal or Kosher.  Indeed, I actively disapprove of some aspects of these ritual requirements of food – for example the requirement that animals be slaughtered in the name of Allah.  (That does not, of course, prevent me from eating meat so slaughtered, for reasons well-known to all biblical Christians but not relevant here.)

Although I disapprove of, say, Halal requirements, I do not believe they should be restricted or opposed by the law.  That doesn't mean I would approve of just any means of slaughtering an animal under just any religious requirement.  Some, for example, might be excessively cruel.  Just because we choose to (and ought to) tolerate some religious practices that doesn't mean we must tolerate every religious practice.  But I am perfectly content for Kosher and Halal requirements to be tolerated.

More than that, although I do not support or approve of Halal requirements, I believe that contracts made in respect of Halal requirements – e.g. for a Halal restaurant to contract with a supplier to purchase Halal-certified meat - should be enforced by the law, as with other contracts.  Halal should not merely have the status of minimalist toleration - that of not being actively crushed.  Rather, those that believe in Halal should be able to live out their beliefs including in normal commercial ways such as being free to contract with each other.  (If only Christians had that same freedom!)

One might say that, although I do not morally approve of Halal requirements, I fully respect the social validity of such requirements and believe legal contracts in respect of Halal requirements should be facilitated not in spite of my being a Conservative but because I am a Conservative.  The reason is that as a Conservative I regard contract as one of the three key building blocks of society (along with family and property).  The facilitation and enforcement of contracts is one of the core functions of the state for a Conservative.  For those that believe in Halal requirements, a part of living out their beliefs is through trade and contract, the making and keeping of promises.  Even if one does not personally approve of Halal, it is a social good for the state to facilitate and enforce contracts.

Here is something else I regard in almost exactly the same way I regard Halal requirements: homosexual union.  I do not personally morally approve of them, but fully respect their social validity.  I have always believed that homosexuals should be able to contract in sexual union, just as heterosexuals can.  I see no good reason in political philosophy for distinguishing between these cases.  Indeed, it has always seemed to me that many of those that opposed homosexual civil union / gay marriage appeared quite content for the law to enforce contracts in many other areas of which they disapproved – from selling pornographic magazines to working for useless quangos.  To say that many things one disapproved of should have legal sanction but not homosexuality always struck me as nothing more than homophobia.

So I always favoured and argued for gay marriage – even when many Conservatives were still (quite incomprehensibly to me) voting against equalisation of the age of consent and to forbid homosexuals from adopting children.  And I do so now.  If I have expressed any scepticism about current proposals, it is mainly because I would personally be inclined to equalise the civil treatment of marriage and civil partnership in the opposite direction – by taking away from heterosexual union the sex element.  Sadly, the law long ago ceased to be interested in regulating sex or in things like imposing sanctions for adultery.  I don't believe there is anything valuable for homosexuals to have in marriage that they do not already have in civil partnership.  But that does not affect my belief in full validity of homosexual union before the law.

However, note something: no-one assumes that the fact that Halal contracts are facilitated and enforced by the law means that the law morally sanctions Halal.  Oddly, many people on either side appear to believe that gay marriage implies the law morally sanctioning homosexual unions.  To be sure, the law morally sanctions the keeping of promises made – for Halal as for homosexuals.  But that is not the same as approving of Halal or homosexuality.

It is clearly the case that many of those advocating gay marriage say that the point of it is to make a declaration that the law morally approves of homosexuality.  And precisely for that reason, many other people therefore feel they need to oppose gay marriage.  But if we all stepped back and grasped that it is neither necessary nor the job of the law to morally approve of this or that, opposition to gay marriage would be much less.

I do not approve of homosexual practice.  It's not that I have a "problem" with homosexuality.  It's not that I fear homosexuals or hate them, any more than that I fear or hate Halal observers.  I am in a minority in that view, but not a tiny minority – around one third of the population agrees with me.  I do not want to oppress Halal or homosexuality.  I simply want to be able to say I don't approve – not yelling it in people's faces or going on and on about it in an anti-social way.  My views on homosexuality are just one of a number of highly eccentric beliefs I have as an orthodox bible-based Christian, which doubtless many readers attribute to my mental frailty or the vicissitudes of my upbringing.  I don't want to be left alone to my beliefs – maybe I'm wrong and you can convince me so.  I just want to be able to make my case and live out my life according to my beliefs, just as I fully respect the social validity of Muslims and homosexuals doing so.

I favour a civil form of gay marriage, as I always did.  Just as with Halal contracts, that is because I believe that for homosexual practitioners to be able to live out their beliefs fully, they need to be able to contract and have those contracts enforced by the law.  To be honest, I thought we had already had this argument, and that those like me who supported homosexual civil marriage had won.  It seems to me that the only reason there is resistance to the current step is that it is presented as a means of imposing legal approval of homosexuality – of disapproving of that one third of us that have not yet conformed.  If those that favoured gay marriage could just tone down the preachiness of purpose, I believe they would find the measure could pass swiftly and painlessly.

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