- Pickled Politics - http://www.pickledpolitics.com -

Morality and the law

Posted By Rumbold On 23rd October, 2007 @ 4:57 pm In Current affairs | 6 Comments

A magistrate who [1] refused to rule on cases involving the possible adoption of children by homosexual couples has been suspended, and has now taken the government to an employment tribunal:

“Andrew McClintock, 63, stood down from a family courts panel in Sheffield after he was refused permission to opt out of cases that could result in children being placed with same-sex parents.

The father of four argued that new laws extending homosexual rights were in conflict with his religious beliefs and his duty to put the welfare of the child first.”

I disagree strongly with his views, but I also believe that he should be free to hold them. The question in this case is whether or not a magistrate/judge should be allowed to refuse to preside over cases where his or her views conflict with the law. Judges and magistrates, like the police, are there to enforce the law, not to decide whether or not the law is worth enforcing. That is not to say that no law is unjust, merely that it is Parliament’s job to amend or scrape laws, not the judges’.

Mr. McClintock’s request to be allowed to rule on other cases instead seems at first quite reasonable, but do we really want our magistrates picking and choosing what cases suit them? If we go down the other route though and allow no leeway to magistrates, what are we then saying? Should doctors be forced to perform abortions? When morality and the law collide, which one should come out on top?


6 Comments To "Morality and the law"

#1 Comment By Morgoth On 23rd October, 2007 @ 5:07 pm

If this character cannot uphold the law equally for all, then he has no business being a magistrate. Its that simple.

#2 Comment By Don On 23rd October, 2007 @ 5:15 pm

Fair play to him for admitting that he could not apply the law impartially, but it is not practical to allow magistrates or judges to announce that they dislike certain groups of people and should be allowed to avoid such cases.

How is it different from declaring that one is anti-semitic or racially prejudiced and should be excused cases where that is an issue?

If a doctor is opposed to abortion, then I understand there exists an opt out. It would be a different matter if doctors could opt out of treating any group against whom they were bigotted.

Where morality and the law collide, then morality should come out on top - just after you stop being an agent of the law.

#3 Comment By Ravi Naik On 23rd October, 2007 @ 6:37 pm

Mr. McClintock’s request to be allowed to rule on other cases instead seems at first quite reasonable, but do we really want our magistrates picking and choosing what cases suit them?

The question is not whether it suits them, but whether they can be neutral. And in fact, if he didn’t excuse himself and judged against a homosexual couple for reasons beyond his prejudices, then the couple could claim that they were victims of discrimination if the judge’s personal opinion was known.

“If a doctor is opposed to abortion, then I understand there exists an opt out. It would be a different matter if doctors could opt out of treating any group against whom they were bigotted.”

What would be the benefit for a patient to be treated by a doctor who is bigotted or hateful against his her ethnic group? :)

I think any professional whose decision affects our lives should have the right to opt out if she believes that there is a conflict of interest.

#4 Comment By Don On 23rd October, 2007 @ 7:38 pm

Ravi,
How would that work in A&E?

I think ‘Suck it up and do your damn job, if you want a pay-cheque’ might cover it.

#5 Comment By sahil On 23rd October, 2007 @ 7:39 pm

Anyone remember this case, it covered all over the media:

[2] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5408470.stm

#6 Comment By Sid On 23rd October, 2007 @ 8:17 pm

I’m with Don all the way down this thread. But then I’m more than happy for him to do all my thinking for me. :-)


Article printed from Pickled Politics: http://www.pickledpolitics.com

URL to article: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1471

URLs in this post:
[1] refused to rule : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/10/23/nadopt123.xml
[2] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5408470.stm: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5408470.stm