Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Sunday 7 March 2010

Mind your manners - the EHRC are in town

Have you oppressed a vegan recently? Or discriminated against an atheist? If so, you'd better watch out.

The Witchfinders General - sorry, Equality and Human Rights Commission - have drawn up a code of practice to accompany Harriet Harman's Equality Bill. The draft code states that vegans, atheists and members of new religions such as Scientology should have the same protection against discrimination as religious groups.

The watchdog also interestingly warns that 'advertisements giving preferential treatment to men or women could be illegal. This could mean the end of “ladies’ nights” at clubs, when women receive cut-price drinks or free entrance but men pay full price'.

According to a spokesman from the commission, “Parliament makes the law, the courts interpret it and the commission offers factual and proportionate guidance to organisations where necessary. We are providing guidance on the implications of the equality bill.”

So the Commission, with its oh-so-trendy rainbow mission statement, is actually a fifth wheel. And not a very welcome one at that, if the govenment response is anything to go by: 'The government distanced itself from the code of practice and said it never intended “views or opinions” such as veganism to be covered by equality law. '

Oops! Looks like someone just exceeded their remit. At least they all agree that the final decisions will be made by courts and tribunals, but in the meantime it's all a bit confusing for us poor proles - are we likely to be hauled into court for offering a ham sandwich to a vegan or saying 'Bless you!' when atheists sneeze?

It's probably best to be careful. So no more jibes about tree-hugging lettuce-munchers or poking fun at Richard Dawkins, forget any cynical thoughts you ever had about Scientology or criticism of Tom Cruise. From now on it's best behaviour or Trevor will be sending the boys - oops, sorry - humans round.

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