Friday, September 01, 2006

Hard to believe

(Glasgow, Scotland) Nine Glasgow firefighters have been handed reprimands ranging from a demotion to written warnings and all have been ordered to attend a diversity training course after they refused a departmental order to attend gay pride celebrations.

The Glasgow Fire Department had organized a public relations show at the June 24 event where firefighters would hand out leaflets on fire safety. The nine refused a direct order from their captain to take part in the safety program. The group said they were refusing on "moral grounds".

The men were accused of dereliction of duty and refusing an order from a superior officer. After nearly a week of deliberations, district fire chiefs announced their verdict. A watch manager was demoted to crew manager with a salary cut of nearly $10,000. The remaining eight were given written warnings which will be placed on their employment files. All nine were ordered to attend a diversity training program.

You can read the whole story here.

This is a tough one. I say good for them. While the immediate duty they were assigned was a routine dissemination of safety information, their presence in that context likely would have been taken by others as an endorsement of the festivities and its principles. It seems they were willing to pay the cost of faithfulness. Like Peter and the Apostles, they had to draw the line, saying, "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).

Update: Archbishop steps into gay pride row
LONDON (Reuters) - The Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow said on Friday he had given his backing to nine firefighters who were disciplined for refusing to hand out leaflets during a gay pride rally.

Strathclyde fire service said it had taken action against the firefighters who refused to give out "community fire safety advice" at the Pride Scotia festival in June. "All nine will undergo a further intensive course of diversity training," the force said in a statement. "Their refusal was a fundamental breach of one of their core responsibilities."

However, Archbishop Mario Conti said he was concerned about what had happened and expressed solidarity with their actions, adding neither the officers' competency and commitment had not been questioned. He said the officers had "legitimate concerns about being the subject of taunts and jokes, and in which, in come cases, their religious sensibilities were being grossly offended by people dressed as priests and nuns lampooning the church."

"The duty to obey one's conscience is a higher duty than that of obeying orders," Conti said. The Strathclyde fire service said it had a duty to protect all the 2.3 million people it served, irrespective of their race, religion or sexuality. "Firefighters cannot, and will not, pick and choose to whom they offer fire safety advice," their statement said.

One person leaving a comment on the above story on Angelqueen digest noted: The Scotsman artice, though current, has been overtaken by events. Latest news (this morning) is that all nine have been dismissed. Eight of them have been offered reinstatement provided they undergo "diversity training". The ninth (the lead firefighter) has not been offered the option.


Jon said...

It depends on the extent of the departments involvement, I think. If what they refused to participate in was part of an educational campaign focused on making the community safer rather than on supporting glbt people and their lifestyles, then they are guilty of deriliction of duty


Fr Timothy Matkin said...

I don't know much about the details of the charge, but my guess would be that they are guilty of dereliction of duty or insubordination, or something along those lines. They clearly did not do what they were required/ordered to do in their jobs. And they were willing to face the consequences.

The other question is: What is the right thing to do?

Jon said...

A fireman refusing to protect people from fires probably isn't the right thing to do no matter how sinful the people are.