Banning witches probably illegal

I found this statement by High Priestess Amethyst Selma Selene, a.k.a. Sandra Davis, on the website of the Stockport Express:

I think I really need to confirm something here. When I called to book the venue which had been recommended and which I had used many times. I knew it as The Flint Street Social Club, I never knew it was run or attached to the Catholic church and when the Gentleman, who was very nice by the way, answered with Our Lady's I then told him who I was, what we wanted and who were were, totally up front and said that I did not want to compromise them in any way. he assured me that this was a totally separate Buisness venture and that anyone could book the room and then 'do what we want in it' . I would not have continued with the booking had he said any different...

The man who had to also tell me that we couldn't have the room was very apologetic and said embarrased at having to tell me they wouldn't let us have the venue. However, we have now got somewhere else larger and should have a really great time. I never imagined it would cause this much fuss.

This puts a somewhat different complexion on the story. It appears that a long-established and purely secular venue has been taken over by the Catholic Church, which then bans members of particular religious groups from using it. Notwithstanding the name Our Lady's, it would not seem to be an essentially religious venue. It's not a church, or even attached to a church. It's against the law (under the Equality Act 2006) for anyone providing goods or services directly to the public to discriminate because of religion or belief. Our Lady's Social Club, as a "totally separate business venture", would seem to be quite clearly covered by the law.

Section 46 (1) specifies that:

It is unlawful for a person (“A”) concerned with the provision to the public or a section of the public of goods, facilities or services to discriminate against a person (“B”) who seeks to obtain or use those goods, facilities or services

And according to subsection (2),

Subsection (1) applies, in particular, to

(d) facilities for entertainment, recreation or refreshment,

Nor is there any doubt that the definition of religion includes pagan faiths such as witchcraft.

I suggested yesterday that the reason for banning this group owed more to possible embarrassment than a desire to discriminate. But, given that the planned event was not overtly religious in nature (it was, says Mrs Davis, "a family event with dancing, games etc just like any other party") , that is no defence. The Stockport witches have found another (and, it seems, better) venue for their pre-Halloween revels. But they are clearly upset by what they see as religious bigotry. I'm more upset by the fact that whoever vetoed the event seems to be unaware of the law.


indigomyth said…
I imagine that this bit of additional information will be lost for certain religious commentators. Cranmer wrote an article on this story, as I am sure you are aware. I very much doubt that he will follow up his previously approving article with one clarifying the situation.
valdemar said…
Oh, this is brilliant. I do hope the Catholic Church is taken down by witches, if only because of the effect it will have on Paul Dacre and his crew.

But why confine the contest to the courtroom? Even better would be a magical battle between the two sides! Let them bring out their robes, charms and big special Latin books and try to outdo each other in gramarye.
What Valdemar said :) What an excellent idea and a great way not to clog up the courts with yet another legal battle.

And may the best deity win.

Edwin Moore said…
She is not any common Earth,
Water or wood or air,
But Merlin's isle of Grammarye
Where you and I will fare.

The old gods are stirring. . .
asquith said…
Aye, the events of 1 Kings 18 were just the first half. The pagans are staging a comeback, like.

I myself have never really seen the merit in any religion's claims, actually. I remember someone, who is plainly on the brink of becoming a fairly serious Christian, asking me "what makes me so sure there isn't a god". I was a bit stuck for an answer there. I just said that nothing has ever suggested to me that there is one, so I remain in a state of unbelief.
Doug Chaplin said…
Seems to me that the status of this club is still open to question. There seems to be an awful lot of room for misunderstanding in the "she said, he said" game.
valdemar said…
Asquith, you're not alone. The standard reply to 'What makes you sure there isn't a god?' is surely to ask what makes the questioner sure there aren't fairies at the bottom of the garden? Both beliefs are equally unlikely to a rational person. One just happens to be more respectable, for now.

Spankedhortic - I had in mind the sorcery duel from The Raven. Only with modern SFX, more explosions etc.
Heresiarch said…
@ Doug Chaplin:

The law is slightly obscure in parts, but to claim exemption on religious grounds the church would have to show that the venue was primarily a religious premises. From what I understand (ie what Ms Davis says) it is owned by the church but hired out for all manner of functions, so the fact of its ownership probably isn't relevant. If a Muslim group wanted to use it it's most unlikely that the church would object - and if so, discrimination against the witches would be even harder to sustain. Also, the event may have been run by the witch group, but it isn't religious in character.

My sense is that this is the type of discrimination that the law was brought in to combat. It would be interesting to have a test case.
Eric Wolfsbane -- Lokisgodhi said…
C'mon, they're Catholic. They're *above* the law. The mere rules of man just don't apply to them. They represent the will of GOD here on earth and as such, can't be questioned. The law should be quaking in fear that it might be offending them. They best fall to their knees and beg the Church for forgiveness.

Seriously, let's hope the authorities give St Bigot's a proper reaming. I guess this means the Papal apology doesn't really mean anything. Gee, you'd think the word of an ex-Nazi, Hitler Jugend would have been golden. Go figure.
Eric Wolfsbane

New York, NY
Mr_Tawse said…
I once put the "fairies" response to one of the prominent posters on Holy Smoke when he posed the "how do you know there is not a god" question. To my astonishment he professed his inclination to believe in fairies or "little people"
Why were you astonished Peter51? Surely its not that rare for the religious to be consistent!

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