How would you describe your beliefs and identity in relation to religion?
I am a very strong, active, committed Christian of some 37 plus years. Very active. It permeates through the soul of who I am. It is not attending church every now and then. It is absolutely everything. It is really a cultural thing from Jamaica coming into England. I went to Sunday school, I went to church, and to great extent I would say it was compulsory, and I would say probably in my teens I hated church. It was boring, and your friends were outside playing in their bikes and I wanted to go fishing and I couldn’t. Teenagers can no longer be forced to go to church. So when you reach that stage, then you have some choices to make, and so for me, it is a matter of choice at age 17 when I decided to commit my life to Jesus Christ, and became a Christian at the age of 17. Then I got baptised as we call it. Believers baptism rather than a Church of England baptism when you are a baby.
Is living in a democracy positive? Does it make it easier for you to practice your faith?
I would not consider any other form of Government preferable to a democracy and the answer to the first part is yes, I do think it is easier to live my life as a Christian in a democracy. As I said, I would not prefer an alternative form of Government, but it has taken me by surprise to witness the major shift in the last 15 years in terms of the rights of Christians in a democratic society. I have been flabbergasted by the speed with which it has become no longer acceptable to be Christian. In terms of being an active participant of society, carrying your faith… there are major restrictions now.
Do you feel that you have a duty to vote?
Yes, I do feel I have a personal responsibility to vote. This is a timely question because the election was only last week and the answer is yes. I am ok to answer it in a very personal way. It is a lot more than a responsibility that comes… it is the very fact that it was hard fought right… but if I am honest, it is more the race and blackness of the price that people paid for a black person to be able to participate in a society that carries more weight for me, and therefore if I choose not to vote, that is a big deal. This time around last week Thursday, well it started with the issue about whether I was registered to vote, because we are in transit residential property. We had moved out of the place in which we were registered for voting, and then I could have said ‘let’s leave it, I won’t vote this time’, but that didn’t feel well. So, I registered with my mother’s address, etc. That was all fine and I turned up to vote. I looked at the choices and then I went back to the desk and said I can’t vote for any of these choices, and that is underpinned by my Christian faith. I was hoping in my region, but I didn’t have the knowledge that something like a very different party would be available for me to vote for: Christian, Alliance Party; The Christian People Alliance Party… something like that. I have come across them. I don’t really know what they exactly stand for, but what I knew was that the options available… I couldn’t put my cross against them, because I had to be responsible for the next five years for what they were going to do. So I gave my papers back, I couldn’t vote.
Should Parliament have the final say in making and changing law? Should judges be empowered to strike down legislation?
Your question about the balance between Parliament and the judiciary would be a challenge for most people to answer, but I am ok, because you know that my background is like a lawyer. I may not fully answer it… what I would say is… It was fortuitous… that is probably not exactly what I mean… that there was this extra place I could go to with my case called the ECtHR. Otherwise I would not have had any form of proper redress and proper hearing for the correct facts of my case, as my case was misunderstood for over four years. So I was chastised by the media for a good four years until I went to the European Court of Human Rights, only then did the media understood the case properly and started to report the case properly. There was a shift and I watched it. So, in terms of trying to have an input on UK case law, more than statutory law, it was fortunate for me that this judicial avenue was available. So, I would say that I would want and hope that this extra layer beyond the national courts continues to exist, but I know that David Cameron has a very different view. The weights of the canons in terms of number of barristers that the Government got behind opposing my case was quite significant. So I know he has a view about it, but for me I would not want it go. This layer strengthens, in my view, Parliamentary and the national courts. I don’t have confidence that the national courts and the legislature systems are a good enough secure place for the public In terms of the relationship between Parliament and the judiciary at national level, at times it can work, at times it doesn’t. I wouldn’t add more to that. Probably I have a different view about what democracy entails, not just like the view of the majority. I would be saying that I understand the will of the majority is important, but the minorities… that is for me what true democracy is… the minority must be well heard because the majority’s view carries the day, and that is for me it is much more what democracy is about and that must be maintained. I support it even if that worked against me, but my views were not heard in the first place. My view was not actually communicated in this case, you need to understand that. My personal view in the sense was not part of this case. It was about the rights of a sector and actually it was a minority sector, certainly a lesser than let’s say a Christian faith…. But the lesser carried the day and my views were not heard at all. I can expand that another time, but that wasn’t what this case was about. It was about the rights of a minority that the majority should be made to endorse the rights of a minority even to the detriment of the majority.
Does it concern you that the House of Lords is not elected?
Yes, the current composition of the House of Lords is problematic. It is about whom you know. So, I regard it as problematic. I would like to see at least a partially elected second chamber.
How do you feel about the presence of bishops in the House of Lords?
I think the presence of bishops in the House of Lords is just an old-fashioned anachronism that for me has no teeth and so, whether they stay or they go I have no strong views because I don’t see them as representatives of a religious or Christian view to a great extent. I guess this is a surprising statement.
Do public bodies respect legislation?
Public bodies do not ignore legislation. It is the way it filters down to be interpreted, and that is the problem, because the decisions are made and then they are interpreted, let’s say by larger employers and local authorities, and the extent to which they can interpret and even ignore that legislation… that is troubling. Do I have an example? It is a fact that whether it is a case law decision, things like local authorities’ prayers before the sessions start… well, there will be local authorities which simply ignore it and at lower level there will be vociferous individuals, let’s say coming from the secular society who will want to do something to make sure that the prayers don’t happen in our local authorities. So there are ways in which people you serve can interpret statutes for their own purposes. There must be flexibility, but I think there are problems. I wish I could explain it better.
How do you feel about devolution?
Devolution of powers is positive, but the element of Britishness in me, after having been in England for Gosh… 40 something year.. I am British, I feel British and I would want the UK to be the UK, but I recognise there is a Wales, a Scotland… that should have a right to a level of self-governance, but the retention of the whole of the United Kingdom.
Is GB an equal and tolerant society, especially in relation to religion and belief?
Great Britain is not a tolerant and equal society in relation to religion and belief. It depends from which sector or religion you are from, as to how answer that question. I answer it as someone in the recipient end of the unequal… So, it is not.
Are there challenges in living in accordance with your faith? If so, are they legal, social or political in nature?
Challenges as a Christian in contemporary Britain? It has become pretty much similar to the way I now have all my life faced race. As a black man living in Great Britain you carry your colour. The only black boy in a white school, whenever you walk around, you get to a shop, you know the cameras are on you more than the others. Your colour stands out so you get worse treatment from people… drivers shouting at you from cars… that is the way it is and you learn to live with it, since you are a child. Racism exists. I have gone through the educational system, the school, universities, and the inequalities I have experienced, even with legislation… I am not one who is going to fight in the physical or aggressive way. I would approach it rather differently and challenge it when it needs to be challenged. I hope in the non aggressive way, but issues on race are on my face all over. So, what happens now, I realise, is that my Christian faith has become like that. It is not that you ever forget that you are a black man… I had this conversation a few days ago… I was walking along the road and there was an elderly lady walking towards me with her handbag. I would think very carefully about whether to cross the road and that is maybe uncomfortable for you to an extent, but it is actually to give her a sense of peace. The media have done things with the stereotypical images of black men… and you would go on a coach, on a train… and we know that we are the last one that people will come and sit next to, because you look different. In a matter of seconds you make an assessment about whom you have a good rapport and comfort to sit next to, and the ethnic minorities are lower on that list and you do it only if you must… We joke about it as black people… it is great because we always have a seat for my bag… we have lived with it and people who have not experienced it will say ‘really? Are you sure there are not other reasons?’ Forty years later we have tested this enough!! My Christian faith, I can’t any longer just walk around, and think that I can be in a cafeteria, restaurant and just talk about Christ to someone else, just as I can talk about Politics, the law or counselling, just as I can talk about the weather… actually to talk about faith you are conscious that it is going to be picked up, that you are going to be put in a pigeonhole place and there will be comfort and discomfort. So, I am conscious that I carry my Christian faith with some antennas that need to go up… we need to assess where I am, what environment I am in… I always pray when I am about to have my meals, but I shall do it very quietly, I am very conscious now that I have to wear my Christian faith with antenna out and I need to be more careful. This has really shifted because people are now more offended by hearing things of the Bible and the Christian faith, but you can talk about other subjects. You can talk about Islam if you want… apart from the extreme people who would say you are therefore a bomber, but you can talk about the Muslim faith, but not about the Christian faith and Jesus Christ. That seems to offend people.
Has Christianity influenced the development of Human Rights?
I would say that Christianity profoundly is the underpinning of the development of human rights, and their ethics and morals, just as I would say Christianity is the bedrock of our laws in this country and our inheritance. So what we are seeking to do is to get rid of many hundreds of years of inheritance that we have and we are throwing them out at the window.
Have Human Rights been positive for GB society?
Are human rights good for British society? That is a very general question. Overall yes, but what troubles me is a… what is the word? I can’t remember… it is a word that I can’t find… it troubles me that in essence we have made a brainwash that there is no true right or true wrong as long as you don’t offend someone else. You can do whatever you want to do in private, and to a large extent in public, as long as you don’t trespass the law of the land, and you don’t do some of their those gross behaviours which are unacceptable to most such as paedophilia, but any other things as long as you are not hurting other people or animals, it is ok. I really have trouble with this. This concept that there is no true right or wrong any more… so our moral compass has been lost. There is no definite wrong and there is no definite right. That troubles me because I guess I operate by some moral compasses which are very different and which say there is right and there is wrong.
Do Christians influence human rights in a practical way?
In terms of particular Christian voices campaigning for human rights, Christian Concern is a significant one and CARE in the sense that they have members who have in each of their European Parliaments, some members trying to influence their MPs in areas of human rights, just for example human trafficking, which is our modern day slavery, and we are missing it. This is much bigger than many other things we are dealing with… women and children from different countries are being trafficking and locked up in premises, doing some things that they have no choice in and cannot get out of, and you have organisations trying to influence legislation and the situation. Even though the Government knows about these situations, the political will and desire is not sufficiently high on the agenda. So, you have the likes of Christian Concern and CARE. I think human rights are generally speaking respected by the Government and other public bodies in Great Britain.
Do public authorities achieve the appropriate level of intervention in the lives of citizens?
Public authorities intervene in the lives of individuals in relation to religion on belief, depending on what group… if it is the Christian, you’re free game for being bashed… if it is some other, they don’t intervene for fear of offending the grouping, because if you influence that grouping wrongly, for example Islam and you do or say something that may offend the Prophet, you may have riots on the streets. Christians won’t and so in a sense it is a free game. So, it depends which group you belong to. The State shouldn’t intervene in the lives of individuals and groups in relation to religion and belief. It should operate what I call ‘laissez fare’, let the market find its own place. The State will always have a boundary of laws under which you can operate in a democratic society, but other than that, you don’t have to legislate about other stuff. The different faiths and religions will find their own ways and it will settle down. I am just saying let the market take care of itself without any Government intervention, because it is getting itself in a mess and it is contradictory at times. For example, we know that the NHS will bend over backwards for someone, let’s say who is Muslim, as they need to do their prayers on a Friday… the bed needs to be facing the right way… but the Christians… if you ask for a place to pray because there is not a chapel any more and you don’t have an on call priest either, is not a priority… this is happening up and down in our country. This is the real thing, this is the real deal. So, there is an imbalance and it is time for our Government to take their hands off. It is now telling Christians what they can or they can’t do. The latest case with the street preacher…. The magistrate telling him that he didn’t have to mention that figure in the Bible, but this, and it was wrong to use this… What? And this is something from the Muslim faith telling a Christian…. This is ridiculous. You really shouldn’t be going there at all. Let’s society within boundaries found their ways. The different faiths of society find their own ways, but Muslims are laughing at us in this country. When you have organisations such as OXFAM saying that they won’t put the face of Baby Jesus in their windows for fear of offending Muslims at Christmas, don’t be so ridiculous… We came here knowing that Britain is a Christian country. It is laughable that we try not to offend… Take your hands off and let people get on with their lives.
Is the current system of checks and balances on governmental power effective?
In terms of mechanism of accountability, some of the list which you have suggested, I shall not deal with them. It is quite a political question and I don’t do politics really. The answer is that I don’t have a strong view on this question and I would waffle.
Are Christians proportionately represented in public life?
Maybe Christians are properly and appropriately represented in public authorities, but the system causes that many hide their faith. They may be there, they may have a faith, but it is not always safe to express it. That is the problem I think. There may be a representation but it is certainly not safe to express your views because that is career suicide.
Are the judiciary sufficiently independent?
Yes, I think our judges are sufficiently independent. It is good enough. I think judges are independent. I have come out with one of the highest respect for our judges, despite tone… what, my faith is subjective??? Is not open to any proof??? Mr Justice Laws… one of the highest judges in the land, but I am ok, as a lawyer, it is reasonable, you can tinker with it, and do several things, but on the whole the system is reasonably ok.
Have you been involved in campaigns on specific issues?
The answer to involvement in campaigns which I perceive as problematic is only my personal case, which initially when I was dismissed… it was ok, bye… I was going to leave it there, but then someone told me ‘this is not right, you should not be chased out of that place’. You need to know the whole background of the case. Many people don’t know the details. There were colleagues, ten or twelve, other therapists, who signed a petition within the organisation to get rid of me, even though I was very well liked before all this happened, and so… When I lifted my head up and I realised that wasn’t about Gary McFarlane… the case was not about me, I knew all the way through… this case has an impact on each of us, and particularly, this impacts those of other faiths, not only those of Christian faith, because what we have was, and in essence Justice Laws said, was that as long as an organisation, an employer decides that it wants to deliver a particular type of service to a sector in society, those involved with that employer are required to deliver that service irrespective of their own beliefs, ethics, morals, etc, and I am not talking just about a whim, because I can understand that… I am talking about something individuals have worn as part of their make up for years and years and you are saying that you have to put down those strongly held convictions or beliefs in order to help service another sector of society to make sure that they receive a just service but to your detriment. That is not right. You have to look at the reasons why particular individuals say they have difficulties to provide a service to a sector of society and you need to do a balancing act of competing rights… reasonable accommodation. My motivation was one of trying to get a balance… not preference, but a balance… reasonable accommodation. You look at the reasons why an individual says that he/she can’t actually do an abortion… it goes to the heart of who they are, the practices of the faith they profess… It affects more than members of the Christian faith.
Are public authorities sensitive to the needs of Christians?
No, public authorities are not sufficiently sensitive towards the needs of Christians and we see it in every level of society. There is something in the last 15 years of a very anti-Christian move. Whether it has come from a secular humanistic… there is an absolute intolerance… not just preference, but an aggressive intolerance, that is what is on your face and shocking, the aggressiveness and intolerance against the Christian faith, which is hard to understand how it came about in just 15 years or so. It is the aggressive nature of it: you can’t and you won’t.
Is it important to you always to act within state law?
Your question about whether there are circumstances in which I could envisage to break the law is a Martin Luther King question. Gosh! But I know what my answer is… because I live my life by this governing book, the Bible, and I have to try to understand it as best as I can, in every single way I must comply with the law of the land, until I face direct challenges to a substantive part of my faith, something that goes to the core of my faith… then I have a problem, where I have to make stark choices, but once I have made those choices, and I am comfortable with my God that I have made those choices, then I shall pay the price that comes with that choice… even to loss of life by the way. In all ways the law of the land must be obeyed, otherwise I shall get in trouble with my God, because he has put an authority in place, I may not necessarily endorse David Cameron, but I shall absolutely pray for him and comply with the things he does because I am required to do that, because there is an authority that the Bible establishes: a man and his wife, Christ and the Church, and the man with God… there are different headships which the Bible establishes, which are proper authorities and I must learn to respect headship: God is my headship, as it is for example the minister of my church. He is shepherd and I look to, not quite like the Catholic Church. It is a bit different. It is not like a spiritual father who has access to God…..But God has put a minister who will have an authority and what he or she says I have look at it very carefully, and the same issue arises if something contradicts the Bible, I shall have a problem. And the same happens with the law of the land. I shall respect it, as it is a headship, God has established that… David Cameron is an authority and a leader which I can’t say I respect… I think it is work in progress, but I shall endeavour to try to respect what he does, and comply, unless it goes to the heart or my core belief
Do you believe that you have a duty to speak out for vulnerable third parties?
Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely to the heart and to the core, my faith requires to speak on behalf of the weak and the vulnerable, and if I stop doing that, I need to pack my bags. It would not work. It goes to the heart of it.
Is the Rule of Law applied equally? Do some groups experience preferential or prejudicial treatment?
There are in society groups who receive preferential and prejudicial treatment. I can only talk, however, about the groups I see and for who I am. Ethnic minorities, for example, in the mental health system… ethnic minorities in the criminal system… black men well over represented in our prisons and mental health, and the lack of sufficient mental health treatment rather than incarceration, and the greater likelihood that you will be sectioned… all of them are in our communities. Massive stuff, proper injustice. The poor are very poor and they are left there, under the radar and political parties used to have an allegiance to the poor, have moved on… and they have left them behind. OK, evidence? Proliferation of food banks. ‘Oh, my Goodness they are being used, what’s happened? Nobody is supposed to be so badly off in Jamaica, where there is no social security… but here in this country, do we have food banks really? Gosh… yes, we do’.
Has the increase in police powers over the past 15 years been appropriate?
In relation to the increase of powers of the police, I probably have to preface it by saying ‘I think what we now see on our face, the truth is that it was always there’. By this I mean, the mobile phone industry and the CCTV cameras, even though they are now very visible and on our face, they have always been there… there has always been a Government monitoring, but we now know it is being done. There are now other laws aimed at dealing with in your face activities and actions, and on the ticket of fear one can justify the full extent of what the Government needs to do… What do I think about that? I think it is regrettably necessary, but I don’t think it necessarily works anyway. The truth is that you have to engage people and it is people on the ground that are going to make the difference… it is a difficult one for me to expand on this any better than this. We live in a society with the Big Brother approach, which is now inevitable. Our freedoms were curtailed long ago. The answer to your question about whether there are laws which I would not followed if I could is no and yes. No because if I go to my colour or race, the Race Relations Act says that employers cannot discriminate… you have to be equal, you cannot be discriminated against, but the fact is that there is still racism, discrimination and there is a ceiling if you are from a black ethnic minority. You just have to look around. Tell me how many black lawyers you have in the City and who have gone up through the system to become partner, tell me how many black people in hospitals have become the consultant surgeons… show me this, show me that… and we as black people know that we have to be twice as good… we know that. Somebody else will find it difficult to believe… If it is a judgment between a white candidate and us, we know who is going to be, and we see it all the time, when the less experienced gets the promotion over and above. You have the laws, which suggest that there is no ceiling, but the truth is that nothing has really changed. There has not been a change for the better. What really concerns me is the retrograde nature of our society in relation to issues like race. I had a theory that because in the 1960s I went to school then and mixed with white British people, and I thought that as they saw that I bled like anybody else etc, issues of differences and race would become less important with time as we grew up together. I expected racism to decrease because of integration, multicultural Britain, Europe… because Britain is no longer insular and they now eat all sorts of food… they were expanding their horizons, they were pretty boring people for many years… but in relation to race issues, oh my Goodness… it is worse and I don’t really understand that. It is worse in terms of the experiences which we are having and that has shocked me. Very concerning. It has not improved and it is getting worse.
Is there anything which you would like to add?
You took me by surprise, the angle you took. I thought you were coming to discuss my case or the details of my case. I realised it was not so much the details of my case, it is an overarching looking at the interaction… I hadn’t fully absorbed that. I am not being prepared in my mind… So, I have really talked as it came to me. My biggest issue with my case is that the organisation RELATE, one of the largest relationship counselling agencies in the country, which deliver training to the public who want to train up through the system to provide help to other people. They do certificate level, diploma level… degree level, masters level and what has really troubled me… RELATE is now an institute, as part of Doncaster University… in a sense an university status of endorsement…. RELATE, were so ideally placed to grapple with the issues of my case in multicultural Britain to create a better platform for the going forward in society and you went after this as an employment case against this guy who is refusing to give gay therapy… and what is a discreet area to same sex couples, rather than grapple with the facts that actually I have some rights, I have a living to make… so I was made unemployed by the impact of all of this and professional bodies even now don’t accept me. They could have had a dialogue with me and we could have worked this through together but they became a blunt instrument which said no… do it or not… and I said ‘no I can’t’… and they weren’t even in dialogue with me, and then the court system and the tribunal system didn’t hear… I was a Christian, that was the label… and then all in the media was about Christians against homosexuality. You are now homophobic by default if you are a Christian. So, if you are a Christian, you are homophobic. I said that was quite wrong. RELATE, you could have dealt with this differently, because you have all the skills and the resources to really grapple with this issue, for all your forthcoming students, for all of us… do you know what I mean? And the fact that they went down the blunt instrument route of courts and tribunals, which I had to take out of necessity, was really regrettable. I don’t see this as a loss, by the way… This was never about me. The outcome raised awareness in society and the Church, which was sleeping, woke some people up, and that was good. So, you have people now taking part, who didn’t really know this was going on in real people’s lives in Great Britain. The case has been a good outcome for society and I am ok to have paid a price for it. I was always happy to make a sacrifice to leave a good legacy. I am going to die anyway… So, I still smile and I would do it again, but it wasn’t about judging a group, about what they do… It is not my way. The media persecuted me until the ECtHR and then they understood what I was trying to do, which wasn’t about judging other people. I didn’t want to talk about the rights and wrongs of gays and sex. If you really force me, what I would really like to have a conversation about is all those men committing adultery… What? There are many more of them than gays, and they are creating breakdowns of families and a big impact on children and they are under the radar and many of them actually are Christian, in our Churches. Let’s have a conversation about that. I hear about gays, etc, but there are bigger problems. And I hate all these clichés… Of course, I have gay friends, but I don’t say because it is like a white person saying that they have black friends… Of course I have gay friends, and they knew I was not judging them, and remember it only applied to sex therapy. I do counsel gay people, because counselling is not about telling people what they have to do and judging them, but going on a journey to help them and improve the quality of their lives, but therapy is directed, using CVT, where you write a treatment plan with the outcome, expectation of helping them to improve their sex life. That is what I can’t do. But I do sex addiction, love addiction… when people are addicted to social media and they meet up and they are creating lots of problems… and whether or not you are gay, I’ll be working with that stuff because it is a problem. It is a true addiction. It is only the discreet area to help people to improve their sex life that I cannot get involved in.
Gary was a solicitor (medical negligence) for 22 years (now not practicing) having undertaken a career shift as a private therapist. He is also a mediator in commercial, domestic, social and Church related conflicts. He has been a Christian for 38 years and previously an elder.
Gary is an experienced therapist specialising in singleness and couples relational issues, including the provision of sex therapy. His other specialism is sex addiction & love addiction, particularly internet pornography addiction and its increasing prevalence in disrupting more and more relationships. He is all too well aware that this is a very real issue for Ministers and Leaders (who have limited outlets for seeking help). Trained with Relate, he is a member of the professional body BACP, Association of Christian Counsellors (Accredited) and the Association for the Treatment of Sex and Compulsivity (ATSAC). He has undergone a full one year certificate training course with a specialised clinic in London in sex addiction – making him a specialist.
Gary lectures and leads seminars and workshops on all relationship issues and “Change”. He has recorded some programmes on Relationships and broadcast by Revelation TV. He gets much satisfaction delivering “The Marriage/Relationship” one day seminar to churches and other organisations.
As an experienced lawyer (now non-practising) and Mediator he understands well the issues of Conflict management & Resolution and brings a unique style and vast wealth to bear on Relational conflicts and issues. Gary undertakes therapy with singles, couples and groups face to face, by telephone and video conferencing using Skype, so that he is able to provide the service to clients throughout the UK.