The disciplining of nine Scottish firefighters who refused to attend a gay pride festival last month raises the question of how much moral autonomy exists in contracts of employment.
Strathclyde Fire and Rescue said its firefighters' refusal to provide safety advice to people at the Pride Scotia event was "a fundamental breach of one of their core responsibilities".
"Firefighters cannot, and will not, pick and choose to whom they offer fire safety advice," a spokesman said.
One of the managers at the service was subsequently demoted and suffered a £5,000 salary cut, and all nine are to undergo intensive diversity training.
But is it right to expect staff to take part in events that contradict their own moral beliefs? Should the firefighters have been punished for expressing their convictions? And how far are workers protected by their religious and moral beliefs?
Jon Whiteley, head of diversity at Capital Consulting, said that employers had a clear responsibility not to put their employees in an intimidating situation where they may be subjected to harassment. "There have been incidents where firefighters have been exposed to taunts and teasing from the gay community," he said.
The incident has sparked a blazing debate in Scotland, with several Christian groups and gay campaigners voicing their views.
Archbishop of Glasgow Mario Conti said it was wrong of the service to expect firefighters to participate and support a gay pride event. Not because homosexual people should not be given fire safety advice, he said, but because the men felt uncomfortable about the 'kiss-a-fireman' campaign allegedly planned for the event.
Strathclyde Fire and Rescue said it had a responsibility to protect all the people in the community it serves, irrespective of race, religion or sexual orientation. Whiteley agreed, but said the core responsibilities of the job needed to be balanced with the employer's responsibility towards its staff. Consultation on this between the employer and the employee was fundamental, he said.
Calum Irving, director at gay rights group Stonewall Scotland, believes the Strathclyde case was a homophobic issue. "It is not political correctness to ask public servants to do their job. Lesbian and gay people pay taxes too. Had these firefighters refused to go to a mosque or a church, there would have been justified outrage," he said.
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