Spirituality and sexuality: exploring tensions in everyday relationship-based practice

Melville-Wiseman, J. (2017) Spirituality and sexuality: exploring tensions in everyday relationship-based practice. In: Crisp, B., ed. Routledge Handbook of Religion, Spirituality and Social Work. Routledge. ISBN 9781138931220

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The UK Equality Act came into force in 2010. The aim of the legislation was to bring together and enhance all previous laws relating to discrimination in an attempt to protect individuals from unfair treatment, harassment and victimisation (Equality Act 2010). However, this includes two characteristics, religion and belief and sexual orientation that, in the real world, can sometimes be in conflict with each other (Melville-Wiseman 2013). This conflict has been brought into sharp focus in recent debates in the Anglican Communion about gay or lesbian clergy and same gender marriage. There has also been a steady stream of UK case law to determine whether the rights of gay and lesbian people take precedence over the rights of people who have a religious belief that homosexuality is wrong. The law may help to determine some solutions but it does not necessarily reduce the real world tensions. In addition there have been advances in our understanding of the interface between religion and sexuality through studies that examine what it is like to be Christian and gay (e.g. Subhi and Geelan 2012); critiques of therapy designed to change people from gay to straight (e.g. Sacks 2011); and the distinctions between different religions and their attitudes to sexuality (e.g. Moon 2014). However, to date there has been very little specific insight or guidance for social workers on how to resolve such tensions in their everyday practice. This includes lack of detailed guidance on the imperative to safeguard children and vulnerable adults where the tension between spirituality and sexuality may be a crucial factor. This chapter aims to explore those tensions as they specifically relate to different areas of social work practice; emerging relevant UK case law; and personal dilemmas for social work practitioners at the centre of such tensions. The chapter will aim to explore the following questions:
• How should social workers respond to the spiritual needs of looked after children?
• Should foster carers who hold faith based views that homosexuality is wrong be allowed to foster?
• How should social workers respond to the needs of children and vulnerable adults who are struggling with their sexuality and spirituality?
• How should social workers respond when children are sexually abused by clergy or other religious leaders?
• Should social workers disclose their own sexual orientation or religious beliefs to service users?
• How should lesbian or gay social workers respond if they feel a service user is homophobic
• How should social workers who have a religious faith respond if they feel a service user is derogatory about that belief?
• Which models of reflection and supervision can social workers use to resolve some of these challenges?

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
H Social Sciences
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Wellbeing > School of Public Health, Midwifery and Social Work
Depositing User: Dr Janet Melville-Wiseman
Date Deposited: 13 Apr 2016 13:14
Last Modified: 02 May 2017 13:12
URI: https://create.canterbury.ac.uk/id/eprint/14434

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00